Sunday, November 23, 2008


It is difficult if not impossible these days not to think about money. Everyone, everywhere seems to be catching the fading green virus that began here in the states and is now spreading ominously across the globe. Not only does it appear that our famed financial experts live in houses of straw, but one is uncertain if any houses made of brick actually exist. And the big bad wolf has entered the village determined to huff, and to puff, and to blow some things down.
While I am cognizant of the fact that the situation is serious and I certainly appreciate that money is a crucial commodity for us all, there seem to be pivotal issues in the air at the moment, more essential issues, and those have led me to contemplate the somewhat skewed and earthbound meanings that seem to have been bestowed on our twenty-first century ideas of worth, of value and of success. How do we define success? Do we feel someone is worth more, or is more successful, when their bank account is chubby? How exactly do we measure our own value as a lone individual wandering the world at present? What is our definition of greatness, for a country or for an individual?
As is my wont, whenever I am in a pondering mood, I turn to my books, for I know others before me have surely studied over the same questions as I at some point in their lives, and history is such a great teacher. It is often a comfort to read what greater minds than mine have had to say on whatever subject I am mulling over. At the start of this, our Thanksgiving holiday week, I found this particular passage from a speech given by Bobby Kennedy in 1968 especially meaningful. Perhaps you will also.

..the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.

Painting above: Earthbound by Evelyn de Morgan


  1. Lucky for all of us, money can't buy "everything." There are still things of value that we can have, create, enjoy, that cost us nothing.

  2. There is so much emotional baggage tied to monetary worth that we seldom as a culture willingly examine the basis for it.

    Personally I define success mostly in terms of basic needs, comfort, well being, personal fulfillment, and quality of life, rather than a person's net worth. My sister, a designer, after her divorce quickly went through all of her funds and my parent's home equity, and their life savings and is now and forever will be, poor although she lives in a nice neighborhood and her daughter goes to an elite private school. There will never be enough to keep her in the "best" cars, her daughter in the "best" schools, and her home in the "best" neighborhood. Because even if she were to increase the balance in her accounts there will always be the need for a fancier something. So, to the outside world she "appears" to be successful, but to me she will find success when she finds peace and contentedness with what she has.

  3. I also try to find words of "wisdom"in books..but I am afraid people don't learn from keeps repeating itself...good post ,thank you:)

  4. SO well said! I have to say I am under the impression there is a little stir up from the media...not to take away from people who are struggling...but notice recents events highlights those at the TOP who are struggling...there was ALWAYS struggle for many, now it is just more noticeable because wall streeters are feeling what others may have been feeling all along...some people just live frugally all along (OK, include me here!). Last weekend I was in Times Square and you know what? People are spending, all stores and restaurants crowded...but these people are probably like us, living within our menas, truly I think the media's concentration is really about those who make ridiculous salaries (still) while their companies flounder...if the market goes up or down, my spewnding will remain the same! ithin reason!

  5. What a controversial subject!!
    I feel that whatever we are looking for in terms of happyness or contentment we can only look for these things within us. And until we do find them within ourselves, we are on a wild sea in an open boat.... exposed to the influence of all things money, power, people!!
    But where do we find that strength and time to look inwards to ignore the media, to be different, to dress differently, to wear second hand, to do we escape the influence peddlars..??
    Fabulous picture.
    Hugs Lynn xx

  6. What a beautiful statement by Kennedy. He has really touched on the most important things, hasn't he.

  7. Bobby Kennedy's quote is quite meaningful; what a wonderful post.

    It seems we, as a society, are too quick to identify success though monetary achievements. While that is certainly a way to define success, I believe a better type of success is finding and living a life that fulfills us, to give of ourselves and be loved by others, and in someway, to leave the world a better place by our presence (hokey, perhaps, but I believe those to be some of the most important ways a person can succeed!)

