Lottery adverts are all much the same. For a trifling investment, a winning lottery ticket can catapult you into the ranks of the super-rich. Money worries are gone for good, you can tell the boss what you think of him, the champagne flows like water, the cars, houses, beautiful partners and the high life are yours.
The reality is different. Winning the lottery can be a disaster. Everyone you know – and a crowd you don’t – puts their hands out for a share, the spending is unplanned and undirected, the temptations of alcohol and drugs loom, and the longstanding relationships of family, friends, and workmates come under pressure.
All too often, a year later and the lucky lottery winner is being committed to some drug rehab clinic, their marriage has fallen apart, the string of fair weather friends has evaporated, the money likewise, and the cars are being sold off at a heavy discount to pay the bills of lawyers, accountants, and the tax man.
I’ve met a few lottery winners. The smart ones keep it quiet, pay off the mortgage, update the car, and put the rest into long term investments. Aim to end the money worries, not for lifestyle change.
Or, to put it more simply, choose happiness over pleasure.
I’ve spoken before about happiness, but I think that I prefer the definition of happiness as spiritual contentment, rather than comfort or pleasure. Happiness as pleasure or comfort or an easy life is, in my book, a false equivalence. How tawdry and selfish is it to wallow in the pleasures of the flesh, to be a lotus-eater, to keep on pressing that pleasure button, whether it be a scoop of icecream or a lazy day by the pool or some pill or other more sordid pleasure.
Some suggest that we might forgo pleasure on earth to enjoy it in an afterlife. How tawdry. An eternity of pressing the pleasure button? That is the last thing a person of any spiritual integrity would wish.
But hey, like the lottery ads, it’s an easy sell. For a priest, it comes with the added benefit that the money and the eternal rewards never have to be paid out. Just fork over your offering every Sunday, pay your tithe, pay your respects, give the priest a soft life, and you get to live for ever in la-la land that the priest never puts a penny toward.
Right. An attractive option for someone doing it tough. For your blind faith and unflinching devotion, you get a mansion, possibly forty virgins, and never have to work again. Plus a raft of other benefits.
Right. If such a thing ever happened – and let me add that this comes with the price of everyone who isn’t given entry into the heavenly country club getting to be tortured for eternity – most people I know would soon tire of the monotony. Alternatively, the surfeit of bodily pleasures wouldn’t amount to any sort of divine, clean-living existence. It would turn out to be exactly the sort of sinful debauchery that would have seen the lucky winner confined to eternal torture in the first place.
It doesn’t bear any sort of close examination, but that doesn’t matter. It’s aimed at the gullible who are happy to pay out week after week for something that even if it matched the advertising wouldn’t be worth the effort.
Heaven and Hell are real enough, but they aren’t to be found in some afterlife. Nope. You can find them right here, in your attitude to life. Some people can be spiritually content living in a shack and eating turnips, whilst others will be full of stress and anxiety in a mansion filled with golden toilets.
My best advice? Give the money you’d donate to the priest each week to charity, or directly to the poor. You’ll feel good about it right then and there, and not have to wait until you are dead.
Oh yeah. Don’t buy any lottery tickets. Put the money to a good use.