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William Rose Headshot

How the $640,000,000 Might Have Ruined Your Life

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Could you imagine having just won $640 million? That's 18,000 BMWs and then roughly 20,000 iPads. You could fund the entirety of President Obama, Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum's campaigns, combined, twice.

The Mega Millions jackpot had soared to a sickly high number: $640 million. And granted, after taxes, you may be left with a minuscule $440 million; as one of my friends put it, "you'll only get back a few hundred million." You'd likely take the money in the form of an annuity, but some may prefer having their winnings more heavily taxed and take a lump sum. Regardless of what form you receive the millions in, I challenge someone to tell me they have the ability to comprehend how much money they are dealing with. It's not that I necessarily criticize those who purchased lottery tickets, but I guess I'm inclined to ask them what they're going to do with it. Would you invest those hundreds of millions, and, if so, what could you possibly ever want to buy that costs more than what you already had? And if there is something out there more costly than your winnings, does it benefit you or does it benefit society? Don't get me wrong, I'm not asking you to share it... but you should consider what in life is valuable and what in life is paper.

I'm not an idealist by any means. I'm not a dream-chasing romantic nor do I believe we can construct a utopian society, but I do think about the homeless I see sleeping in trash bags in Farragut Square. I worry about the people huddled under the Ronald Reagan building's Metro entrance. I am concerned that I comfortably sit in a room where 68 degrees might be too cold, yet the solution is a click of a button. People who got screwed by the system, as a furiously type, are criticized by society as those who somehow lost the game, but I guess ignorance is bliss and misinformation is the new trend. So while I don't think that poverty is a predator and people are "victims" of whatever life they're born into, I do think that society -- especially today -- has a great and, frankly, well-organized way of screwing people over.

I row for my university and raced at the Head of the Charles Regatta held in Cambridge, Massachusetts last season. A friend and I decided to wander Harvard's campus where I hoped to meet up with a friend who was attending MIT. We chose Harvard's book store as our meeting place and, while I waited, I spoke with a man to my left with a button-box. He and his dog (which played the piano) were apparently quite well-known street musicians, yet the man was homeless and it was fairly obvious, especially considering the area. I don't remember if I asked him of his situation or if he casually informed me, but he was an electrical engineer with his degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was homeless, playing music with a Chihuahua, and had a degree from MIT. Yet the armchair lawyers know so well how poverty works. With $640 million, I bet you could buy a blanket for every single one of them. Every homeless person could sleep warm tonight by the winner's choice.

That's just the thing about winning the lottery: winning it makes you rich, not wealthy. There is no more honor in luck than there is happiness in money. Imagine winning the lottery at 20 years old; you'd go the rest of your life never having to work, never having to eat Ramen, never struggling through the game of life, yet everyone you pass might be just as happy as you are -- they just didn't win. Knowledge or education wouldn't translate to more income, so where's the incentive? Everyone would pass a millionaire and no one would care. You'd be the same as everyone else but with different clothes and an old lottery ticket hanging in your den. Your wants would be the people and your checkbook would be the populist -- everything you want you can have until the money runs out; when it's all gone, you'll be just like everyone else who bought the ticket but didn't win -- a little bit disappointed.

Google a picture of the mountains or the ocean. Look at the Earth from space and think about how, one day, someone distantly related to us will see it destroyed -- it'll smash into another mass or be burnt by the sun. In the end, don't we all just want to find a sense of security knowing that the things we own can never be taken away from us?

Now think about what you really want from life and try to buy it.