November 15, 2009

Evolving Past Narrow Definitions of Wealth

We usually define wealth by how much money a person has, or by what possessions they own. William Henry Channing (1810-1884), American clergyman, writer, philosopher, and early supporter of the socialist movement, described his alternative view of wealth in "Symphony":

To live content with small means;
to seek elegance rather than luxury,
and refinement rather than fashion;
to be worthy, not respectable,
and wealthy, not rich;
to listen to stars and birds, babes
and sages, with open heart;
to study hard;
to think quietly, act frankly,
talk gently, await occasions,
hurry never;
in a word, to let the spiritual,
unbidden and unconscious,
grow up through the common--
this is my symphony.

This affirms my belief that wealth is not what you have and what you can get, rather it is what you can live without. Real freedom lies not in desiring things and experiences, and having the riches to get them. Rather, it is in not desiring them in the first place.

Real wealth is what each of us carries inside. It is obscured by desiring things in the material world that only provide temporary, hollow relief to our ongoing inner struggle. Contentment brings peace and a calm, unhurried state; a secure feeling of having enough. Since consumerism is based on cultivating unending need and desire, contentment provides a vaccination against it.

Those who experience contentment, balance, and inner peace have true wealth.

Our money, stuff, and pace of life are preventing us from realizing this wealth. But we can sacrifice our negative habits and addictions to the forces of evolution that are constantly urging us to grow beyond our current incarnation. We can give up the distractions in our lives. We don't need them.

There is poverty in desire and riches. We are waking up to the wealth of contentment and enough, and we are evolving together. W. H. Channing said,
"The highest products of human achievement, such as language, law, civilization, religion, and ethical development, are the results of social growth, and not of individual attainment."
Real wealth accumulation, like evolution, is a cooperative activity; we are all on the same team.


  1. Why would someone have to not want something to be wealthy? It is a natural drive of human beings to want, to know they can get and achieve. Real wealth is seeing something, knowing you can have it and then freely decided whether you want it or not. It's the ability to choose. That is freedom, when a person knows they can have, but is free to choose not to have, rather than being forced not to have or thinking there is something to gain from self-denial. I agree that it is unfortunate the our society has evolved into the perception of a person's wealth as their possessions. That is a game that individuals can choose to play or not to play. The way to not be effect of it is to realize one's self worth and develop one's confidence...from there they can freely choose to possess or not to possess.

  2. Thank you for your comment. No one should be forced through coercion to act, or not act. With full disclosure and transparency, unhindered by personal agendas, individuals will come to the logical conclusions by themselves.

    I agree, the choice has to be made freely.

  3. Anonymous7/14/2013

    I completely agree that true wealth is freedom from the treacherous gerbil wheel of "more, more, more." Kuddos to you for pointing this out so eloquently. I appreciate your connections to the process of evolution. It seems some individuals are more awake than others, leading the way on the path to contentment, fulfillment, and serenity. Your writing helps to remind me why I am on that path, thank you! -Serene in Texas

    1. Serene in Texas, No matter how hard one tries to "win" the wealth game through accumulation of money and things, there is always more to buy. You are never done! And what is it all for?

      I am happy to provide a reminder for you as we walk this path together. I know you would do the same for me.


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