It seems to me that our ongoing quest to secure material wealth—often to the point of excess, and with little regard for the harm we may do while in blind pursuit of money—reflects the fact that, as a species, we've never really come to grips with what we're living for. While there’s no point in denying that we're biological creatures, and that we each have pressing physical needs that must be satisfied if we’re to survive, are we surviving just to meet those needs until such time as we die? Or are we meant to meet our physical needs so our bodies, hearts and minds can grow strong enough for us to activate our precious gifts, and enable us to deliver our gifts to the world…and thus to each other?
How we consciously choose to answer that question, both as individuals and as a social collective, will determine the quality of how we live. While our pursuit of material comfort reflects our deeply conditioned desire to survive, our quest for fulfillment exposes our longing to live a rich and useful human life. We presently face a challenge then, in that we’ve mostly convinced ourselves this choice is an either/or proposition. We’ve come to believe that we can seek material comfort or we can self-actualize, but we can’t manage both unless we’re incredibly lucky. But what if it’s not an either/or proposition? What if they’re both fundamental aspects of what it means to be human? What if, by telling ourselves that we need to prioritize our material comfort above self-actualization, we’re rendering it less likely that we can accomplish either objective over the long run?
What happens if we embrace the belief that we’re not just here to survive until death, but to be the best human beings we can become? What happens if we consciously expand the definition of wealth beyond only that which services or gratifies our bodies, by also including that which expands our hearts, enriches our minds, and unleashes the full potential of our souls?
If we elevate to its rightful position, alongside material comfort, the boundless immaterial wealth that’s presently available to us all (which is, by the way, a resource pool that those who wield physical power can never confiscate or deplete for their short-term advantage) we can realize ourselves to be full to overflowing with love, compassion, kindness, generosity, beauty, wisdom, freedom, truth, gratitude, nurturing, passion, talent, skill, curiosity, patience, trust, peace, openness, joy and creativity. In this expansive process of redefining wealth we needn’t reject or denigrate our amazing material world, or ignore the needs of our biological bodies. All we need do is expand the lens through which we measure the relative worth of our physical realm. This simple act of re-contextualizing the material within a much broader, though mostly invisible, bandwidth of available human resources exposes how falsely impoverished we’ve long imagined ourselves.
In that, we’re a lot like artists who’ve had an amazing and vivid color palette at our constant disposal, yet for whatever reason we were blind to its existence. As a consequence of ignorance we’ve only been able to work with a single shade. In this auspicious moment, however, we’re starting to notice the vast array of all those magnificent colors; we can now both begin to appreciate them, as well as accomplish much more through our art than we’d ever before imagined possible.
I invite you not to believe any society, or group—or any individual, for that matter—that tries to inform you material comfort is the only wealth that matters in this life, or even that it’s the most important form of wealth to possess. Material resources—unlike the vast reservoir of immaterial wealth to which we all have constant, unfettered access—remain bound by our planet’s (and our own) creative and regenerative capacities. But so far as our immaterial wealth is concerned—rather than continue to ignore or devalue it because we possess it in such abundance that we’ve lost sight of its actual worth—we have no limits!
We can, whenever we choose, freely unleash that infinite flow in support of the emergence of all our higher human capacities. Through expanded self-actualization, both individually and collectively, we can begin directing the vastness of our immaterial abundance toward finding new ways to generate and more equitably distribute our shared material wealth for everyone’s benefit. And as we do so, we’ll miraculously begin to alchemize new ways of creating material abundance and birth brand new human potentials into existence. We can use what we have in infinite supply to purposefully grow wiser in ways to do ever more, while using ever fewer limited natural resources.
It’s time for us to dynamically balance the importance of our need for material resources with the unlimited bounty that already exists in the realm of our own consciousness. It’s time to gracefully surrender the painful and self-destructive predominant social belief that the number of days we manage to live matters more than the quality of our existence. We are more than the simple sum of our personal days; we are the consequences of all our shared life experiences.
So long as any of us are still breathing, we’ve already received from the universe whatever we needed in order to be alive, right here and now. Why not practice boundless gratitude for the gift of life, which none of us has earned? What an astounding realization that is! We’ve each received from the cosmos the ultimate “pay it forward” gift of this precious, unique ONE life. Meanwhile, our cosmos has been patiently awaiting our awakening into the miracle of that gift, so we can use it more consciously and in ways that will keep life’s gifts flowing in ever-greater abundance. Why not open our hearts and experiment with the practice of consciously sharing our vast abundance, instead of carrying on with this dreary game of placing high value on manufactured lack?
As we grow more masterful over time at sharing the bounty of our immaterial wealth, I suspect our feelings about material wealth will begin to shift. Rather than envy, grow angry with, or praise those who hoard material wealth for short-term advantage, we’ll feel empathy for the emptiness they’re trying to fill with more “stuff” instead of more “self.” Instead of struggling to mirror that behavior out of some sense of lack, we can demonstrate our abundance through our unconditional gifting of the kinds of wealth they’ve neglected to count on their personal balance sheets.
Ironically, if anything we might do stands a chance of transforming this world of lack into one of plenty, the unleashing of our vast immaterial wealth may be it. Through the miracle of collective and spontaneous release, we hold the power to birth a brand new world that reflects the full spectrum and richness of who we are, and why we’re here.
Image by Jonathan McIntosh, courtesy of Creative Commons license.