Tuesday, May 28, 2013

George Washington has a green living room. And one tooth.

I went to Mount Vernon two summer ago.  

George Washington's living room was painted a pale shade of green.  This was a status of his wealth, since that color was particularly expensive.  Like having a tiger in a cage in your living room today, I suppose.  

He also only had one tooth by the time he died.  He was proud of that tooth.  Washington purchased custom dentures that fit around it, because again, he was wealthy.  Nonetheless, his chompers were a constant source of agony.

A middle class American today lives better than a 1%er 200 years ago.  Higher standard of living.  Higher life expectancy.  Better medical care.

I opened my dad's fridge this summer.  He likes to shop at Grocery Outlet (an amazing place).  Inside: exotic goods from all over the world.  Pomegranite juice.  Mango smoothies.  Beers from Germany.  A cheese plate.  Various sausages.  All sold in bulk, and cheaply.  

One or two centuries ago the things in my father's fridge would have been unattainable, except at great cost.  Now they are sold at discount prices. The capitalist system has bestowed a bounty on the average Westerner.

It doesn't mean much unless you appreciate it.  Americans live in a fairy tale. What we want is on demand, when we want it.  Our poor are fat instead of starving.  Poverty here is nothing like poverty throughout the rest of the world, or human history.

Yet a quick stroll through Twitter and Facebook reveals a lot of complaint and discontent.  Why?  Comparison is the thief of joy.  No, you don't stack up to Donald Trump or a hedge fund manager or the rich kids of Instagram.  But who cares?  Money isn't the point of life, not does it measure success.  Plenty of sad, unhappy rich people out there.

Count your blessings.  Enjoy the little things every day.  Is your belly full?   Is your water clean?  Does your waste flush out of sight?  Are you safe?  Are you warm?  Are you healthy?  Do you have friends?  Are you loved?
Your life is better than you know, and better than most of the world.  Just enjoy it.

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