I recall learning in some MBA management course that money does not motivate; only large sums of money motivate. (That might explain some of the problems with the US economy: highly paid executives are motivated to make even more, while average workers remain locked in a downward spiral.) I guess that the point they were trying to instill was that workers could not be driven with pennies; fear of losing one’s job works better.
That maxim may or may not be true in business, but it is true in everyday life. In Florida, I could not help noticing huge billboards on bleak stretches of the interstate announcing incremental increases in the Powerball jackpot. Once the sum passed $80 million, I asked myself: “Why not?” The chance of winning might be slim, but it is non-existent if one does not try. And, $1 is a reasonable price to pay for so many millions.
I did not win…
…which might not be a bad result. First, because it would mean avoiding another trip to Florida—Tallahassee, of all places—to present the winning ticket. And, on top of that, I would not have to figure out what to do with the bloody money. I enjoy a comfortable, simple life and have learned to get by with what we have. At this stage, I am not good with decisions and do not need complications…which a vast sum of money would cause. Some might claim that money means freedom, but that is not always true.( Or, the preceding sentences are just one big rationalization to hide my disappointment!)
There is a saying in German: Glück in der Lieb,; Pech im Spiel. (Happiness in love, no luck in gambling). I’ll take the former over the latter any day of this life. Still, that does not mean that money motivates me, on occasion, to try something foolish…
BBC is currently running a series of programs on the marvels of the human body. Like all their science programs, the visuals and text are excellent. The first in the series was about how humans reproduce. I learned a lot about how life comes into being from a single cell and multiples to the trillions that make up each of us.
It got me thinking about the chance of being born...which is one in millions. That makes being born like a lottery: only a few win.
What does that make death? If you look at it like a game, then everyone wins.
This is such an ingrained feature of German life, that it is unremarkable. That said, I will remark on it.
There are lottery clubs; there is lottery "fever", when the jackpot climbs to new heights; and, of course, lottery addiction, which has led to government warnings similar to those found on cigarette packaging. The winning numbers are reported on nightly news on Wednesdays and Saturdays, giving them the weight of officialdom. But, prominence on government-funded channels has a more sinister reason: the lottery is a cash cow. (Ever notice how the two things containing government warnings are two things on which governments make a bundle of money?).
Forking out money for the lottery is the only tax that people pay willingly. Blinded by dreams of winning and convinced that, upon winning, they will live happily ever after, logical thought is stifled. No one asks questions. The odds seem to be irrelevant (1 to 140 million). The amount collected vs. the amount paid out is never an issue worth discussing. The price of a single chance is so low (less than 1 euro), that even a homeless person needs to redeem only two plastic bottles to have enough to obtain that happy-ever-after mentioned above. For some reason, only the jackpot is worthy of mention. No one seems to care about winning a lesser amounts (there are several levels of payout, from a few euros for correctly guessing 3 numbers), perhaps because such payouts are not sufficient to fuel dreams.
On vacation in Italy one year, I got caught up in the fever. Actually, it was more of a sniffle, but such ailments are difficult to avoid in public places. We were on vacation in a small, isolated hotel beside a lake. At the time, the media was full of the story about an ever-increasing lottery jackpot; hotel guests greeted each other with queries about the number of chances purchased. News reports told of people storming across all borders (similar numbers last seen in the 1940's) simply to pay tickets.
Small hotels in Europe feel the need to offer entertainment to their guests...those unable to entertain themselves or find pleasure in reading a book and quiet conversation. The concierge offered to drive into the village to buy tickets for anyone not zealous enough...or foolish enough. Why not? I asked myself. I decided to humor the concierge, instead of purchasing a foreign newspaper that day, which was more costly, promised no return, and offered equally meaningless fulfillment.
The effect was surprising. A good novel can stimulate the imagination, but a simple lottery ticket works like a narcotic. With the ticket locked securely in the room safe, I was free to lie beside the lake, stare at the mountains, and plan how I would spend my winnings. A lottery ticket is an invitation to dream...or rather a pipe dream, with less-painful after effects. The jackpot was publicized at being 143 million euros. Such an amount can give wing to even an infertile imagination, which mine, sadly, it not.
It was reported that some man in a remote mountain village in southern Italy won (the country's poorest region). What did he know about spending a fortune? He would surely waste most of it, be lured into foolish expenditures, and be overwhelmed by "friends" and relatives. After spending so much time dreaming, in the sun beside a mountain lake, I knew the best way to use that money, avoid scroungers, and live happily ever after. Unfortunately, I did not win a cent...which explains why I spend time at a computer writing worthless garbage.
I suppose that I could rummage in trash cans for a few plastic bottles...
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.