I tagged along with Jorge a few months ago as he ran a few errands and paid a couple of social calls on acquaintances. One of the stops was at a stylish duplex to visit a kind, elderly lady. Upon inviting us inside, the first thing we noticed was her collection of Beanie Baby stuffed toys. The collection filled every horizontal surface of the living room. I mean, everywhere. Shelving units, the top of the teevee, tables, chairs, sofa, end tables, and around the edges of the floor. The lady cleared a couple of spaces on the sofa so we could sit down.
The nice lady apologized for the clutter, saying that she simply couldn’t help herself. Whenever she left the house for shopping, she made it a point to bring back another Beanie Baby. The lady explained that it was an obsession. Some people have to constantly wash their hands, she has to have more Beanie Babies. It was all she could do, not to notice places she can buy them, new or used. She scoured rummage and garage sales, and thrift stores. Her friends brought more for her collection, too.
Later, Jorge said that he felt sorry that his friend suffered so much from greed. The little toys no longer brought joy to the lady, she only felt compelled to acquire more of them. She had become morbidly addicted to getting more and more. Jorge opined that greed is one of the Biblical Seven Deadly Sins. Somehow, the lady had become lost in a world of lack and had lost track of the world of abundance.
I thought about the famous Gandhi quote, “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed.” The age old problem of hording money and things has harmed mankind throughout the ages.
Today we see the political problem that has been brought to our attention regarding the “one-percent” of the population. A few people feel compelled to acquire more and more wealth and resources while working to prevent everyone else from simply having enough for survival. In the process, the environment is pillaged and the deprived people wish for revolution.
It seems that greed and craving are embedded in our minds. There are many people who fill their bottomless existential sense of lack by hording money and things. We might feel the tuggings of acquisitiveness whenever we get in the mood to go shopping. We slip out of our simple role of being human, and into the manufactured role of “consumer”.
Jorge says the need for more and more simply shows that a person is trying, unsuccessfully, to escape his loneliness, emptiness, and imcompleteness. Greed is an endless addiction that seems to provide escape from pain, but causes pain instead. Pain to the horder, and pain to the world around him.
There is pain, turmoil, and anxiety at the root of wishing for more and more money and stuff. There is a need to control ones own life and the lives of other people. Greed is a perversion and over-control of the natural urges of desire.
Desire is normal and natural. Without simple desire, there can be no life. We desire food, shelter, sex, security, and love. When we desire more than our share and wish to deprive other people of that which they desire, big problems crop up. We can see this situation demonstrated every day in the world.
In our hearts, we know that the yearning to have more than our share will cause contradiction, misery, and conflict. Who hasn’t wished, at one time, to be the richest person on Earth? We have a fantasy that we won’t have any more problems and that we’ll be happy as larks and can have anything at all that we desire.
The newscasts tell us about the obscene salaries and compensation packages for corporate CEOs in America these days. To bring about the continued flow of wealth to these individuals, they enable ever more corruption in politics. Also, the paranoia of our spy agencies and law enforcement officers is encouraged as a way to safeguard the process of acquisitiveness.
The symptoms of greed are found in the endless stress and competition within our workplaces. We notice continual resistance to pay employees living wages. There is the practice of outsourcing to further cut costs. On a larger scale, we discover greed is responsible for the murderous narcotics underworld. The drive for glory and exploitation in collegiate and professional sports is not so subtle greediness.
Tragically, some religious leaders use the practice of scapegoating in order to satisfy the desire to grow the base of followers and increase ministerial power and income when the offering plates are circulated among the believers.
Jorge and I understand that working for success and security is not bad,in and of itself. Fair rewards for honest, hard work should be encouraged and enjoyed. We came to the conclusion that the measure of “too much” is when we take from the poor and give to the rich. We know, deep in our heart of hearts, when and how much is plenty.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Lao Tzu. “He who knows that enough is enough will always have enough.”