Wealth can be measured in more than money. Wealth is also time and mobility.
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- What are the three types of wealth.
- How being constantly connected can decrease our time wealth.
- Why we need to create empty spaces in our lives.
- What is the purpose of monetary wealth.
Zhuangzi – The Essential Writings – Chapter 2 (2:6) – “We give, we receive, we act, we construct: all day long we apply our minds to struggles against one thing or another — struggles unadorned or struggles concealed, but in either case tightly packed one after another without gap. The small fears leave us nervous and depleted; the large fears leave us stunned and blank…Worn away as if by autumn and winter: such is our daily dwindling, drowning us in our own activities, unable to turn back. Held fast as if bound by cords, we continue along the same ruts.”
Discover Empty Spaces
When was the last time you were cut off from the connected world for more than 24 hours? No email, no texts, no Internet, no newspaper, radio or TV.
In my case, it has probably been at least four years when one of my sons and I took a three day backpacking trip along the Yellowstone River.
If I walked that same trail today, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was cell phone coverage.
Earlier this year, I was many miles into the Sian Ka’an biosphere in Quintana Roo, Mexico. It is dense jungle where jaguars still roam. At the camp where I stayed, electricity was generated mostly by solar power. The few lights flickered and were dim.
But somehow the camp had Internet so I could check email and call home via Skype.
Inundated With Email
I remember back in 1996 when we installed email at my investment firm. There were only 30 of us, and the whole idea seemed silly because why email when we could just walk over and talk to our colleagues in person. Of course, none of our clients had email.
Now it’s not uncommon for individuals to receive hundreds of emails and dozens if not hundreds of text messages per day.
Fortunately, I don’t, but I’m always amused when I reply to an email within several hours of receiving it, and the recipient expresses their amazement that I answered so quickly as if I accomplished something miraculous.
Drowning In Our Activities
Connectivity is a wonderful thing. But it can also be highly addictive. Our brain thrives on seeking new input and it relishes the positive affirmation when someone likes our Instagram, favorites our Tweet, greets us via email or sends us a text.
The ancient Chinese philosopher Zhuang Zhou wrote in the 4th century BC about the struggles his contemporaries were having with the torrid pace of “modern” life.
“We give, we receive, we act, we construct: all day long we apply our minds to struggles against one thing or another — struggles unadorned or struggles concealed, but in either case tightly packed one after another without gap. The small fears leave us nervous and depleted; the large fears leave us stunned and blank…Worn away as if by autumn and winter: such is our daily dwindling, drowning us in our own activities, unable to turn back. Held fast as if bound by cords, we continue along the same ruts.”
He also provided a solution to those of us “drowning in our own activities.”
“Concentrate on the hollows of what is before you, and the empty chamber within you will generate its own brightness. Good fortune comes to roost in stillness. To lack this stillness is called scurrying around even when sitting down.”
We need to build gaps, empty space and stillness into our routines.
Kevin Kelly, the founding executive editor of Wired magazine and a renowned technologist, takes a digital Sabbath every Sunday along with his family. They do this not because they think technology and connectivity are bad, but because they are good and taking breaks cultivates greater appreciation and frees up time for reflection.
Kelly has spent years studying the Amish and their adoption and use of technology. He finds the standard the Amish apply when deciding whether a new technology is acceptable for use by members of the community is whether it strengthens and builds fellowship or fosters isolation and detachment. They decide this by having select members experiment with the new technology to understand its impact.
We should conduct similar experiments in our own lives. Perhaps take a digital Sabbath or stop using a particular social media site for a time and monitor how you feel. Structure periods of stillness and solitude. Discover empty spaces.
Matthew May writes in his book, In Pursuit of Elegance:
“In Zen view, emptiness is a symbol of inexhaustible spirit. Silent pauses in music and theater, blank spaces in paintings, even the restrained motion of the sublimely seductive geisha in refined tea ceremonies all take special significance because it is in the states of temporary inactivity or quietude that Zen artists see the very essence of creative energy.”
May we take time this busy holiday season to seek out and appreciate the fleeting moments of silence and quietude.