In numbers we trust, mostly numbers with a dollar sign in front of them. Isn’t that the American way? The value of a bank account, a stock portfolio, or a house is our badge of success. The value of a friendship is subjective, intangible, and difficult to measure. (Caveat: everything you own, including the balance in your bank account and the clothes on your back, will one day “belong” either to someone else, or to no one.)
Numbers are objective. Numbers are easy to understand. We can search the internet for the cheapest airline ticket, the best “deal” on an electronic device, or to discover the average wage earned by others in our industry.
For many years I valued physical things more than intangibles. A new pair of shoes was worth more than a vacation that left me with just photos and memories. Unlike a new shoe, an “experience” could not be reused or resold. I preferred a Dodger souvenir ball cap over being at the ball game (unless someone else paid for my ticket).
In my thirties I began a transition. I didn’t yet value events for their own sake, but I did start to attach numbers to experiences.
“That movie was a nine for me. How was it for you?” Or, “I’m at 80% for eating dinner at the Mexican restaurant. If you rate the French café higher I’d be happy to go there.”
This was my way of trying to measure the comparative value of an experience, or a shared experience. I feel comfortable with numbers, so the expression, “I really enjoyed our evening together” left me uncertain. But the statement, “that was a ten,” gave me confidence.
Today, I have changed entirely and I find pleasure in experience. Most “things” are now a burden. My father, who died a year ago, was thrifty. He always bought the cheapest theater seats available. That was great for his checking account, but I prefer to sit in the front row and experience life up close and personal – both my life and yours.
When I contemplate my garden today I’m fulfilled. In the past my enjoyment was always tempered by the thought, “But I won’t be able to see this beautiful garden forever, so why enjoy it now.” Gazing at my garden meant suffering potential loss.
But a few months ago, while noticing the return of Spring to the trees and flowers that surround my home, I understood how my thinking has evolved. It is true that I may not be able to enjoy this garden during future Springs. All the more reason to appreciate the blossoms fully and in the moment.
Don’t fall in love, as I did, with bank accounts or tangibles. They don’t love you back, and every single one of them is on an inevitable march to the junk heap, together with each of us.
This leaves me valuing my garden, my memories, and experiences with my friends and family more than ever.
Truly, the Treasure is the Pleasure.