Blue hydrangea

Last night J and I watched the second half of a PBS NewsHour interview with Warren Buffett. Thanks to his knowledge of business and investing, Buffett is one of the richest men in America, but he’s also one of the humblest. In an conversation with journalist Judy Woodruff, Buffett noted that he and other billionaires have no need for the tax cuts promised in the Republican health care bill, and he repeated his oft-referenced belief that millionaires and billionaires shouldn’t pay taxes at a lower rate than that of their secretaries and cleaning ladies.

Hydrangea

Buffett is 86 years old and still mentally sharp and active. Noting the Cherry Coke Buffett drank throughout the interview, Woodruff asked if he had any health or diet tips for staying alert and active in old age. Buffett gleefully shared that he still eats like a six-year-old, adding that you don’t often see six-year-olds dropping dead.

This playful response points to Buffett’s obvious joy in the simple pleasures of life. Buffett still works at the age of 86 because he enjoys working; he still lives in a Nebraska house he bought in 1958 because he likes it and has happy memories there. Buffett is one of the richest men on earth, but he has made a conscious decision to give nearly all of his wealth to philanthropic causes. When Woodruff directly asked Buffett why he hasn’t stockpiled mansions, cars, or yachts, he explained that he’s experienced those things but doesn’t need them to be happy. Buffett is happy with what he has, and this sense of abundance leaves no room for excess.

Hydrangea

Watching Buffett’s interview made me realize he’s not only one of the wealthiest men on the planet, he’s also one of the happiest. Buffett isn’t happy because he’s rich; he’s happy because he has recognized what is truly important. As Buffett openly shared with Woodruff his most recent tax return, I marveled at how different he is from Donald Trump, who comes across as an angry and paranoid old man who needs to guard his secrets. Buffet realizes that being happy is its own kind of treasure while Trump continually reaches for more money, power, and fame.

Hydrangea in bloom

In my Zen school, we have a saying: “Enough-mind fish never touches the hook.” If a fish is content with what he has–if he sees his present situation as being enough for his needs–he can’t be tempted with bait. Warren Buffett is an enough-mind fish. Instead of racing after the bait called More, he enjoys the life he has, taking to happiness as easily as a fish takes to water.

Ca$h for your Warhol

In trying economic times, you don’t have to be a starving artist to be on the lookout for an alternate source of income. This offer of cash for your Warhol is a not-so-gentle jab at Brandeis University, whose doomed decision earlier this year to bolster their budget by selling the school’s art collection turned out to be a public relations disaster, earning them nothing but ridicule.

Fresh paint

In the aftermath of my friend JW’s death last week, I’ve experienced a new appreciation for the intangible wealth that is friendship. I shot these photos on my way to the Cambridge Zen Center for a Dharma teachers’ meeting this past weekend, and it was like stumbling onto treasure to see my long-time friends Jen and Jody there. “Make new friends but keep the old,” an old song advises. “One is silver and the other gold.” Old friends are as precious as gold because they’ve seen you–and loved you–through years of changes and challenges. Seeing Jen pregnant with her second child, I remember the joy I felt when we spent some time alone together during her first pregnancy and the happiness of her double baby shower with another long-time friend, Stella. I knew Jen before she was pregnant, before she was married, and before either of us grew into our long Dharma teacher robes. Jody, too, has been a friend through many changes: a musician who once collaborated with my ex-husband, she’s stuck around while he hasn’t. It’s wonderful to spend even a short time with someone who knew you when you were one half of a couple and still loves you after the dust of divorce and heartache has settled.

Fresh paint

In the aftermath of loss, being able to come together with old friends to commiserate a shared loss is invaluable. Last night, I made a two-hour drive to Rhode Island and back to attend JW’s seven-day Buddhist memorial ceremony at the Providence Zen Center. One of the three jewels in Buddhist practice is the community called sangha, and to me it was worth a four-hour round-trip to hug a handful of friends after having chanted, shared stories, and wept in a Dharma room packed with fellow mourners. JW himself was a treasure: a man whose kindness, loyalty, and good humor helped Zen practitioners all over the world for the 20 years he worked for the Kwan Um School of Zen and its international sangha. Approaching PZC last night, I felt a twinge of emptiness knowing JW wouldn’t be there, omnipresent clipboard in hand, to greet guests and see to their needs. That emptiness melted, though, when I heard a Dharma room of people, all gathered in JW’s memory, who were already there chanting for him. Make new friends, and keep the old, even if some of your golden friends have left this suffering world behind. The memories and love you carry in your heart are priceless indeed.

Goldenstash = stash o' gold

This is my belated contribution to last week’s Photo Friday theme, Wealth. Originally, I had intended to end with this “pot of gold”-themed photo of Goldenstash, which I spotted on my way to the Cambridge Zen Center this weekend, but I got sidetracked by another, more intangible sort of wealth. It’s all good.