Ever since I was introduced to the world of blogging, and by extension, Yakezie, I have identified myself as a poor student. In declaring this I am correct. The first definition of poor is “having little or no money, goods, or other means of support”. This is relative of course, I have more money than all but the luckiest people in Sudan, but by North American standards I am poor. The government takes my money and then at tax time they see how little I have and actually give it back. Tax time is one of my favourite times of the year. I get money back for which I worked hard. Like when checking your pants’ pocket after they have been through the wash and you find your $20 bill is still in good enough condition to use.
Dictionaries list words and their definitions. My Complete Word Finder comes in very handy when I am up late doing my readings, without it I would retain much less information from the complex material I study. But I do not use my dictionary to look up words I know. I realize that the thing under my chair is a floor. I do not need to know that a floor is “that part of a room, hallway, or the like, that forms its lower enclosing surface and upon which one walks”. I have always loved what Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said about pornography, “I know it when I see it”. I know what a floor is, and I could teach somebody what a floor is, but if I were asked to define it I would be stumbling over my words.
When somebody walks past me I like to think they would not consider me poor just from that quick glance. I dress well, I am hygienic, and I try to make my default expression a smile when I can. Seldom do I feel poor, except for when I am thinking about money; when I look at my bank balance, when I am in a store and have to walk past a movie I want to watch, when I go out with friends on wing night and can’t justify ordering a beer instead of free water. I realize it is petty but these things do bring me down a little.
I try to not make judgements about others from a first impression or at all if I can help it. God does not judge anybody until their lives are over, so what gives me the right to do so? I do not care if you are religious or not, that is a good policy. Alas I am human. But I realize how hard it is to judge after just seeing a person. When I see somebody with a Corvette or a nice big house, I envy them; I think they are rich and successful. They have something that I want. Other than that small part of their life though, I know nothing of them. Usually those large purchases are made with debt, so in that way they actually cannot afford them and I am better for not having them. It is in human nature I think to make the assumption that big house equals big man. They may be unhappy, maybe they are not, I can’t know from looks. A caveman with the biggest cave was not hindered in anyway by it the way people now are saddled with huge mortgages, and the other cavemen would be right to want what he has. The concept of currency, supposedly a step forward in evolution, has differentiated our wants form our needs.
So if people look at me they would think I am doing okay, based on my clothes. If they spent some time with me they would think I was poor compared to them, because I can’t afford to spend as much money as they do. They could check their dictionary and look at poor and see I fit that definition, and then they could look at rich and see it means “having wealth or great possessions; abundantly supplied with resources, means, or funds; wealthy”. No one who has ever met me has gotten me confused for being rich. But the concept of richness is not like pornography. You can’t tell it when you see it. Although definitions would conclude otherwise, I am very rich. Noah Webster would not think so. And neither would anybody but me.
And that is all that matters. Where others see a cheap, beat up car, I see memories of freedom. I remember driving well past when I should have been in bed coming home from my first girlfriend’s house. I think about spending time with my dad in the driveway looking under the hood, changing the struts, driving with him just to make sure it was running okay. Others see my scratched iPod which they would have replaced three times over, I see the custom engraving on the back which reads “All that glitters is gold”, which my mom and sister decided would be special because it comes from my favourite song. Little did they know it was also my favourite line of all. I could go on and on. My possessions have no meaning to their life. They have not read my book and can only judge the cover, which if the old adage is to be believed, is not a thing you are supposed to do. I am the luckiest guy in the world, and sometimes when I see a Chrysler 300 I forget that, but my definition of rich differs greatly from that of the dictionary.
In the end, I can’t define rich, and I do not know it when I see it. But I sure know it when I feel it.
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