There's a line out there that moves up and down all day long. A lot of people watch it because they think it's a sign of how wealthy they are, or how wealthy they could be. Some people have killed themselves when the line goes too low, others have gone to jail. Some people are genuinely happier when the line is high up there, getting along better with their friends and family, whistling to themselves a bit more while they work.
Why do we watch this line so closely? Why do we so willingly and anxiously tie our happiness and sense of security and standing in the world to its altitude and slope?
Some veteran line watchers offer advice and comfort through an adage like "a watched pot never boils," meaning that you just shouldn't watch the line on a day to day basis lest you become frustrated with the time that positive change can take. But I am wary of this mindset, because the only acceptable outcome is still boiling, and so when the pot boils we are happy, and when the pot is not boiling, we lack happiness.
I wonder if there are other ways we can measure wealth? I wonder what it means to live in a world where we can be happy no matter where that line sits - perhaps even one where there is no line to watch at all?
"Naive!" some will say. "Foolish and unrealistic," will say others. And then they'll go back to watching the line, drumming fingers nervously, gut churning as fortunes rise and fall, hoping.
Looking at the above chart, I wonder what it meant to be happy in 1950 when the line was so "low." I wonder what it meant to be happy before the line got going at all. And of course, I wonder what's on the other side of the current peak, far to the right, off in the distance.
So, yes, though perhaps for different reasons and with a different notion of the boiling point, I'm watching the line too.