  8. What an inspiring piece! Thank you Pamela.

    We are in the early days of recession here in Ireland, but I find myself thinking, 'Right! Let's roll up our sleeves and get down to this business! No problem, I've done this before!'
    Growing up here in the eighties was depressing and hopeless, but look at what we achieved over the last ten or so years! But we have definitely lost some of our values, and I am quite happy to promote them now! As a mother I feel it my duty...

    And Pamela, if you feel like it, would you like to play tag? If so, then follow me to my place! :-)

  9. Excellent post, with much wisdom!

    Thank you.

  10. Great quote and I'm also very pleased at the comments left here...clearly, you have many readers whose values are solid and wise...and obviously, I agree wholeheartedly!

  11. a very provocative post that has started a very wonderful dialogue - thank you!

  12. Very good thoughts - and thought provoking comments. Thanks.

  13. I think there is a lot of merit in a small saying my daughter came home from school with when she was 5.
    Yesterday is History,
    Tomorrow is a Mystery,
    Today is a Gift,
    Which is why it is called the present.
    We spend far to much time listening too the gloom of the politicians,their talk of credit crunch, and recession.
    We spend too little time learning from the past.
    We should spend our time putting to good use the day we have in front of us, and leaving each day with something we have done that is worthwhile.

  14. What RFK describes for a person applies to our society . A country which does not see to the health, education and peace of mind and body of ALL its citizens can never be the best in the world, no matter how often its leaders indulge in such superlatives.
    It matters little whether we are "the greatest in the world" if we are not the best we can be. Money and appearances are the lowest gauge by which to measure the value of a person or a country.
    OK. I am stepping down from the soap box.
    Thank you for yet another thoughtful post, Pamela.

  15. So wise, so true those words of Bobby Kennedy and a lot more also on all your comments here.
    Thank you for putting into words how I too feel about money and worth.

  16. Like our parents and grandparents before us that survived a depression, World wars and making do with less... it will be those that have the strongest bonds with family and friends and the willingness to be content with perhaps less(material things) that will suffer the least. That is not to say that I feel deeply for those that have lost their jobs and homes but we as humans are survivors.
    Besides with a cat on your lap, a doggie at your feet and a fire in the hearth somehow there is comfort in the storm that lies ahead.
    xo Susan

  17. Oo, such a stirring post and great questions too.

    "Do we feel someone is worth more, or is more successful, when their bank account is chubby?"
    -No I don't do that. If I did, I'd have to consider myself a miserable failure then! Ugh.

    "How exactly do we measure our own value as a lone individual wandering the world at present?"
    --Two ways for me. One is in whetherI am living for god or myself. The other is like that--am I loving others rightly and truly. Am I loving them as I should?

    "What is our definition of greatness, for a country or for an individual?"
    --Selflessness and defending those less fortunate, oppressed, or with no voice,--the weakest among us. giving freedom and worth to those that otherwise would be rejected. We don't have to help the "rejects" but doing so shows our real worth, our real love--where the rubber meets the road. Mother Teresa summed this up so well.

    Also, for a nation, I think holding on to truth and confronting bullying, aggression and corruption on/in harmless countries is huge too.

  18. Very well thought and said. I do think our 'lack of' makes us see what truly matters. And what we find 'worthy' becomes more clear, and usually is clearly all those things that money can't buy...
    love, kindness, gentleness, tenderheartedness, compassion, mercy, friendship, meekness, etc. etc.

  19. It's been great catching up with your posts Pamela. I really enjoyed your previous writings on sneaking back to bed to snooze, and the joys of train travel.I think success lies in the ability to make someone else's life easier/better/funnier.You'd have to count someone as a success if they were remembered with a great deal of fondness, humour and admiration.Lots of money but no thanks.

  20. What a fantastic post, as always Pamela. That quote from Bobbie just hits the nail smack bang in the middle, doesn't it?

    In Ireland the recession has hit but people had become so greedy. From abject poverty to owning grand mansions, some with only one or two people in them. It couldn't last, thank goodness. I do hope we all learn to appreciate what is important in life. Family, friends and love.

