The NFL, CBS, the Value of Money, and Enlightened Self-Interest


“So you think that money is the root of all evil? . . . Have you ever asked what is the root of money? Money is a tool of exchange, which can’t exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them. Money is the material shape of the principle that men who wish to deal with one another must deal by trade and give value for value.” — Ayn Rand Letter 1971-1976 (“Hunger and Freedom)

I often refer to service of others in my philosophy.  Indeed, serving your fellow human is a huge part of living a life of virtue.  Without a doubt, my serving others plays a huge part in my happiness. However, this does not mean I do not expect to be compensated for my service.  In many cases, in our current society of exchange I expect my neighbor to thank me for the value he has received by providing me with a “certificate” of his appreciation (in other words, a note of legal tender…money).  By providing money to me, the receiver of my service has said, “you have provided me something of value, I have labored to earn this money, and what you have provided is worth that labor.  Thank You.

However, direct payment isn’t always how value is exchanged.  On this site, I hope to provide something of value to you, while also exploring the philosophical life.  This is provided free of charge…well, sort of.  When CBS televises, the NFL playoff game between the Houston Texans and the New England Patriots (go Houston!), both the NFL and CBS do so “free of charge.”  What they know, however, is that millions of fans are provided value in watching the game.  For 3 hours, they get to be part of something, whether it’s the feeling of being part of either team’s effort, just to escape for a while and have fun, observe the strategy of the game, or even observe the prowess of the athletes…millions find value in those 3 hours.  More importantly, advertisers know the fans are watching and want them to know that they can provide value as well, so they pay the NFL/CBS some big bucks to get their products in front of these fans.  These ads will mostly miss.  Many viewers will not even pay attention, others will watch the ads simply for the entertainment value, but if 1/10th of 1% buy the product and 1 million are watching, then that is 1000 sales, which would lead to those buyers telling their friends and maybe remaining a returning customer.  Value is very important in this whole setup.  Everybody divides their value into tiny fractions, and everybody is a lot of people (I think 7 billion or so at last count).

My game is just beginning.  Not too long ago, was the opening kickoff.

My game is just beginning. Not too long ago, was the opening kickoff.

Whew, that was a mouthful, but it had to be said.  Anyway, I provide you with (I hope) just a tiny amount of value with each posting.  Just enough to make you (and me) think, and hopefully read again.  Maybe you’ll even share the post with friends, and they will tell their friends…and on, and on.  Hopefully, you will come back.  Like the NFL, I hope that these posts can take you to a place of value, and like the NFL I hope advertisers will see this through my number of hits, views, shares, loyal audience, etc.

Essentially, I am banking on my own ability to convey the Heroic Stoic philosophy to an audience such that they find value in my work.  First of all, I can look myself in the mirror each day and say that what I do is a worthwhile effort.  Additionally, I can view whether my work is catching on.  Without a doubt, this endeavor is not only for money (really, it’s not even close), but at some point I think the value of what I provide will manifest in “certificates” of value (i.e. money).

Certificates of Appreciation

Certificates of Appreciation

This, I think is the essence of enlightened self-interest.  I pursue my life, as well as my work because it satisfies me, AND I hope what I provide is a fair trade for others’ labor.  I help you, you help me, etc. We trade, albeit indirectly.


When will you be happy? You decide!


I have read several studies that have stated that once you are beyond a certain level of subsistence, more wealth does not bring you more happiness (see here, here, and here).  If you are reading this, you are probably one of those people with enough to live on.  So the question is what are you after?  Certainly not power; that too, is ephemeral and it just brings more desire.

Happiness…that is what you are after.  How do you obtain it? The third article above states that we tend to have a “set point” of happiness, regardless of our life condition.  This may very well be true.

Happiness from virtue?

Happiness from virtue?

As I have mentioned many times, I think our happiness is derived from our perspective on how things really are.  Our perspective can be widened by understanding the three Stoic concepts of control, fate, and impermanence.  Understanding these concepts takes work.  That’s the theme of my entry today, that you can read my interpretation of the Stoic philosophy, you can reach the end and say, “Ah-hah!” and you are not even close to finding happiness through virtue.  This pursuit has to be done through constant tending of your mind.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could throw some seeds down, and a garden would just grow itself?  Unfortunately, this is not the case.  We have to nurture those seeds constantly, water them, feed them with fertilizer, look out for pests, pull the weeds, and THEN we have to know when is the right time to harvest.  Wow!  All that for a garden!

