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The Big Answer

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Money And The Meaning Of Life

a book by Jacob Needleman

(our site's book review)

“Man is in a far worse condition than he believes, but he can become far greater than he imagines.” We concur with Mr. Needleman. After such an auspicious beginning (page 5), this book warns us about the curses and temptations of materialism, and advocates that we need to find a way back to the values and priorities that represent the whole and true nature of man, authentic well-being, self-actualization, autonomy, integrity and connectedness. “Does our life—especially our economic strivings—run us or do we run it?” becomes a central issue as the author looks at whether our activities are for self expression or for self replacement. In essence, life revolves around the centrality of being, and a life in which one is doing and accumulating but without a feeling of meaningful presence or being is a lot of sound and scurry signifying nothing, not to mention a life with little happiness or satisfaction.

Being, not accumulating, is life's correct focus
Being, not accumulating, is life's correct focus

The Maslovian context in which secure being evolves from good nurturing, parents allowing choices and space to explore and grow, and loving care is central here. See Toward a Psychology of Being. Being-cognition people see truth because needs are not in the way, while deficiency-cognition people see everything through a filter of needs. So people that can be rather than just need in life are people (who’re likely to be self-actualized and autonomous) who don’t feel empty in their selves and therefore don’t need to fill up this emptiness with acquiring things and indulging in possessive relationships. This is at the core of why someone would choose materialism over meaning, love, being, and creativity. Such a choice doesn’t make up for the painful hole in their lives, but it pacifies them and diverts them from their empty feelings.

Choosing meaning, love, being, and creativity over materialism leads to happiness
Choosing meaning, love, being, and creativity over materialism leads to happiness