What constitutes a fortune?
How do our connotations of the word “fortune” change when we think of the word “fortunate”?
It can be edifying to examine our associations with words, to look at what meaning we ascribe to the words. We breathe life into these words with our emotions and memories, but forget that these words made alive become mirrors.
Once, a friend read my palm. After a moment’s glance, he looked at me and said,
“You must be rich.”
I was caught off guard. I might’ve flushed. My culture has a complicated relationship with wealth. Money is important. Financial security is priority number 1 for immigrants who give up everything they have to start again in the US. Money is survival. And yet, on the other hand, we were always taught to shun wealth. Don’t take pride in money, don’t be greedy, don’t lose your soul, and most importantly– don’t discuss your wealth.
So, of course having someone suddenly tell me I was rich was off putting. I denied it, of course. And not just by reflex; considering my salary, or my net worth, it was indeed very true that I was not rich.
But later, when I was remembering that moment and pretending I dealt with it cooler, as we often do, I realized something more humbling than telling someone that their palm literacy was off because you are actually poor.
I realized that his palm literacy was correct; it was me who was wrong. Of course, this famous interview comes to mind:
A moment of quiet revelation followed. Take the word “fortune”, which many people equate to a large sum of money or possessions. Now take the word “fortunate”, which carries a more general understanding of being lucky, or being grateful for some situation.
Don’t even get started on the culture (music, movies, TV, fashion, internet fads)– even at the basic level of language, we’re trapped into thinking that lots of money means you have a good lot.
You know, it takes effort to rewire your brain; to tell yourself that “rich” doesn’t have to mean money; to search for what makes you really feel rich. It takes courage, too, to constantly step away from a path after the wrong sort of rich.
And of course it’s all sticky, because it’s not like planning for retirement or saving up for a rainy day makes you greedy, and it’s not like picking a job over another, higher paying one makes you a fool.