Monday, March 16, 2009

Enough's Enough, But What's Too Much?

Ok, so I'm certain I will get around to writing about my favorite food or band or something soon, but the economic and political stuff has been building up in me since the first Bush administration, so if my readers (both of you) can endure me for a bit more, I wanted to expound on something that was in my last post.

As a preface, know that religion and spirituality, to me, are separate entities that sometimes reside in the same house (or person), and some of what I'm going to say now reflects spiritual teachings that I've been learning for many years now (so the real political junkies are going to experience an uncomfortable glazing-over of the eyes now). But in reflecting what has happened with our economy and political landscape, a couple of questions occur to me. Those questions follow from something a dear teacher, Joseph Michael Levry, also known as Gurunam, has said many times: "Be grateful for what you have. And be grateful for what you do not have."

This is significant to me in several ways, most of which have to do with not wishing for more than you can use, or handle. Which, in turn, brings up the question I want to ask here.

I understand a lot of how those folks in finance think. Some of them are in it because it's an interesting game of numbers manipulation, an intellectual exercise, if you will, that is both gambling and divination. That's cool. I get it. And if you get enormously rich in the process, that's your reward for being incredibly clever and/or having a remarkable sense of timing (or comic timing). Others are really in it for the money. I mean REALLY IN IT FOR THE MONEY. Again, I get this. It's a dream many of us have - earn enough money so you can always do whatever you want for the rest of your life.

So the question is this: What happens when you have so much that you can do so much more than whatever you want for the rest of twenty lifetimes? When is it enough? When do you walk away? Why don't you walk away? What are you trying to prove? Mr. Madoff, what do you DO with $78 Billion, whether bilked off someone else's savings or not?

Bill Gates? I get you. You said, I have so much more than I could ever use, I'll put it to someone else's use.

I'm not talking to you here (nor to many of my friends in finance who either already understand or are in pursuit of understanding the balance between humanity and being really wealthy -- I think you know who you are, and you're smart guys, and I appreciate you).

I'm talking to the ones who smugly manipulated the market and short sold and sold bad debt in order to be worth the $100M or even the $80M that he or she will NEVER find a use for, and beyond the first $10M, won't ever have to worry about their family for generations to come - even living lavishly.

So when is more than you could ever want or think of what to do with, enough? And if you can actually reach that point, what do you do for an encore?

I guess what I'm getting at here, and struggling with - and maybe, dear readers, your comments will enlighten me - is: what was the point? What did Bernie Madoff prove? What did the guys who ran the banks into the ground accomplish, and is a system in shreds really something to be proud of? Besides a bank balance of 10 figures, and the ability to do whatever you want over several lifetimes, what does it mean to have created such enormous wealth that you can't even possibly understand what to do with it? Especially if this ridiculous wealth was built by manipulating the fortunes of others so that you can benefit? And, as I keep going back to, was it worth our getting into the mess that we're in now?

When is more than you could ever want enough? And why wasn't it?

I know what a lot of the easy answers are: "hubris," "because I could do it," "why not?" "mind your own business you failure!" "arrogance (see hubris);" and many others. But none of them really get to the heart of the matter for me that would answer what arrogance is so profound that it would allow such a large number of people to allow such a disastrous outcome to come to pass.

And of course, in the end, it's proven the age-old concept that even the least spiritual person out there will be familiar with:

Karma does exist. But unfortunately, this time, we all share in the Karma resulting from excessive desire.

So until next time, when I'll have shaved my head, painted my body red and will be sacrificed to the great god Kali, remember: do as I say and not as I do and you should be all right.

1 comment:

  1. Well I completely understand where you are going with this. Funny thing is that I learned (or realized) all of this while playing a childs game..."The Sims 2". Im pretty sure that you've never playes so, bear with me for a moment while I explain the object of the game. You build a life: you must have your "sims" aquire jobs, fall in love, build a home,family etc.
    In this game (as with all games) I found cheat codes. Mind you, I played this game for hours on end while in college. So I found the "motherlode" cheat! AWESOME right! Automatic Rich sims! -- not so correct.

    I soon realized that the game wasn't fun anymore. They had everything, so you didnt need to do anything. Falling in "love" was also simpler... I mean when you're rich, you can spend so much time with everyone else that they have no choice but to "love" you! So I built Mansions upon Mansions and threw parties etc. No longer was I playing for hours on end. Point of the story... I stopped using the cheat codes lol.

    People just need goals, and "aspirations" as they would say in the sims. Without them we lack purpose. That is why all these filthy rich people claim religion... theyre looking, even more than the guy on the street, for their purpose.

    Most dont understand that "quality" of life doesnt mean "quantity of money"!