The Best is Free
It was a hot and humid day as I sprawled on the soft seat of the Chicago limousine. The driver was Puerto-Rican. He had aspirations. 'Tonight, I go with my friends and we shoot pool. Then we have a big party. I have a very big family. We love to get together. We live in the same neighbourhood.' He broke off only to blare with the horn at a car lazily cutting in front. 'Sometimes I think should be out working to make more money. You need money,' he added. 'Money can buy you everything.'
I shook my head at him in the mirror. 'Oh no it can't,' I said.
He shot back a startled glance. I added, 'It wouldn't have bought you that family. It wouldn't have bought you the sense of fellowship you'll all share tonight.'
Suddenly he was curious.
'In fact,' I said, 'money can't buy you any of the things you want most.'
The idea that money can get you what you want isn't new. In the last decade, it has been changed a little. People now tend to say, 'These days money can buy you anything.' It is undeniably true that money can purchase material goods, but it can't influence your possession of the things that matter most. Even the ownership of articles can be much less satisfying than it might seem. In his recent interview, Gerald Ratner described how his meteoric rise to fortune meant he had his favourite sports car in the drive, the huge mansion, every material item he'd ever longed for. None of them brought him pleasure, he added, reflectively; once he'd bought them most were largely ignored.
Money buys security, of course; or does it? Material security can fade with changing fortunes (there are so many once wealthy individuals whose destiny changed with a flip in the market or an unwise decision). Yet that is not the form of security people crave. If someone tells you they long to feel secure it does not mean that they wish for money in the bank. What they crave is personal, emotional security - the sense of feeling safe, and relying on those who are closest; knowing one's strengths and weaknesses, and knowing that others know them too. No amount of money buys that.
Neither does high finance give you a sense of humour or a good ear for music, make you artistic or able to speak in public. Money cannot buy love. Though it can inspire opportunists to cluster around, anxious for largesse, it does not buy friendship, nor does it purchase respect. It may, indeed, make it hard to tell free-loader from friend.
Money can't buy charisma. It doesn't always cure afflictions. It's largely irrelevant to such key considerations as confidence and kindness, charm and wit. It doesn't boost your intelligence, and it cannot settle your soul.
We talked for a few minutes, and than, at a red light, the driver passed back a folded sheet of cardboard covered with words written in capital letters. 'These notes are my assignment from night school,' he explained. 'On the back of the card, can you write some of those down?' I was still writing when we arrived at our destination.
It has been claimed that money is the ultimate aphrodisiac. It is really much simpler - with money, even a sad and lonely individual can afford a good class of whore.