This essay was inspired by what appears to be a newly developing passion in my life,- composing tunes so I can turn my poems into songs. And secondary to that, learning by rote the lyrics of other people’s songs. Why would I want to do this? So that I can add another area of richness to my life, I’ll elaborate on that statement soon. I realised about two years ago that the most important thing in life is friendships and networks. Then I was talking to an acquaintance of mine recently, and she said that an education was very important, because once you have learned something, if you use it, you have that knowledge forever. After thinking about it, I came to agree with her, and decided that education should be second on my hierarchy of values, after relationships. This got me thinking about what else is important in life, and from that sprung this essay.
I can summarise what is most important in life with one word: riches. After outlining this essay, first I will go into the essence of what I think is important in life, then I will write of my own hierarchy of values, and how they manifest themselves in my life. To a lesser extent I will write of how I sometimes have difficulty in putting these values into practice. My hierarchy of values is as follows: a relationship with God; other healthy relationships; knowing how to discipline oneself; knowledge of how to do other constructive things, which goes on a continuum to purely recreational knowledge; and finally, ornaments and entertainment. In turn, overarching all of this is the prerequisite of variety. Then I will look at how to gain and achieve riches. Then I will look at how, although money is thoroughly overrated, it does have some relevance. Finally, I will summarise.
What do I mean by the statement the most important thing in life is “riches”? It has little to do with money, but has everything to do with “something you have an abundance of, which bring you a deep sense of pleasure” For the last seven years, the two things I have had an abundance of which bring me a deep sense of pleasure are my rich knowledge of horse racing; and my rich knowledge of psychological and philosophical insights.
I have always had difficulty in developing rich relationships. I lack social confidence and don’t like speaking just for the sake of being social. I speak when I want to impart information. I have had some rich relationships with organisations though. The best of these was in the late 1990s when I was a passionate volunteer at a drop-in centre. My passion was rewarded with paid work as a reliever, about four months after I started. The mixture of paid and unpaid work was in itself enriching. It gave me great satisfaction to know that I was giving my time and energy so willingly from the heart. It also gave me great pleasure that my employer respected me so much that they were prepared to reward my dedication with some paid work. Not only did I get an abundance of deep pleasure from doing this job, but I got a more moderate sense of pleasure out of the money I earned. And you get a deep sense of pleasure from an activity when it is pleasurable at several levels. I was proud about how much effort I put in at the drop in centre, and the promotion that soon ensued; I enjoyed the act of putting effort in to support the mentally ill; I was proud of the reputation I earned at the centre, and I was glad to be doing something worthwhile. A day or two per week, whether paid or unpaid, was an abundance of something intensely enjoyable Good friends and networks also support you to do constructive things. For instance, yesterday some friends gave me some photos to go with my poetry.
And what of my relationship with God and the Godly? I have been proactive about developing a rich relationship with God for the last eighteen months, which is when I first discovered the fundamental importance of riches. And given the nature of who God is, my first priority should be a rich relationship with Him. Through proactive searching, I have finally come across one means of developing a rich relationship with God. Over the last several years I have written some very good Christian poems, and today, I put three of them to music, so I can sing them. I have always enjoyed singing, and putting my poems to music today, made today one of the happiest days of the year for me. The activity of putting my poems to music really gelled with me. Thus I am confident that putting my poems to music, particularly Christian ones, and singing these and other, particularly Christian ones, will become an abundance of something intensely pleasurable. No, It is not an entirely Christian endeavour, but there is a very large overlap. As far as the specific issue of putting my own writing to music and singing it is concerned, the activity of singing is enjoyable in its own right, there is the satisfaction of knowing these songs are completely my own creation, and the satisfaction of knowing that they are a way of celebrating and praising the Lord. The activity of composing is not particularly enjoyable at this stage, but since it is better than “ok” at the moment, I think that too will come.
