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Live Fully and Die Penniless

What the hell does it matter if you die penniless? You can keep nothing from your brief time in this world except the essence of your experiences, life lessons, and the love you cultivated, explored, gave, received, and remembered along the way.

We know as well that bequeathing wealth to your progeny or adopted family may have unintended negative consequences. Those who do not grow into their wealth, are not inculcated with essential values of morality, humility, and character, and do not earn merit through their own struggles and genuine works — with the intention of being of service to humanity — may inescapably devolve into corrupt, misguided, nuisances, or even a greedy, self-serving, parasitic influence in the world. A life of ease, excess, and extraordinary privilege tends to exacerbate our weaker, abject, infantilistic, and narcissistic characteristics.

A moral center establishes our ethical foundation. It, like any muscle or network of neural pathways, requires regular development, challenge, stress, and exercise throughout our lives. It is uncommon to achieve a profound understanding and awaken to innate wisdom and knowledge without encountering hardship and struggle. This is the hidden treasure and much misappreciated potential found in the dualistic essence of the human experience.

It’s amazing to me that people, in an effort to sell their “proven strategy” or “hack” with which to create wealth or success in life, a career, or business, have the audacity to arbitrarily criticize authors, speakers, artists, or any historic figure who is still commonly referred to, cited, or quoted, is still selling thousands or millions of books, is plagiarized or parroted in classrooms, auditoriums, or on stages across the world, or otherwise inspires people in the modern era. They allege that these original, trailblazing, and well-known influencers “died penniless” or destitute, or whatever else you want to call it; they, according to historical record, seemingly failed to meet or exceed their own vaunted ideals in their own lives, or failed to realize material success, perhaps and unfortunately until well after they’d passed on. Their works and their legacy have endured well beyond their time in this realm and continue to “make a dent in the universe,” as Steve Jobs would say, yet we dare to think of them as failures — or rather, these modern salespeople and neoliberal advertising opportunists misrepresent the truth in order to promote themselves and their so-called “new and improved” systems and training, when it’s far more likely they’re simply exercising precisely the methods, means, and philosophies past teachers, mentors, and authors had presented long ago.

To be sure, there are many historical figures who are either entirely fabricated, misrepresented, or were themselves in their time absolutely nefarious, reprehensible, garbage humans, even though their offerings to our cultural narratives are undeniable. That’s the trouble with throwing out the baby with the bathwater, as it were, or relying on generalizations and logical fallacies rather than reason, logic, temperance, a little bit of independent research, and a healthy capacity for critical thinking. Discounting the arguably beneficent ideas and notable knock-on effects of a troubled soul because of a modern, trending, ideological narrative or because of social missteps — or even criminal actions of said character — is generally to our detriment and loss. What’s worse is the irredeemable and specious intent behind media producers (i.e., filmmakers, documentarians, or biographers) who intentionally misrepresent or malign someone’s contribution to the human collective “based on a true story” and thus profit both from perpetuating widespread ignorance or the polarization of the general consensus or sociocultural ethos and identity. There are many shades of gray in any arena, especially regarding what may or may not have been the true nature and lived experience of those characters who keep popping up throughout history. We owe it to ourselves not to prematurely jump to conclusions based on the strong opinions, or perpetual repetition of those who benefit from manipulating perspectives based entirely on contextual curation and weaponized censorship.

Marek Pwinicki – Unsplash

In the grand scheme of things, there is generally nothing new under the sun, and claiming otherwise would be rather arrogant. Ironically, historical amnesia is at an all-time high in our modern era of mass information — an age in which those who can profit from the control and manipulation of the narrative, curricula, ethos, and paradigm can and will do whatever they please or can erroneously justify in order to maintain their grip on our perceptions of reality.

Our capitalist, industrialist programming and indoctrination enable us to easily and arbitrarily reduce everything to dollars, cents, and net worth. That is mindless nonsense. A man’s worth is not determined by the amount of money in his bank account or the number and size of properties he owns when he dies. People can discover what these pioneering artists and disruptors did in their time that now benefits their personal lives, their community, or city, and possibly the entire civilization. Because the essence and seed of truth are timeless and transcendent, paradigm-shifting ideas may again benefit modernity through fresh, objective interpretation.

You can’t take anything with you once you’re dead, so what does it matter if you die penniless if your legacy helps hundreds, or perhaps millions of people, generation after generation, to improve themselves, to inspire their minds, to improve their relationships, their approach to parenting, to help them better and empower themselves to achieve, do, and be what they want to be in this life?

You cannot know the impact of your legacy, what the world will and could need and benefit from you — what you created, what you learned, what you discerned — and how you made sense of this realm in your brief time here. If you judge yourself solely on your bank balance or the diversity and stability of your portfolio, you’re most likely missing the point entirely. You are also probably suffering quietly and unnecessarily, for you are devaluing yourself because of the misinterpreted evaluation of a superficial and unconscious process. Ideas are timeless, stories endure, but money is fleeting.

If your primary objective is to accumulate wealth and material possessions or to maintain such an existence based on what has been passed down to you, you may be entirely self-serving and, ironically, materialistically dependent in your worldly relations. If, on the other hand, you want to be of service to humanity and, through your lived example, leave a legacy for your children or the larger community, it’s probably better to live so fully, to be completely spent at the end of your days, that you may die penniless but deeply, spiritually satisfied.

Solvitur ambulando

. . .

Elevate” from The Reluctant Pilgrim, Part I