There are some infomercials on the Internet produced by an over-enthusiastic man that trigger me to click the “skip” button on YouTube. These are ten minutes or longer which makes the commercial longer than the music video or vlog post I wish to view.
What makes these particular infomercials especially annoying is the parade of lavish luxury goods. The camera follows the presenter through a palatial mansion festooned with swimming pools, elegant furnishings and more. In some of his earlier infomercials, the camera focuses on shelves packed with books in his garage. The speaker apparently also owns a fleet of Lamborghini super cars. The man presents himself as someone who has it all, and then some.
The last time I clicked “skip” on his 13-minute commercial, I dumped out of YouTube altogether so I could mentally analyze why I hate those infomercials.
I do not begrudge the desire people have to improve their well-being and lifestyles. In fact, a lovely home and a fine sports car are items I’d enjoy, too.
Certainly wealth can be a very positive social tool. Earlier this month, we found out that basketball star LeBron James has opened an elementary school for at-risk children and will pay the college tuitions of every kid from that school who graduates from high school. What’s not to like about that?
James is just one of many celebrities and wealthy people who contribute millions of dollars to worthy causes. Most of these gifts are given without much fanfare. Indeed, philanthropy is a very worthy way to redistribute wealth and to improve the world around us.
The generosity of Johnny Carson to Norfolk, Nebraska throughout the years comes to mind. Carson funneled millions of dollars into community projects in my hometown. The Carson Cancer Center is a major regional medical facility that admirably serves the region. He also provided the bulk of the funding for the Johnny Carson Theatre that is part of Norfolk High School. He was also instrumental in founding the University of Nebraska at Lincoln’s “Johnny Carson School of Theatre & Film”. Even after his death, Carson’s foundations continue his philanthropic work.
Although society has a particular view of “having it all” that is quite limited, there is another way of “having it all”. The meaning of having it all expands the more that you expand. A person doesn’t need to have a palatial mansion, a Lamborghini, and a large philanthropic foundation in order to have it all.
Being content and grateful for what we have, some family, a good friend or two, and being alive to the world around us can define “having it all”. As I grow older, I’ve rediscovered the ages old truth that possessing good health is having it all. Without gratitude for what we already have, we will never have enough real estate, fine vehicles, private aircraft, adoring fans, or money. One could be the most powerful, wealthy person on the face of the Earth and yet not have it all.
The great Stoic philosopher Epictetus said it best. “Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.”
The Blue Jay of Happiness likes this Johnny Carson zinger: “Democracy is buying a big house you can’t afford with money you don’t have to impress people you wish were dead.”