Recently, a man named Jessie was in headline news. He was a gambling addict who lost millions to casinos. A few days ago, he went inside Resorts World Manila with armalite rifles and bottles with gasoline. He burned the casino tables and slot machines in the area. And then robbed millions worth of gambling chips which he put inside his bag. Eventually, the police caught up with him and shot him. Wounded, he holed himself up inside a room and committed suicide.
Multiple times I've come across patients who've become addicted to winnings in casino gambling. At first, when they're allowed to "win," they felt high and proud like rock stars. They thought well of themselves and were cheerfully congratulated by smiling admirers. They giggled, kissed, and hopped up and down!
Then as time went by, the unbridled ecstasy turned progressively into increasing losses. Debts began to pile up. And one's urges got out of control. As one patient Daniel told me in one of our sessions, "So what? I want my money back! I live for the next chip, borrow again and again -- striking more to get my money back and cancel my losses."
The whole problem with the money delusion is that it is deceptive. The lust or greed of the heart lies at the root of this lucky-sweepstakes syndrome. We crave instant gratification. Instant inheritance! The love of money and leisure can blind us to the importance of work we give to earn it. Specially in the materialistic world where we all are, we can become those who live only for the paycheck.
From this mindset, the money delusion falsely assumes that we are our happiest self when we think and feel no need to be productive to get the money we want. Or, if we're able to earn it, we don't experience lasting satisfaction and contentment. For years money and leisure promises us joy and leaves us disconsolate. Because its fleeting, the self never arrives at its true core and best meaning.
As writer W.E. Sangster once put it, "You seem to have more of everything than anybody else. You have more cars, more televisions, more refrigerators, more of everything. In fact, I've noticed that you also have more books on how to be happy than anybody else." The history of men and women shows that money itself will not produce lasting feelings of self esteem and happiness.
In the process of getting older or when death looms nearer, this money delusion may begin to show its weaknesses to us. With chances of cancer, a heart attack, or costly hospitalization before us, despair over fleeting satisfactions begins to set in. The foolishness of both the money delusion and the leisure delusion gets clearer.
Rather than speed up incoming cash and self indulgences, one asks one's self then, "Since my final years are short, how can I use my final years to produce what's lasting and meaningful?" Here, the doctrine stops being purely material. Such self exploration can pave the way for us to understand what life's purpose truly is.