If you cherish friendship, follow Shakespeare’s advice: “Neither a borrower nor a lender be!” Unless you have credit, of course, with God and with the generous banking community. Humans refuse to live in the present. They are always borrowing from the past or the future. The “now” is so fleeting, so instantaneous.
It’s almost impossible for them to live in the moment. Especially when the good times of the past were so sweet, and the possibility of finding simple solutions to the problems we have now seems so promising in the future! But don’t be deceived. Astute lenders are never mocked, seldom cheated, and rarely bankrupt.
Lending institutions are the backbone of America’s economic success. How else could people be so rich in this country without borrowing money they don’t have from future earnings that may never be realized? Generally, lenders are good people, until circumstances turn them into ruthless creditors employing restrictive contracts, pitiless lawyers, and ruthless collection agencies.
These agencies hire insensitive people to collect from the destitute, evict them from their rented flats, and repossess their used cars and dilapidated appliances. So, be careful in dealing with lenders. They are an unforgiving group, and they never forget a “deadbeat” who can’t pay his debt!
Surprisingly, the borrower/lender charade goes on despite the unlikelihood that this relationship will generate long term happiness for Both parties. The profitability of loaning money to help someone obtain what they think they need is tempting to a generous and cautious lender. And borrowing certainly is a better solution for debtors than waiting to accumulate the necessary savings to buy all the material things they have convinced themselves they absolutely must have. Our peculiar lusts are stimulated by the peer pressure from the prolific Jones family and the very seductive TV advertisements that induce us to consider the numerous advantages of borrowing. Everyone else is doing it!
Our trustworthy government leaders are always borrowing from someone: wealthy campaign contributors, bond holders, and future taxpayers (when there is a budget deficit.) But who is accountable for all the government debt out there? Everyone knows that paying taxes cannot be avoided any more than death. Someday in the not too distant future all those unborn children will have to cough up the dough just to pay the interest.
The biggest debtor, our benevolent government, is the harshest creditor. Tax due dates can be extended, but late payments carry high interest rates and sometimes stiff penalties. Bankruptcy courts don’t cancel certain government debt. Unfortunately, a Congressional Representative’s local constituencies are impatient. Citizens want government action now-they’ll worry about paying for it later.
Buy now, pay tomorrow (or spend now, tax later) is the commonly held attitude when emergencies are encountered. The interest rate charged is determined by the highly respected Chairman of the Federal Reserve, a true friend of whom? His economic demons or his political masters? In our country, those that “have” must contribute their fair share into the government’s coffers, and those who don’t have, also! Sorry, there is no consensus of about the definition of the word “fair.” In human affairs, charging what the “traffic will bear” is deemed appropriate by capitalistic economists.
We mortgage our tomorrows. It’s the practice borrower’s use and lenders accept-along with some concrete collateral of course. Mortgaging is actually using someone else’s money to appear wealthy. And hopefully become rich through leveraging, but I won’t bother you with fancy economic terms.
Capital “growth” represented by the paper profits of fluctuating daily market quotes which may be exaggerated by inflation, makes everyone feel better about themselves and the world they live in. Borrowing from the certain future of a continuous prosperity that we expect in America seems sensible to almost everyone.
Economic cycles, ill health, accidents, and job loss are not considered. These are random events that only happen to others less fortunate than we are. Cost estimates for such catastrophic events are difficult to calculate. Therefore they are usually excluded from serious forecasts of future income streams. It’s better to ignore these uncertainties for the time being. Not doing so can complicate getting a loan application approved.
Religious leaders are constantly harping on having to pay the debt of our present sinful conduct in some after-death existence. What do they know about that? Some ancient scribe wrote in the New Testament of The Bible that “the wages of sin is death.” But how does our dying pay for our sinning? Since we only have one death, we might as well run up the tab that accounts for our sins. Who in the universe can cancel or forgive that “debt?”
Is there a prison for debtors after death like the debtors’ prisons in jolly old England, where there was no possible way to earn enough in prison to pay off a financial obligation back then? Is there no bankruptcy option after death to evade some of our debts for being naively sinful and willful? Or just foolishly negligent? Forgiveness is supposedly a virtue that few humans possess, and salvation is based on the dubious premise that minor infractions will be overlooked by someone with authority to do that.
