I have come forward to ask you a question today.
Would you give away one of your fingers for 10 million dollars? ( Or any other large sum of money, the actual amount doesn’t have much relevance to this article).
Why am I asking such a question out of the blue?
Because this is actually a question that gives quite the insight into someone’s character and personality based on what they answer. And by writing this article and explaining what the choices mean, I might cause you to reflect upon yourself and your possible choices in this hypothetical scenario. Self reflection is something that people rarely do nowadays so I have no problem sowing the seeds for it.
Let’s get the shorter one out of the way.
Choice 1. Not accepting
Even despite the fact that huge amounts of money, more money than what perhaps you could earn in your entire lifetime, money that could buy you everything that you ever wanted or needed was offered to you, yet you still had the self-restrain to reject this offer. What does this tell about you?
Well first off it means that you value your finger, a part of your body more than you value money, by extension it could also mean that you have no interest in material gains in general or that your desires and needs cannot be granted by money. You are a person of integrity who cannot be moved by greed nor envy (of the rich), and nothing will probably change that. It also means you are as rare as an unicorn in our modern consumerist and extremely materialistic society, where everything revolves around money and the products you can buy with the said money.
Or it could also just mean that you are afraid of pain or that you are scared of losing your fingers, no need for me to overthink everything, sometimes the simplest answer is the most probable.
Either way I believe not accepting is the most virtuous choice in this scenario.
I’m not going to utter some kind of cliché about how money doesn’t make you happy. Because I do not actually believe that’s true, money can buy you happiness by giving you the ability to attain objects and desires that you previously could not fulfill or get. So yes it is the things that become available through money that could theoretically make a rich person happy.
But there is but one problem with this kind of happiness, it does not last. We get our desires fulfilled and the objects of our wishes granted and we are filled with a short term satisfaction and a few days later if not sooner newer desires spring up within us. And here is where the difference between someone with lots of money and someone who is relatively poorer comes into play.
The poor person needs to work towards his desires, while the rich can grant himself anything he wants by simply flicking his fingers, his limitations has been eliminated, there is nothing blocking the way to his desires other than his self restraint which may get erased once you get filthy rich. Because of the fact that the poor person is blocked and has obstacles, when he actually attains his goals and fulfills his desires, they feel more satisfaction.
While the rich only feel a void as it wasn’t a challenge or a struggle to get what they want. Please note that this isn’t a problem with people who are inherently born into a wealthy family because they are used to it, but it is a much larger problem for those who attain a large amount of wealth suddenly even though they were living in poorer conditions previously, a.k.a. most lottery winners and those who receive a wealthy inheritance.
Their sudden change in lifestyle immediately goes into conflict with their past experiences as they were brought out of their usual habit and behavior by the force of money, they will start feeling increasingly less satisfied, due to this they frequently start seeking new thrills and even greater stimulus, and if this process continues their life becomes nothing more than a pursuit of debauchery. Such an easy way of how sudden wealth can destroy a person.
Now let’s move onto the lengthier second part, which is what I think most people would choose.
Choice 2. Accepting it
Congratulations, you lost a finger and got lots of money as a result.
How long do you think that money will last? You might be already deluding yourself of how you would save it or perhaps even invest it. But in reality it will be gone as quickly as the the money of your average lottery winner. Because people who weren’t born into wealth aren’t used to handling and managing large sums of money. Of course I’m not saying this in absolute, there are money-wise incompetent rich people just as well are those few lottery winners who did not actually waste away their money, but they are in the minority and I’m obviously speaking in general terms.
I know that its a cliché that quickly gained money easily goes away, but its also entirely true as you do not the know the value of the money, you didn’t build it up steadily from nothing, you just received it out of the blue for your finger. Not to mention you already proved that you are a materialistic person by accepting the money, which will also mean that you will proceed to buy the materialistic items and needs that you could previously not afford in your poorer state.
You will buy things that you do not need, you will upgrade your house, your car, your lifestyle, you will switch from plain clothes to the most expensive designer clothes etc. Your money will be spent on unnecessary and costly luxuries, and thus the money that could have lasted you a lifetime had you maintained your previous lifestyle, will be gone in a few years if not months and you will be forced to fall back to poverty. This is exactly the reason why 95% of lottery winners can’t keep their wealth, they spend it on useless things without restraint.
You might say that the things they, most people would buy are not useless objects. So let me ask of you:
Why would they need bigger houses? If they could live in their old one just fine until now, they have no need of a new one, especially not one that is unnecessarily big or extravagant.
Why would they need brand new cars? It’s not like the horse power of your new vehicle matters much in the every day traffic jam. Your old and less costly car served its purpose just fine.
Why would they need designer clothes? It is only a symbol of vanity, having a brand on your jacket or not makes little difference, both serve their function as clothes just as good.
Why should they give money to their family members and friends? Just so they can spend the money uselessly like they do? They didn’t make or earn that money, so they will obviously not value it any higher than you do.
Frankly speaking most of the things that the average human being desires are nothing more but useless items of vanity and pride, that everyone was deluded by the consumerist society and media into thinking that it has actual worth. Rejecting the value of material objects is one of the first steps to enlightenment. The pursuit of luxury and wealth is no different from walking the path of hedonism.
You might say that you can actually restrain yourself and won’t spend the money uselessly, but where was that restraint when you uselessly gave away your finger for a temporary gain of wealth? You sacrificed an integral part of your body for something uncertain. Your body is your first kingdom, the very thing that you have the maximum amount of control over in the course of your life, and you traded part of something that you had control over to something which you have substantially less control over, money is a volatile mistress.
It is only natural that you would lose it, after all you couldn’t keep yourself from losing your finger, so why would you be able to keep yourself from losing something which you have less control over?
You are no different than a King of medieval times who gave out his lands to the nobles expecting loyalty, only to lose more lands and power due to the greed and envy of increasingly powerful nobles. You will waste your money, then you will return to trade another finger, you waste your money again and sacrifice more of yourself, eventually you lose all of your fingers and only then will you realize how much a little finger mattered to you.
Those who would give up a part of themselves for money do not truly deserve it, nor can they keep it.
There is an ancient Chinese saying that an Emperor who would give a finger for wealth, does not deserve to rule nor can he rule. By giving away a part of his first Kingdom he will also obviously be more willing to give away a part of his second Kingdom, which he has objectively much less control over than the first and thus his Empire will be ruined by greed.
Ancient Chinese philosophers were heavily against materialism and attachment to objects, their focus was more on the people and society rather than anything else. They believed like Plato, that the lands should be ruled by Philosopher or Sage Emperors who would not bend to greed or any other human desire, they would instead remain firm like a rock in face of a river.
Taoists believe in a “pendulum effect”, which states that if one tries to achieve an extreme in something, then the pendulum swings back and he gets the opposite of the desired result. For example if one seeks wealth then he might end up in poverty, if one tries to make laws, then one might end up making only more criminals. This is an important concept in Taoism, also known as “Overshooting the Mark”.
The Pendulum Effect can be easily applied to this scenario as you have seen in practice.
If you draw your bow for too long you will not only miss your target but you might also hit something else entirely. The point is to hit your target, to be moderate, to walk the middle road.
With all this said.
Would you still give away one of your fingers for material gains?