Here’s a story that I heard:
A bright young man is on the edge of adulthood. At home, he has been encouraged to do the right things. Study hard and get a good profession and high status in the community. Instead of going to study medicine or engineering he has chosen to become a musician. He is faced by his grandmother:
Grandma: What is the benefit of that way of life?
The man: Grandma, what is benefit?
That is a really simple and extremely relevant question but good answers to it are difficult to find. Perhaps it would be easier to argue what benefit isn’t.
The word benefit has its origin in latin, good (bene) and help/service (facio). In our current society the word benefit has been almost exclusively reserved for money. And as we know, money is almost exclusively used in the service of good.
Money is never good only by itself. And although it is said that money doesn’t bring happiness, we could argue that money is good when it actually does bring happiness. That gets us to my favorite definition of benefit: “Whatever promotes personal happiness”.