Seems happy.  I wonder if he has a garden?

Seems happy. I wonder if he has a garden?

So imagine how much work it takes to nurture your own virtue.  I maintain that this endeavor is far more tedious than growing a garden.  Maybe a simple meditation based on a Stoic viewpoint, performed daily or whenever needed, could help.  Maybe right before bed and also before you place your feet on the floor when you wake up, you can simply remind yourself:

  • Control – There will be much I cannot control, but I can control my attitude
  • Fate – Many things will happen to me, much will be unexpected
  • Impermanence – Someday I will be gone, someday it will all be gone
  • So (Telling yourself in the day):  Live as if today were your last, but serve as best you know how, and be mindful and pleasant
  • So (Telling yourself before bed):  Sleep deeply, leave it behind for now.  If you awake tomorrow, you will be ready.

It’s just a suggestion.  Maybe you can make your own Stoic Meditation or your own Creed.

How You Can be Happy Forever!


“I search myself first, and then the world about me.”–Seneca

Seneca captures so much with these words.  Happiness is indeed a state of mind.  We expect our happiness to be affected by external factors, and it certainly can.  There is no denying that our environment affects our happiness.  Meeting someone new, being proposed to for marriage, getting a pay raise, getting together with friends and relatives can all make us very happy, at least for a while.  How about these:  a successful business venture, getting a new job, completing a project, even winning the lottery?  All of these things can affect our view on life and our happiness, too.  However, I repeat, none of them bring permanent contentment.  That kind of happiness requires introspection, continuous mindfulness and effort.

If only you could meet her, you would be happy.

If only you could meet her, you would be happy.(Photo by Belovodchenko Anton)

Certainly we can enjoy the external joys in life, but just like saving for a rainy day we should realize that all of these external things are ephemeral.  Their happiness effect will fade eventually.  It is during these times of joy that we should build our happiness capital.  The perspective that the reflective, philosophical life gives us can help us build this capital.  In the end, happiness is an internal function.  We choose to be happy or not.

This is very important because not only do those external happiness drivers not always exist, but in fact there will also be many external things that make us unhappy.  Do I need to list them?  Take all of the things I mentioned above and reverse them.  Here we go: losing an old friend, getting a divorce, taking a pay cut, missing your friends and relatives, a failed business venture, being fired, failing to complete a project.  Finally, you may have your heart set on winning the lottery, and never win a dime.  You could even win and then be poisoned! (click for full story)



Your philosophy is your happiness shock absorber.  Your perspective, your equanimity is yours to control.  Look within for change, and look within for answers.  Seneca is right!

The Inevitability of Change


“Observe constantly that all things take place by change, and accustom thyself to consider that the nature of the Universe loves nothing so much as to change the things which are and to make new things like them. For everything that exists is in a manner the seed of that which will be. But thou art thinking only of seeds which are cast into the earth or into a womb: but this is a very vulgar notion.” –Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations

Everything around me is always changing.  Birth, death, creation, destruction.  Things exist for a time, then they will be gone.  Eventually our very own sun will begin to “burn out,” but first it is expected to grow into a red giant.  The outer limits of this red giant stage will engulf the Earth, unless its orbit increases.  In any case, the biosphere will be long gone by then, which means that all life as we know it will be long gone.  All the oceans are predicted to be gone at just over 1 billion years from now, and all the water on Earth is expected to be gone by about 3 billion years from now.  (get more details here).  So we’ve got some time.

The sun is coming to get us; it will eventually.

The sun is coming to get us; it will eventually.

Actually, most of us have about about 90 years +/-30 years or so.  At this point, it is unlikely that there is anything I can do about this.

So, in the grand scheme of things I will relax, enjoy the day, enjoy the moment, and realize that BIG problems aren’t as big as they appear.

Duality: Either/Or vs. The Spectrum


WARNING:  This post will take you down a very deep rabbit hole if you let it…good luck.

