After visiting a college classmate recovering from surgery in her northern California home, I had a nice (long) breakfast with a high school classmate who lived in the neighboring town. As we caught up on our lives since those difficult days of adolescence, we shared stories about lessons learned and classmates encountered in the years since graduation.
When the conversation turned particular classmate, I had in my head a particularly vivid picture of her mother, a cold woman married to a very successful local business executive. She wore an unusual amount of makeup and didn’t strike me as a very happy person.
Perhaps, seeing that woman’s (apparent) misery was the first time it occurred to me that financial well-being does not equate to emotional fulfillment, that is, you don’t need to be rich to be happy. This is not to say that poverty equals happiness. We do need enough to provide for the basic necessities of life — and a little bit extra to pursue our passions.
Even the wealthy face their emotional problems. Recall that one of the richest heiresses in recent years, Christina Onassis, was unhappy throughout much of her adulthood, having attempted suicide. Back in 1897, the American poet Edward Arlington Robinson wrote of Richard Cory, who, although he “richer than a king/. . . .Went home” one day and “put a bullet in his head.”
Perhaps our cultural fascination with superwealthy celebrities like the Kardashians is related to a certain delight in their various misfortunes, reassurance that while they may have more money than Croesus, they still suffer the slings and arrows that most of us do, perhaps even more so.