People learn the virtue of simplicity only when it is too late. You can buy a house but not a home, a clock but not time, an island but not inner peace, pleasure but not love. Spiritual things just cannot be bought.
eastwind journals, June 5, 2021 (archive tr123v2)
By Bernie V. Lopez, email@example.com
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CASE NO. 1.
When I was in New York, a Filipino friend invited me to his expensive pad on the New Jersey side along the Hudson River with a fantastic view of the Manhattan skyline. The skyscrapers lit at night like stars. An elongated park with manicured lawns hugged the river bank, where kids biked and elderlies sat on benches under the trees. He threw many parties, boasting of his paradise.
But it was a knee-jerk purchase. He was blinded by the romantic view that he thought he could buy happiness. Most of his savings went into the down payment. Yet, the amortization was still too high. He failed to realize that he was a retired Financial Consultant with no income. Eventually, he got tired of the view. A few years after retirement, he was forced to sell the pad at a big loss to avoid bank take-over. He ended up in an old house in a remote village in Rhode Island.
Before purchasing his paradise, he refused an offer to buy a simple, cheap but elegant house on Roosevelt Island, a fascinating romantic place in the heart of Manhattan, complete with a cable car, insulated from its hustle and bustle. It was a tiny heaven surrounded by hell. He later regretted not buying it. Simplicity is a virtue.
CASE NO. 2.
My cousin George bought a luxurious and elegant bungalow, almost new, hardly used by its former owner, who was always abroad. It was a steal. He bought it for 21 million pesos, but he spent another 9 million renovating it. It turned out, the house was better off untouched. The design was so simple and elegant, but he made it a complex labyrinth. It lost its luster. He ignored the protests from his wife.
He overhauled the beautiful garden, cutting down trees that gave plenty of shade, including a host of dwarf coconuts, which bore ornamental fruits as orange as the sunset. He replaced the trees with a lot of shrubs that dried up fast in the heat.
Perhaps he just had no taste, but there was something deeper. He had too much money and did not know what to do with it. He was trading seaweeds (agar-agar) for exports to China, and made his windfall in just a year. He was a noveau riche (French for ‘newly rich’), who had no idea how to spend his wealth.
The old rich do not flaunt their wealth. Life is simple and elegant for them. But for the newly-rich, life is a complex frenzy. Eventually, his frustrated wife left him. You can buy a house but not a home. Someone must teach him the virtue of simplicity.
CASE NO. 3.
I met a French backpacker who spent his last lifetime savings to buy a pristine island off Mindoro Occidental. He said, “This is it, paradise.” He had to marry a Filipino bar girl to maneuver around the law banning foreigners to own land. He ended up being under the saya (skirt), run by a dominant wife, and had to pay a lot of ‘taxes’ for licenses to the greedy local government. It was no longer paradise but a business.
Eventually, his spirit of adventure was muffled. I told him you can buy an island but not happiness. Why are people so stuck with the material world? Happiness is of the heart, not of the pocket. (Read the complete story – tribune.net.ph/index.php/2021/03/31/you-cant-buy-happiness/).
CASE NO. 4.
I have a very rich Filipino friend who was obsessed with cars. He had eight cars and three SUVs, including a Benz, Ferrari, and Porsche. When I told him he could be happier having just three cars and a foundation for the poor, he said, “Pakialam mo (none of your business). I have the right to spend my hard-earned money the way I like.” A foundation for the poor could have made him happy, I thought. Simplicity is a hard virtue to have for the rich.
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