Some years ago, I got into an argument with a chap about money and happiness. I had said that one of the things I most need, and that most makes me happy, is walking in my local area and having a big vista to admire. He told me that I was making a virtue of necessity, that I walked because I was too poor to have any other hobbies and that if I had any money, my priorities would change and I would start valuing all the things he considered it worth valuing. All the things you can spend a lot of money on.
It is true that at that time, I was sorely financially restricted. I also had little scope for getting places, minimal access to public transport, I was a tad socially isolated and I was suffering from anxiety to a degree that did not incline me to spend a lot of time around people anyway.
Here we are, some years on. I have access to buses, trains and taxis, cinema, live music, art, theatre, people. As I’m no longer spending everything I have and more on solicitors, I have a lot more scope to spend money on things for me. I’m less anxious than I was, I no longer get so stressed dealing with people. It would be fair to say that I go out more often, buy more books, and have a lot more options.
All of this was very much on my mind this week. I was sat on a rock, in a wood, drinking tea out of a thermos and eating biscuits, and talking with Tom about all manner of things. We’ve been busy a lot lately, mostly me with work, but we hadn’t taken time out to do anything just the two of us in a while. Having allocated some time, what we chose to do with it was walk part of the Cotswold Way, carrying a thermos of tea and some biscuits. Very much as we used to when we didn’t have as many options. We didn’t get much of a view because the Severn flood plain was full of mist, but we did see some pigs, and a lot of flowers, and the light was amazing.
Given the choice, I’ll be in the woods and over the hills, or down through the valleys following the streams. I’ll be where the wild birds are, away from the traffic. I’ll be sat on a rock somewhere, looking at the sky and drinking tea. Not as an act of making the best of it. Not because if I could afford to, I’d do something else. This is what I choose. Maybe just with Tom, maybe with other people who share the same inclinations.
In some ways, money and success are a greater test of your values than poverty, for most spiritually minded people. Most religions are all about making a virtue of necessity, from a certain perspective. Greener living is all about consuming less. However, money creates temptations to own, to hop in a plane, to buy a car, to get involved with what everyone else seems to find happy-making.
There is so little I want for myself. Time in the hills, with the sky and the views, a flask of tea, and good company. I can get by without a lot of things, but not this. No amount of money is going to persuade me otherwise.