Appreciating Inner Riches
Jack, a talented poet, composer and musician, who has few outer resources, but a rich inner life, photographed in front of my refrigerator. Card URL:

Card #569 – Appreciating Inner Riches

What good fortune can possibly surpass the value of a rich inner life? Yes, for thousands of years, the earth’s resources have largely been ruled by extroverted men of action, but as Mark put it, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36). Outer resources can be great too — after all, it is only through the grace of outer resources that you are able to read this right now, but the experience only has value if you have inner resources. Which would be preferable, to be a financially struggling genius or a vacuous billionaire? Most people reading this would probably choose to be the genius, because a genius, even if her outer circumstances are challenged, has great inner riches, but a vacuous person is impoverished no matter how opulent the outer circumstances. Of course, it would be great to have some of both, inner and outer resources, and most of us do. But if I could only choose one it would be inner resources, because those are intrinsic, and if I don’t have the inner resources there’s no one there to experience the outer resources.

Often, people with great inner resources underestimate the treasure they have. Even those people, like myself, who value inner resources, still underestimate the blessings and abundance of their inner wealth. We live in a world that through advertisements, and other relentless engines of conditioning, focuses our attention on surfaces, appearances and outer resources. The message that underlies every one of the millions of advertisements you have seen is that outer resources are the key to a good life. If only you had the new pill, the shiny new gadget, or indispensable service, only then would you have the good life. For example, Subaru says, “The All-New 2010 Legacy. Feel the Love. Bigger and better, the 2010 Legacy is one dynamic drive. Feel the difference starting at $19,995*.” If only I had the All-New Legacy, then I would feel the love, then I would be bigger and better, but I don’t have the $19,995* to obtain such a love. Since I don’t, I’m going to have to settle for the inner feeling of love. Unable to obtain the love of a new SUV, I will have to settle for loving and being loved by people, and on my deathbed I will have to settle for that legacy, knowing that the love of the 2010 Subaru Legacy eluded me. Research in Motion (Blackberry) says of their new gadget, so elemental it is called “Storm,” “Touch it. Love it. Share it.” Here is another lover, beckoning me, inviting me into its stormy depths. If only I can commit to a contract with Verizon, this lover, so ready for me to touch it, to share with it, could be mine. And I do love gadgets, and sometimes they really do make life better. In fact, I already own a Blackberry, and it is a great gadget, it allows me to talk to people I love with better sound quality than other gadgets I have owned. But the value of that is due to my inner resources, my capacity for love, and the inner resources, the capacity for love in those other people. But what if I could replace my Blackberry, which is not All-New, with the more loving, more touchy-feely, Storm II, but at the cost of my inner resources? Would I be better off? Suppose I had both the Storm II and the All-New 2010 Legacy, so I could text while driving, but this was at the cost of my inner resources, so I could only send instant messages like, “Whad up? r u hot?” Would I really be better off?

No advertiser will sing the praises of inner riches. And yet with inner riches, the world has higher definition, better colors, better audio quality, and the potential for a type of love so profound that it even surpasses the love of cars and phones. With inner riches I have something that is worth sharing, and can build my own legacy of relationships and creative works.

People who visited J.R.R. Tolkien found his house to be depressingly ordinary and middle class, but what inner riches he had! Tolkien created new languages, cultures, races and worlds. Tolkien called fantasy writing “sub-creation.” Nietzsche said, “If there were gods, how could I bear not to be a god?” The consumer culture gets you to say, “If there is a new gadget, how can I bear it not to own such a gadget?” I say, “If there are sub-creators, how could I bear it not to be a sub-creator?” If it is possible to have the inner riches to give birth to whole worlds, the inner riches to find portals and multitudes within, to generate artistic creations, empathic intuitions and new revelations, how could I bear it not to have such inner riches, such magical fertility? What car, what phone, even a touch-screen phone, could possibly compensate me for the loss of such inner riches?

Outer resources can be great, but they can never replace the value of your inner kingdom. Consider this a propitious time to appreciate your inner riches.

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