If money were no object, would all things be possible in the future?

Fr Brian Whelan - The Way I See It

Published 21/04/2015 | 00:00

Fr Brian Whelan
Fr Brian Whelan

They say money can't buy you happiness, but correspondingly, being rich would make misery a lot more tolerable. Or put another way - money doesn't buy you happiness, but it helps you to look for it in a lot more places.

I've been reading a bit about a man who had what I believe was a very good insight into the real meaning of money. Alan Watts was born in Britain, but lived and worked most of his life in California. He held both a master's degree in theology and a doctorate of divinity, and was an Episcopal Priest for a period before leaving the ministry following an extramarital affair. He was best known as an interpreter of Zen Buddhism in particular, and Indian and Chinese philosophy in general, and he wrote books on the philosophy and psychology of religion, and lectured extensively until his death in 1973.

Alan Watts once asked his students the following question 'what if money were no object?' How would you really enjoy spending your life? Understandably, with the idealism of youth, their answers would blow your mind, but unfortunately, the reality then kicks in and they realise that they're only dreaming. Or are they?

Watts in a recorded speech said: 'When we finally got down to something, which the individual says he really wants to do, I will say to him, you do that and forget the money, because, if you say that getting the money is the most important thing, you will spend your life completely wasting your time. You'll be doing things you don't like doing in order to go on living, that is to go on doing things you don't like doing, which is stupid. Better to have a short life that is full of what you like doing than a long life spent in a miserable way.' There's some truth in what he says, even though there's a certain immaturity in the message as well.

So if today you or I were to ask ourselves the same question, what if money were no object? or another question - what if I won the lotto?, what would our answer be? All of us dream about winning the Lotto and all the things we'd do with the money. But what do we truly NEED - if money were no object, or if we won the Lotto, what do we truly actually NEED?

In Star Trek, one of the overriding themes is that in the future money isn't important. As Captain Picard says in one episode 'A lot has changed in three hundred years. People are no longer obsessed with the accumulation of 'things'. We have eliminated hunger, want, the need for possessions. Poverty has been eradicated in the future'.

Is that remotely realistic I wonder, or is it a dream? Is it possible that humanity could evolve to such a state that we can rid ourselves of the need to have more? And yet, who'd have thought a century ago that slavery would be abolished, or that segregation would end? Who'd have thought in the 1960's that a black man would occupy the White House, or that Nelson Mandela would change South Africa forever. Who'd have thought that homosexuality would be de-criminalised, or that two people of the same sex would be able to get married in Ireland?

So, what if money were no object, would all things be possible? I think it just goes to show, even while money is an 'object', things we thought impossible are still possible.

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