The Ancients worshipped a varied pantheon with a myriad of priests. In a creditable effort to simplify matters, people decided that a more streamlined arrangement was needed. After a temporary flirtation with a Trinity, the modern world setted on dualism, it being easier to practise as it has one fewer deity to remember. The twin gods of Money and Time have fought for the souls of men ever since.
Money has the High Priests of the Square Mile and the Central Banks, worshipping in cathedrals dedicated to either Keynes or Hayek (there being something of a sectarian schism between those two tribes), whilst Time has New Age Gurus, the Remnant of the Older Religions and the ever-thriving self-help and positive psychology industry fighting in its corner. Management Consultants merrily straddle the netherworld betwixt the two religions, drawing on elements of each mythology to subtly further their vampiric aim of feeding off the life energy of everyone else…
Both religions offer the prospect of happiness. Put simply: the more money you have, the more of a shield you have from the viccissitudes of life and the more power you have to acquire things that please you; and the more time you have, the more opportunity you have to enjoy your purchases and to be with those whose company you appreciate. Both approaches therefore essentially worship the same god behind the curtains: Control.
The most fundamental thing people seek is a sense of control over their lives: a sense of choice, and of decisions freely made from a position of insight.
Money and Time are just proxy measures of this inner sense of calm. Like any proxy measure, the degree of linkage can vary. I’ve blogged before that the relationship of Money to Happiness is sigmoidal, with a significant “flat” part in the graph where only small incremental increases in happiness occur between solid (but modest) incomes and truly astronomical ones. I’ve also disccussed how being more efficient can lead to more free time, but the question still arises of what to actually do with that free time in order to be happy.
Money and Time are necessary but not sufficient conditions for a sense of control over one’s destiny. Some achieve this by paradoxically ceding all control to another entity: a God, a Political Party, a Cause. Despite my tongue-in-cheek commentary in the first couple of paragraphs, absolute faith in an extraneous entity remains a potent way of reaching a sense of destiny, and so, inner peace.
However, those of us whose personality and natural inclination veers away from the prospect of giving up our individuality to a larger body, this is cannot be a solution. Religion, Politics, and Causes offer happiness only if you can give of yourself fully to them so your own individual existence no longer matters, and only the wider project does. A cult member is blissfully happy in their belief system, but a chink of doubt quickly leads to collapse of the edifice.
For the rest of us, we have to look within to create our own sense of destiny and meaning, and so achieve happiness. Money and Time form the solid foundations, Insight provides the labour, and Control creates the conduit to Happiness.