For the briefest of moments, I felt “safe” – like nothing could harm me and I could live forever. In 1999 I visited the Chairman of a company I was a shareholder of. I was in LA and he picked me up at the hotel in his latest Porsche. We drove to his enormous house and he gave me a tour. When we sat down he told me, “I don’t even have to do this anymore. I have so much money now that nothing can touch me.” I know it sounds unbelievable and a cliché but a year later he came down with cancer. After battling with cancer for years he was given worse and worse news about the outlook until eventually he shot himself and his kids found the body.
A friend of mine was running a prominent gaming site and wanted to maybe sell it or do something with (it was 1999, so why not?) I introduced him to a successful guy I knew on Wall Street. I couldn’t even find the guy’s office. I had never been down as south as Wall Street. My friend and I sat there while Shlomo (not his real name, but you get the drift) said, “look at me! Ten years ago I was a shlub. Now I have 100 million dollars. Only in America, right?” About two years later Shlomo was in the center of a massive FBI sting involving a currency brokerage he had started that had been simply pocketing investors money since the 70s. He went to jail.
I realized (too late then, but I learned) that I never knew the value of money. I had never even been aware of money before. My prior goals had been playing games, making fun websites, or writing novels. Now my only goal was money, money, money, and more money.
And now — here at my blog — some needed perspective:
It looked to me like quite a bit of dough. But somehow, before I could realize what a good feeling it is to have some cash, it was gone. Only those people who have lots of money learn to appreciate the real value of money, because they have time to find out. On the other hand, how can people who have no money, or very little, ever find out what money really means? It is in their hands so short a time that they have no chance to see what it means. Certain people, however, preach that only the poor know the worth of a cent. This difference in opinion is the cause of class distinction.
– Death Ship by B. Traven
Among illiterates money is regarded as the measuring rod for all things: for friendship, goodness, education, power, love.
– Auto-da-Fé by Elias Canetti