  21. Great post, and some very wise comments too.

    I feel that on the whole, I am pretty successful, with a lovely family who share my values.

    We've been living frugally for a long time, and so many of the changes have hardly affected us. Many people I know are most upset because they've had to cut back on luxuries, and it's by these that they measure success, which I think is a shame, and they're missing the point totally!

    A smile costs nothing :)

    Kim x

  22. An inspired post Pamela, this a subject I often think about too. Thank you for sharing Bobby Kennedy's excellent statement I had never read it before.
    My OH is feeling much better thank you. Good health is priceless!

  23. Beautiful words. For me if something is quantifiable (is that a real word?) then the chances are it's not of real worth.

    The stuff that really matters is spending time and love with my family and friends. How can that be measured? It's in the beauty of the landscape, the look of love I share with my husband.

    Last Christmas was so tight that if we couldn't make it, we didn't get it for Christmas. Strangely this turned out to be our best Christmas yet as everyone had thought more carefully about what they gave as so much time had to go into making it. Everything really was given with love.

    Love I think is what really matters. Perhaps we should measure our wealth by the number of true friends we have?

  24. Not only was Bobby Kennedy an idol of my, but his son, Robert, is a modern day version. Great quote.

  25. A very thought provoking post.

    Wealth and abundance and all the truly important things in life can never be achieved with any amount of money (that Kennedy quote is great!), but if you have ever been truly poor, as in going whole days without any food and living in a condemned building, poor and possible illiterate, elderly or very sick, then you know that a certain amount of it is essential and nonnegotiable for basic physical needs. Until you meet those basic needs, people generally don't have the leisure time, energy or education to ponder hope, let alone more abstract issues of success, worthiness or global solvency and direction. Those people are the forgotten ones and they are the ones who will be hit hardest of all.

    If the currency of a country is that which makes life worthwhile, then that country is indeed rich by any and all standards.

    IMHO :)

  26. In our society success is based solely on the size of a bank account. People who do other fantastic things (with little money attached) are graded as 'heroes', but not successful. It's sad really.

  27. Bobby Kennedy could have been The One. His rebirth following his early political shallowness, the deaths of his brother and King were keys to his transcendence. HIs words will haunt us seemingly forever.

  28. There is an interesting article in The Times today by Richard Morrison, in which he says that if we all have alittle less ready cash we might begin to enjoy again some of the things that don't cost anything. I so agree with this. Out here in the countryside, a long way from shops selling things we can do without, we get a lot of our pleasure from simple things which cost absolutely nothing. Birds arriving at our bird table, sunsets, collecting wood for the fire, taking the dog over the fields - I could go on for ever.

  29. What a powerful quote and one that we need to be reminded of more often. Back in June the NYTimes had an article about a number of Wall Street executives who were going through difficult financial times. The article stated that these successful individuals had gone from making $6-8 million to $2 million and at that time were taking out loans so that their spouses wouldn't find out about their financial losses. If things were bad in June, I have wondered how these couples are doing now.

    There are so many things we have to be thankful for your post serves as a wonderful reminder of what to focus on as we count our blessings. Happy Thanksgiving.

  30. A worthy post for today!
    I value learning something new each day and reading your most worthwhile words.
    Happy Thanksgiving!

  31. Money is all very well in it's own way but I have never known it to give lasting happiness.

  32. You express yourself so well...

    Ahhh knowledge of simple basic things, the comfort of a family, love and care cannot be bought.. nurtured, yes...

    Coincidentally, My husband has been reading a book by Bobby Kennedy these last few days...

  33. This was a very well done post.

    It's easy for people to get caught up with keeping up with the "Jones's", when what really matters is not even something money can buy.

    Thank you for helping to remind us all.


  34. Very thought provoking post with the juxtaposition of worth with success and money. I find the painting particularly illustrative. It says so much. Thank you.


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