How Much is Enough?
The problem dear reader, our problem, is that we are forgetting what it is we are giving up now in order to be able to navigate some imagined circumstance in the future.
I’ve recently been ill. As ill as I think I’ve ever been. Ill enough not to have to go to hospital but for there to be moments when I thought I should have been in one. Without contravening the bonds of the Francis family hippocratic oath, I wasted away in bed for 5 days straight doing nothing but watching television and basting in my own stink.
Occasionally I would find the strength to drag myself from my little den of filth, a den incidentally that my poor wife, who was also sick, had to share with me, to either go to the bathroom, where I would stand shivering above the toilet bowl like a Fransciscan monk in a hill-top monastery, pointing my tiny sick penis towards where I imagined the water in the bottom of the bowl to be, or stagger downstairs in my dressing gown like a cancer patient wondering through an oncology ward. All that was missing was a drip stand.
It’s not very often that we disgust ourselves to the point where we can not look at ourselves in the mirror, but let me tell you – I haven’t been near one for a week. I feel as though we need to burn the bed and bring people in to fumigate the top story of our house. I was patient zero in an as yet undiscovered viral outbreak. If this leads to the zombie apocalypse I apologise in advance. If there are survivors we’ll meet on the steps of the Opera House a year from now.
Every time my children came near me I asked myself the question, “is this interaction going to shorten their life?” A film of oil; slippery and slick and with the kaleidoscopic shimmer of the Valdez oil disaster, has covered my body for these five days, causing my pyjamas – again, these must be burned – to cling to me like cling wrap on the underside of a salad bowl.
My hair, what little I have left of it, has adhered to my scalp and looks more like a real toupee than something natural growing out of the top of my head. My once fashionable 3 day facial growth has long since gone ‘defcon beard’, and every time I scratch it, flakes of skin pour from it like shredded coconut, falling in huge showers onto the bed sheets or where ever I happen to be standing. I never thought there was such a thing as face dandruff. At least I have the matching set now.
As I type these words I can hear many of you saying…”boy Luke….this is a bit much isn’t it”? “All I was doing was scrolling through my newsfeed and I noticed that you’d written another blog entry. I didn’t expect any of this. I was half-way through a delicious Cro-Nut – you know…the half croissant half donut…never mind. I certainly didn’t expect an epidemiological account of a diseased man’s final moments.”
I’m sorry if I put you off your Cro-Nut, I really am. If you need to get back to your newsfeed I won’t take it personally – there is some good stuff out there. This morning I watched a bull with flaming horns toss a man 10 feet in the air when he threw sand in it’s face. I was so amused I watched it 5 times in a row. But the point of the candour – the filth – is that for the first time in 44 years I glimpsed my own mortality. I saw that my demise was entirely possible. That this body, unflashy yet reliable, like a taxi that runs on LPG, will at some point fail me, and that which lives within, whatever it is you chose to call it, will cast it aside and go somewhere else. It will occupy some other space. Some other time.
So, as tends to happen when mortality knocks on the glass sliding door round back, I gots to thinking about my life and what I was doing with it. I started remembering some of the ideas and philosophies I set out in my first post – On True Purpose (check it out – I could do with the extra likes). The importance of purpose and the value of passion and the need to make these things your number one priority, and if you don’t know what they are yet then your number one priority should be discovering what they are. And I realised that I’m not quite there yet – not quite fully committed to a life of purpose; my purpose.
When I start to get under the covers (not the ones on the S.S Infection upstairs) I realise what it is that is holding me back – not allowing me to fully commit. Bank. Do I have enough bank? Enough of the filthy stuff. You know – Drachma (it’s coming back I hear), Lira (this too), the old d’Argent. The filthy mulla. In short, do I have enough cash for me to fully commit to my passion – my writing – for a period of time, and how much is enough to live a comfortable life; a life that still provides opportunities for my wife and children to realise their dreams. Anyone who has ever thrown caution to the wind and set a course towards their dreams has asked themselves the question, how much is enough?
Less than we think. I’m certainly not a financial advisor, much less an economist, but based on my own observations I can tell you that the concept of ‘wealth creation’ has infiltrated our hearts and minds with all the force of a rock thrown through a front window. Putting aside who is responsible for this (an altogether different conversation best left for another time), the impetus behind wealth creation, or the desire to accumulate more than you need, is fear.
Fear that circumstances will change, fear that the global economy will collapse, fear that we are living in a housing bubble and we will wake up on Monday morning and our three story house on Berowra waters with the infinity pool and the solar panels that will pay for themselves in 5 years will suddenly have the same value as what the boat shed was once worth. And then there is the fear above all fears, the one we only whisper to our spouses after midnight – the fear that we won’t have as much as our friends.
Fear has made us borrow too much, save too little, and work too hard. We have been sold on the concept of scarcity; of impending doom, and have committed ourselves and our precious lives to the act of anticipating disaster. We stand at the window on constant watch. ‘Two if by sea, one if by land’ has never been more poignant. We are the Bower Bird obsessed with collecting blue-bottle tops and forgetting to look for a mate. The problem dear reader, our problem, is that we are forgetting what it is we are giving up now in order to be able to navigate some imagined circumstance in the future.
So how much is enough? If we forgo a second or third investment property, what could we do with that money? Notice I say do and not buy. I don’t know a lot about finance but I know money gives you one important thing – choice. The ability to choose where you go, what you do, and most important of all, what you do with your time. Money is a euphemism for time. Houses and cars and watches and cloths don’t cost money. They cost time. Your time. Time out of your life. Time away from your family. Time not spent in pursuit of your calling. Time that you will one day want back.
I can’t tell you how much is enough. It really depends on what you want to do. Everyone’s circumstance are different. I’ve got a few dollars tucked away but I can tell you that at 44 years old with two children under the age of 6 and an addiction to buying books on Amazon that is akin to alcoholism, there is no way I am in a position to permanently give up working a real job and committing myself to my writing. But I’ll take the next best thing.
For the last couple of years I’ve been engineering my life in a way that will allow me to take a significant period of time away from work – perhaps a year – and reclaim it as mine. I’m calling this my writing year; my own middle-aged gap year. I’ve done the sums and I know how much is enough to make it through that year and come out the other side with a wife who still wants to be married to me and children who have an above average body mass index. We’ll need to make some sacrifices but many of them will be no different to the ones we have already started to make. For what my children will lose in variety of television programming when we turn off foxtel they will get back in…well.. me. Everyone’s a winner.
So what is the point of all this? Why the off-putting tails of illness, references to tiny penises and lessons in high-finance? Because if you read my stuff; if you subscribe to this blog, your a seeker. A seeker of truth and meaning and purpose. As such we have a mutual obligation to help keep one another’s dreams alive. To pull each other from the heaving horde of humanity; pungent with the smell of fear and travelling all in the one direction, and whisper into each others ear, ’don’t go that way’. It’s so easy to get lost in this noise; the panicked pursuit of more.
Above all, this is a simple reminder that in the pursuit of our dreams, the ones that lie unattended yet very real in some unlit corner of our soul, we need to come up with a plan on how to bring them into the light. My simple formula to do this is to make sound financial decisions, to not get sucked into the vortex of this pervasive fear culture, and to remind myself that, like you, I have a set of skills and talents that are as unique as an unclassified flower; as novel and strange and beautiful as an unnamed star.