Well, enough about the metaphysical and mystical, let’s stay with reality if we can. How do we borrow from the future in the areas of life that aren’t financial? One area is motivational. We have dreams, desires, and objectives that are as yet unrealized. To enhance the particular moment when we are making our plans for our future, we presume that our objectives will be attainable in an undetermined future moment.
The potential happiness that we imagine will be ours eventually gives us a lift, a stimulus for continuing our efforts to survive and be happy doing that. Sometimes we borrow so much anticipated pleasure from the future that at the moment of actually realizing our dream, we find little pleasure in the event itself. The triumph is Pyrrhic. The gratification experienced seems grossly over-rated, and the reward obtained appears insufficient for what we sacrificed to accomplish.
All felicitous anticipation is derived from trying to bring into the present moment what we believe our future happiness will provide us later on. Ah, that new car, that athletic gold medal, that night alone with what’s-her-name, that gambling pot, that next vacation, etc. We usually remember only the pleasant moments or feelings from our past achievements. Likewise we anticipate the pleasant moments and feelings we are going to have in the future once our desires are fulfilled.
The ugly, negative mementos from our past are mostly forgotten, and the pain we suffered easily ignored once it is gone. We extrapolate the same kind of positive mental energy toward our future. We call that “hope,” and we customarily reject any suggestions or comments about our projection of the future that would discourage us from optimistically dreaming about realizing our desires.
Life can only get better for us. That’s what we are taught. This teaching is confirmed by the individual progress we make as we mature physically. We can do many more things much better as adults than we could as untrained and uneducated children. We are also allowed to play in more exciting games, permitted to participate in making love, and authorized to drive a car, seek our own goals, and search for hidden treasure. Sounds like fun, when can we start? Tomorrow?
There is a danger of being too eager and dreaming unrealistically, of course. As the challenges mount up, we are inclined to borrow more happiness from the future than is there for the taking. We don’t know that at the beginning, however. When various milestones are reached and the promised happiness is disappointingly meager, we begin to lose faith in our ability to enjoy the achievement of our goals and fulfillment of our dreams. The rewards gained are inadequate because we frequently borrow the future’s pleasure and spend that “capital” in advance trying desperately to accomplish our objectives.
Sad to say, the residual pleasure is seldom what we dreamed it would be, and the upsetting complications and frustrations experienced en route are much more than those imagined. Among the negatives are the usurious “interest” and “fees” for late payments that we are charged in order to borrow happiness from the future according to the unwritten contract we have accepted that ignores the unintended consequences.
Another way we borrow from the future is by living vicariously through the lives of our children. When we give up on our own dreams, we sow seeds of our desires into the fertile ground of our trusting offspring’s minds. Consequently, they often grow up wanting the same things out of their lives that we thought we wanted. If they are successful in attaining these goals, we share with them the happiness we were not able to secure by ourselves. If we die before they are successful, we have still had the benefit of the anticipation of the shared dream and the borrowed happiness that we couldn’t have alone.
We are always seeking happiness, joy, and satisfaction for the present moment. This is a self-deceptive emotion or feeling. If we can borrow from the past or from the future to enhance that euphoric ecstasy we long for, it doesn’t matter to us at that precise moment how we will eventually have to pay for it. Feeling good is imperative. Being amused is mandatory. Having fun is our birthright. Anything to the contrary is intolerable and must be avoided.
This argument underlies our acceptance of the lure of borrowing money to pay for the things we want. We are sure that the future will be good or kind to us. We deserve that treatment. The negative consequences, the adverse circumstances, and the uncertain denouement that could be expected can be irrationally ignored and denied today. And when all else fails we can “pray” as Ambrose Bierce defines that verb: “To ask that the rules of the universe be annulled on behalf of a single petitioner, confessedly unworthy.”
I don’t intend preach to you about the abuse of credit and dreaming about happiness. When used in moderation, as the Greeks suggest, borrowing and dreaming should indeed increase your happiness. However, if you are seeking to maximize pleasure over your whole life, I would suggest that boldly going where others have not ventured might be dangerous to your mental health and tranquility. Check with those who have been there, and not with the jolly salesmen, the amiable banker, and the friendly marketers who haven’t. Unless you happen to live in the Sahara Desert, you’ll find that it does rain periodically-usually when your parade is scheduled.