more is less

5 February 2006 at 18:33 (General)

Having lunch the other day conversation stumbled upon money and happiness. Generally, the more someone has the less they appreciate. My friend illustrated the concept:

You buy a necklace, hand made in Africa for $5. For you it is beautiful, it is well made and it looks nice. For you $5 is nothing and you wear it and then leave it.

The African child pours their heart into their work. They take pride in making a thing of beauty. It is expression, sharing of their land. It is a labour of love. The 50 cents that they earn literally means the world to them. It is the difference between food and hunger. It is their ticket to survival. They can see what it is like without and they truly appreciate the opportunities it offers them.

The concept goes much further though. I watch a rider in le tour kick his rear derailleur. His running gear: worth more than my bike and maintained daily. To him it is just another valueless machine, to me a machine one tenth of the monetary value would feel priceless.

I go to a friends house; their drinking glasses are made of thin glass with smooth contours. I drink their bottled spring water. To me it feels divine. I know I could easily buy these things, experience them often and they would become nothing.

The orchestra floors me, literally knocking the wind out of me, the conductor progresses to the next movement. The chocolate is rich and full, some will eat it in a moment but if you suck on it the slow release of pleasure can last for quarter of an hour. A person has many contacts, many friends. Their friendships are special but there is no pressure, no need. No demand for love that the lonely feel towards their few friends.

We finished our meal and my friend went into the kitchen to clean up (he works at the café). As I was walking past the front counter I saw a board against the wall offering hand made bracelets made by third world children. They were $2 and the money was pledged to go towards helping their communities. I bought the first one as a reminder of how lucky but how careful I must be not to overlook the beauty in the world.



  1. Kent said,

    “The African child pours their heart into their work. They take pride in making a thing of beauty. It is expression, sharing of their land. It is a labour of love.”

    Your friend either has or should read Marx!

  2. toto said,

    My friend hasn’t ready Marx, but yes. Similar, however it is probably important that happiness is self initiated.

    I was thinking more about this idea. On the other hand it encompasses why I wouldn’t want to buy a holden. The cars may be okay, but you pay a lot for something that was knocked together by someone who couldn’t care less. The factory workers hammer the cars together, kicking and slamming when the procedures don’t work. The guys one the end of the line are notorious for driving the brand new engines into the red as they go from the end of the production line to the car park. So I wouldn’t buy such a product, it couldn’t instill ‘pride-and-joy’, however there are plenty of Holden fans who treat such an idea as blasphemous. In outrage they will rebut that their cars are marvellous and that my factory stories are wrong.

  3. Kent said,

    True, but then none of us are denying that petrolheads are delusional and have issues… I hope.

    You really are getting rather close to a Marxist conception of capitalism here. He believed that when anyone does work – especially when they produce something – part of their essence as a person is in that work, and in the act of producing it. It’s part of you – not in a supernatural sense, but just a psychological sort of one. Back in the [Utopian and non-existent] ‘natural state’ of mankind, that was okay, because the farmer sowed, grew, reaped, and ate his wheat. But as capitalism developed, the worker was increasingly estranged (‘alienated’ is the particular term) from the products of their labour. The sale of goods is one example of alienation, but Marx was really spurred on by more drastic examples: you on the factory line is a perfect one. You put stickers on cars, but that’s all. You were alienated from the products of your labour, because you were just one tiny cog in a massive set. Same with me: I am only a tiny cog in a truly ginormous network. How is my labour supposed to be truly fulfilling? There’re more aspects to alienation than that, but it’s the one you seem to bring up here.

  4. Kent said,

    Section 23 here, in his own words:

  5. matty said,

    thanks for that. It was good that you posted that link but honestly, you express it 100 times better than that translation.

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