Thursday, October 3, 2013

We are rich, we are rich!

How can I be rich?  What sort of situation do I need to be in to be rich?  I like to picture a man exploring a cave.  It is very old and hasn't been entered for 375 years by any people.  As he moves to the back of the cave, he discovers a great pile of gold coins, left by Spanish explorers.  Or, maybe what is there are gold nuggets left by Native Americans trying to keep their stash of gold away from explorers and others.

If we saw this scene in a movie or play, and the man sat among his findings, raking them with his fingers and exclaiming that he was rich now, we might well find the scene believable.  But suppose we change the scene so our explorer finds an underground stream of water running through the cave.  He sits right in the stream and exults in it, running his hands through the water and splashing while calling out that he is rich, he is rich.  Maybe he is nuts, eh?  Ordinary water and he is so happy?  Why?  I mean if he were dying of thirst and dehydration, then maybe, but normally, no way.

The Buddhists and many others counsel us to focus on the present and what is actually happening right now in our lives.  But the man who relishes his gold more or less has to be thinking of the future.  He predicts that the gold will provide him with a lovely home, a striking and marvelous car, trips all over the globe, maybe even in his own plane piloted by his own private crew.  He is thinking of the gold being accepted in exchange for the goods that he wants.  We know that the gold may well provide him with material riches to the point that a beautiful woman becomes interested in being his companion.  Maybe, a king somewhere will assume that his riches make him a good prospect as a son-in-law in an arranged marriage.


We moderns are used to coveting new this and new that, and it seems like a good bet that money in the form of gold coins or nuggets or greenbacks or some other acceptable form can be traded for that new device or suit or whatever we want to acquire.  But the man's whole dream of riches is filled with conditions and obstacles.  What if he is hungry and there are no stores within reach where he can use his gold?  What if he forgets to location of the gold?  How will he transport the gold to his house?  Will it be safe there or stolen?  

Since his body and life need air, food, drink, love, heat and companionship, what good is a gold nugget for any of these things?  It is difficult to be rich with just gold, as Midas found out.  Real wealth is often all around us but not in easily noticed or celebrated or storable forms.

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