The duality of everything is going to drive me insane, I think.  I yearn for independence and yet need thousands around me to survive.  I want eternal happiness, yet feel down or depressed for no reason.  I strive to be a man of virtue, yet notice some of my actions are inconsistent with right versus wrong.

I’ve really been noticing the contradiction all around me.  It really is everywhere.  It is everywhere and unavoidable.  AND, like I said, my noticing it lately has been driving me crazy.  It is like watching an existential tennis match, when you hate tennis!

  • happy/sad
  • life/death
  • practical/idealistic
  • sleep/awake
  • materialistic/spiritual
  • money is everything/money is nothing
  • individuality/non-self
  • meaning/emptiness
  • purpose/futility
  • good/evil
  • knowledge/ignorance

I think the insanity begins when you start thinking of all these “opposites” as distinct either/or poles.  Either life has purpose or it is futile, either I am happy or I am sad, etc.  As soon as you start noticing these things, they pop up all around you, they come at you from everywhere…like that tennis match, or maybe it’s like two opposing walls closing inward on you with ever greater compression (think of the Star Wars trash compactor scene).  My personal frustration begins when I try to figure it out.  What does it all mean?  Is their purpose in life or is it futile?  Are we inherently evil or good?  Should I reach out to change my world or recede into myself?  Should I be happy with what I have, or should I strive for more?

So, this is where I try to break the paradigm, changing that either/or view to one of seeing suchness, one that sees that there is no either/or.  What is the answer to those questions I posed above?  When I reflect, meditate and breathe, I see the answer is yes and no, all at once.  It might be helpful to combine the answer to “yes&no.”   Is life meaningless? yes&no. Does life have purpose?  yes&no.  Should I strive to attain more wealth, or should I be happy with what I have? yes&no.  A “Yes&No” view acknowledges that there is a spectrum of non-answers rather than either/or.  It also acknowledges that I may be wrong about my own view, that clinging to an answer I KNOW is true, may not be correct.  This view is something you can study about, but it must be experienced to truly attain it.

Are there absolutes or not?  We want there to be, don’t we?  We are comfortable when we cling to our “answers.”  From a practical standpoint, we decide yes or no all the time.  Should I steal this candy bar? No.  Is that the right thing to do? Yes.  However, when it comes to our place in all of existence, these answers are approximations for truth.  What if we ask even more questions about our candy bar problem?  Who is selling the candy bar?  What are they doing with the profits?  What is in the candy bar?  Is it hurting people?  Isn’t that their choice?  Is my neighbor starving?  Am I starving?

My point here is not to convince myself that stealing a candy bar might be the right thing to do (although, I suppose given the right conditions, it might).  My point is to illustrate that even with the simplest of either/or questions, there is a spectrum that goes unnoticed by us.  We create the either/or world to try and simplify our existence, but it is not reality.  If too much of this reality seeps through into our view without the right context, it can drive us mad.

That may very well be where the Buddhist concept of right view comes in.  To see reality and thrive, we must have context; a large sea of understanding that helps us see where we fit.  When I have a right view, I can see that there is a Middle Way.  I know that there are guides to right and wrong, but I understand that these guides are dependent on context, and that all of existence is very complicated.

If I point to the grain of sand, I would be both right and wrong.

If I try to point to the grain of sand, I would be both right and wrong.

What I think I am trying to emphasize is that our understanding is almost always incomplete.  The appearance of opposites is an illusion.  We must always (yes, I said always) make our decisions with incomplete information.  We do not know everything about anything, and we know very little about most things.  So, when we make our life decisions we can take heart in the fact that we are doing the best we can with the given information.  It seems that it is best when we avoid the opposite poles and favor the middle way.

…and hopefully avoid insanity.

“…what makes [the noble truths] noble truths is precisely that they are actual, undeviating, invariable (tatha, avitatha, anannatha). It is the failure to face the actuality of these truths that has caused us to wander for so long through the long course of samsara. It is by penetrating these truths exactly as they are that one can reach the true consummation of the spiritual quest: making an end to suffering.”

Taken from “Dhamma and Non-duality”, by Bhikkhu Bodhi. Access to Insight, 4 April 2011, . Retrieved on 2 January 2013.