Sunday, February 17, 2008

the price of a soul

I watched a movie last night called Side Effects. It's about the pharmaceutical rep industry, and all the inherent villains, misinformation, deceptions, callous disregard for quality of all human life, etc. While unfortunately a choppy movie rife with problems, its message is simple and clear: When faced with a choice between one's morals and the "golden handcuffs" (that is, moola and its attached demands), many of us might reveal ourselves as being merely human. Ultimately, which path might we follow, and to what eventual end? There is no question that money does indeed make life easier, no matter what the feel-good gurus of our era would have us believe. It's extremely difficult to savor the weighty matters of the soul if one's belly is empty or one's roof is tenuous.

The movie made me think about those choices in my own life. Lately I've been feeling tremendous existential angst, and much of it revolves around my lifestyle and my life choices--and those all revolve around money in one way or another. If presented with those golden handcuffs at this very moment, what might I do or say? Would I accept their tempting embrace, if a little pain and bending of morality for a little while led to financial abundance and stability for a long, long while?

Not sure. I faced that opportunity last year, when presented with a job opportunity of ample proportions in all areas--paycheck, benefits, perks. I initially accepted the position, even though my stomach and heart both protested, violently. Ultimately, my choice was to walk away, morals intact, as I questioned (rightly so, as it turned out) the integrity of the company. I was left, however, with a gaping money hole, and that definitely was, and still is, one of the most challenging aspects of living one's life with the kind of morals and integrity that can make one walk with head held high.

All my life I've been taught that I can have, do, be, get anything I want. I'm an American, after all! My family came to this country because it offered more choices than their own. (It also offered less war, at the time, although given our current horrific circumstances, that is a rather bleakly laughable prospect.) I saw clearly, however, the high price for such luxuries as money can buy, and I mostly shied away from the prison of the cubicle, the 9-5 not-so-merry-go-round that deadens the soul and extinguishes the light as we struggle to just keep up with the mouth-watering offerings of commercials (HDTV! Golf vacations! Shiny new cars! Gadgets! Toys!), let alone with basic necessities such as rent or mortgage or food or utilities.

In retrospect, I wonder who was the more foolish? Those who submitted themselves to that essentially meaningless round of duties (really, will it matter 100 years from now?)? Or me? I may have my morals and my integrity and my "freedom," but I also have flat bank accounts, a truck that needs work, and a studio apartment that is beautifully lit but small. And that's about it.

Just food for thought. I really have no answers. Just questions, and observations, and feelings, and bewilderment at this thing called life.

Maybe I'm having a midlife crisis? Hmmm...I'll cogitate on that one and get back to you!

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