Wealth and Fame Are Like Floating Clouds
Recently, I came across an article on the internet stating that people need a good living environment to be happy, and many people seemed to agree with it. However, I'm unsure about the age group of those who liked the post. The article suggests that pursuing a good environment and material conditions leads to happiness. If that's the case, then why do many wealthy individuals claim to be increasingly unhappy?
Do material possessions and surroundings influence us? How do they impact us? In recent decades, we've followed trends like Hong Kong and Taiwan styles, embraced Japanese and Korean influences, and later adopted European and American trends. Most people tend to go with the flow, following global trends. In recent years, terms like "white-collar beauty" and "tall, rich, handsome" have emerged online. What are we really pursuing, and have we found what we truly desire? I remember watching a movie based on a true story, where the protagonist, a billionaire, had his grandson kidnapped. When asked about paying the ransom, he replied, "I don't have money for ransom." His lawyer questioned, "You're already wealthy. How much more do you need?" He replied, "Never enough. I need more."
Therefore, the criteria for judging poverty and wealth vary from person to person. Balancing between possession and desire is the key.
Those who have read "Zhuangzi" know that the elevated individuals in the text include people with disabilities, unconventional appearances, or extreme poverty. Confucius had a disciple named Yan Hui, who was extremely poor but, according to Confucius, the most content and outstanding disciple. Confucius himself said, " A simple meal of rice and water, elbow as a pillow, happiness lies in it. Illegitimate wealth and fame - they are like clouds to me." This passage from the "Analects" is one of the most beautiful, depicting a life of contentment and joy, something we have admired since childhood.
Living on this planet, we indeed need basic necessities – food, clothing, shelter – to meet our fundamental needs. This refers to basic living supplies and the concept of having enough to eat and a place to live. Everyone's standards differ, and discussing this globally would yield diverse answers. Ultimately, basic necessities, having a place to live, and being able to feed oneself suffice. My grandmother used to tell me, "We eat three meals a day at most, no matter how much money we have. Don't belittle yourself, and don't follow the crowd. In terms of the true nature, people are equal."
For those of us born in the 1970s, our lives were relatively similar – public school education, free healthcare when sick, and similar parental incomes. Frugal living was normal. Despite these circumstances, did we feel happy? It seems that happiness isn't strongly correlated with the environment. People in similar living conditions can feel either happy or unhappy, and this relates more to family harmony or one's own mindset. When I was in high school, I started learning martial arts from a master. My family was poor, and I couldn't afford tuition, but my master let me attend classes for free. Masters and teachers in those days were delighted to have a good disciple and didn't care about tuition. I had many masters, and none of them ever charged me a penny. Thinking back, tears fill my eyes with gratitude.
I often share my childhood stories with my children, and they find it hard to imagine – they've never experienced hunger or frostbite. The educational approach of "remembering hardship to appreciate sweetness" may not appeal to modern young people, but I find it useful. My children say, "Mom, you went through hardships when you were young, so you understand not to waste and appreciate food and necessities. We didn't experience hardship, so we don't understand appreciation. In that sense, Mom, you're fortunate." Their perspective is truthful – experiencing hardship can lead to appreciation. This also proves that a good environment doesn't necessarily bring happiness; adversity can teach us to cherish and be content. As the saying goes, "To ensure a child's peace, keep them a little hungry and cold." In my children's eyes, enduring hardships is a form of blessing.
Mencius said, "In poverty, be virtuous alone; in prosperity, benefit the world." Whether poor or rich, don't let your environment affect your state of mind. In poverty, find contentment; in prosperity, help more people. Laozi said, "Treasures fill the room, none can guard them." No matter how much wealth one accumulates, it's better to use it for meaningful endeavors and help others. In helping others, you find happiness and joy. Regardless of poverty or wealth, we can all be happy individuals.