Imagine not buying a ticket for this week's $43 million Lotto draw. Not because you're Jeff Bezos-rich but because you are content with what you have. As Epictetus wrote: "Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants." Unfortunately, I haven't got there yet. Like everyone else who bought a Lotto ticket last week when it was at a mere $38m, I have a bunch of wants. I've spent much of the last seven days thinking about the Aston Martin Rapide I'd buy. A four-door that's every inch a sports car. A powerful V12 that only weighs 1990kg. Luxurious and fast but practical too. Room in the back for the kids.
Is daydreaming all week about $400,000 cars the best use of your time? We could use that brain space to come up with amazing ideas. Even better, we could zone in and enjoy just being alive. Chances are if you live in New Zealand, your life is already pretty good. Instead of fantasising about obscene riches, you could just experience the moment you are in. Nah! We wanna win the Lotto.
The truth is we will never win $43m. Someone might. But it's very very unlikely that will be you or me. We can, however, experience the sensation. All you have to do is strip naked and sit in the South African wilderness for three weeks. I interviewed Amber and Serena Shine on my Radio Hauraki Breakfast show recently. They're twins from Waiuku who spent 21 days in the Limpopo province stark naked with nothing but a machete and a bow and arrow to hunt for food.
They didn't catch anything to eat for eight days. It was unbelievably rough. Even sleeping hurt. Their modern bed-loving bodies quickly became bruised and beaten-up by the hard ground. When they finally managed to hunt, kill and cook an impala, they claim it "felt like winning Lotto". It's a matter of perspective. Under those circumstances, an impala carcass feels like $43m.
I spent last week daydreaming about the schist mansion near Arrowtown with a view of Coronet Peak I'd build if I won. I figured I'd blow $10m on that, get that Aston Martin, pay off my sisters' mortgages, buy my dad a ride-on lawnmower, start a foundation that does something, and then slowly burn through the rest on political influence and hats.
Amber and Serena's naked achievement was impressive but only for modern humans. Our ancient ancestors would not think much of it. Sitting naked in Africa eating impalas is what we homo sapiens used to do all year round. It's what we are evolved to do. We marvel at TV shows like Naked and Afraid because we have become soft.
Imagine a human from 250,000 years ago appearing in New Zealand today. Let's call him Gharruurk. You'd show Gharruurk your amazing shelter, your fridge full of food, running water, electricity, and washing machine. He'd ooh and aah at your toilet, toilet paper and car. Your pants and shoes would blow his mind. Finally, you sit down on the couch with some microwave popcorn and watch Netflix on your magic lightbox. Then you tell Gharruurk that you are not happy with your lot in life and you are hoping to win Lotto at the weekend so you can get more stuff. Gharruurk would struggle to comprehend this. Gharruurk would say: "Mate, you're coming across a little ungrateful here. You have so much. More than my family back home on the savannah could even imagine. Yet you spend your time dreaming of more? I'm worried you'll never be satisfied."
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Gharruurk is right. Whatever we have we want more. We compare our lives not only to our neighbours' but the lives of billionaires and celebrities. Who also want more.
What if we took a second to look around at what we have. See all the luxuries we have for the first time. See every meal like our nude twins saw their impala. Feel our mattresses like we've been sleeping on the ground our whole lives. If we could appreciate what we already have we wouldn't line up for this $43m draw. We would feel like we had already won. Having said that, an indoor pool with a hydro slide would be nice.