I think there are three tiers of knowledge in life. The first is to know how to discipline yourself, the second is to know how to do various other things, and the there is recreational knowledge of things that interest you. And now, to practical education. Leading a rich life has much less to do with what you have than what you do. And you can’t do something, if you don’t know how to do it. Education can be through formal educational institution: personal reading; formal or informal tuition, or self-taught through your own observations of life. My knowledge of psychology and philosophy started out by reading a couple of books eight to fourteen years ago, but has since been much enriched by observing my own, and other people’s behaviour and experiences. This essay is but one manifestation of my grasp of this knowledge. Some of the other important things I know about psychology and philosophy are that the interpretations you put on events and circumstances dictates how you feel. I know you can only turn an area of personal weakness into an area of strength by applying a pre-existing area of strength to that weakness, and so on.
As far as recreational knowledge is concerned, my rich knowledge of horse racing has come primarily from the internet, and my own personal experience of betting. My knowledge of how to discipline myself and put boundaries on my betting intermarries with my knowledge of psychology and philosophy. I know that even if I had the money, If my only interest/activity was racing, It would lose its richness, because leading a rich life requires variety. Anything you do all or almost all the time for pleasure will simply go stale on you, and become more of a method of avoiding pain. Saturdays are special to me because that is my betting day. I know all the winners of over twenty important races since 2000; I know quite a bit about the history of the five classic horse races; I have a different system for betting on the low grades than I do for the big races: and I have memorised many details of many success, and keep detailed records of my results. Like my knowledge and practice of psychology and philosophy, I find this knowledge highly enjoyably, I have an abundance of it, thus it is a form of riches.
Last in this hierarchy is passive entertainment and ornaments. If you watch movies, and have pictures on your wall which you know little about, that is passive entertainment, because you are not actively participating in it. For me, when I watch films, they are passive entertainment, because I’m not interested in producers, actors, etc. My betting is not passive entertainment because I am interested in trainers, breeding, the history of the races etc. We all need to take it easy sometimes, and this is often a time for admiring ornaments, and passive entertainment.
I do not have much in the way of ornaments, some posters on my wall, a few small pictures. A major form of passive entertainment is that I do spend quite a bit of time and money at cafes. But I certainly would not call myself a coffee connoisseur. Rather than relying on ornaments, I tend to spend quite a lot of time thinking issues through, which in turn leads to poetry and essays, and philosophical statements such as “you cannot build strength on top of weakness”, which may seem pretty obvious, but I am not talking about physical strength here. I am talking about personal and behavioural strength. For instance, I have always been proactive about seeking employment, and now for the last eighteen months I have been proactive about seeking a rich life. I already knew how to be proactive and seek.
As I said earlier, you cannot have riches without variety, because if you spend too much time doing something, It will go stale on you. The first step to achieving riches is to be proactive about trying new things. If the activity gels with you, the first part of the process will be to se it as in some sense of the phrase “quite good”. Here is where education comes in: firstly, you have to have the self-control to do it, (knowing how to discipline yourself); secondly you have to have the practical knowledge of how to do it; (e.g. how to eat a healthy diet); and thirdly, if it is to become an item of riches, you will find the activity highly enjoyable, and develop a deep knowledge of the subject. Another issue is who you associate with. Immature people will encourage you to do immature things. This goes back to the first thing in my hierarchy, healthy relationships. Also on the subject of variety, you cannot have healthy relationships if you rely on too few people.
Money is a factor. If you have a reasonable amount of money, you have more choices, and are better able to see to your health needs. And I believe that people should take as much responsibility as is realistically possible for acquiring a reasonable income. But I while I believe in seeking glory and emotional riches, I don’t believe in accumulating money purely for the sake of glory, and furthermore, if you spend too much time and energy accumulating money, once again, the activity will go stale on you.
To summarise: healthy relationships are the most important thing in life, followed by knowing how to discipline yourself; do other practical things, and it is also good to have some purely recreational knowledge. As I said earlier, these three broad categories area continuum. Then there is ornaments and passive entertainment. Money is a factor; and overarching all of these is the importance of variety.
By Michael Dunningham