Monday, September 5, 2011

The line between success and greed

I was watching this lecture yesterday from a Harvard Professor. It's the first part from a series of his lectures. He talks about morality and how quickly it changes definition depending upon the situation. I have often thoughts about some things along the same school of thought. One of them is the thin line between success and greed. How do you define success and how can you keep it free from greed. When do you say what you have is enough and you are happy with what you have?

I have some friends who recklessly keep changing jobs every two years or so just to get some extra money. They do not care about what work they will be doing. They don’t care about what they write in their resume to achieve a new one. The target is always more money. Such people often regard the more satisfying people non ambitious and to some extent even fools. Gone are those days when our parents used to spend their complete life under the same employer. I myself sometimes find it fascinating how my father had been working at the same place for all his life. The irony is that even he sometimes point out to me that it has been 4 years since you are working at the same place, why don’t you look for another job? I do not blame him because it is not him talking but the culture that has evolved around him. But coming back to the topic of making more money, I have never been able to understand how some people lust of money. They are never satisfied. They have a nice house, a nice car, a good family but even then they will keep grinding themselves for more and more. They never pause and ever spare time for themselves. They just keep running towards a finish line which even they have no clue, where to find. Sometimes, I have pity for such people and even sympathize with them that maybe it is not their fault. It is the society they are dwelling in which make them act that way. But then I ask myself. Is it not the same people who actually make that society? Such a vicious circle!

The society had always judged success with the money. There is nothing new in this I guess. There are enough instances from history supporting it. But I feel recently it has taken a much ugly turn. Quite easily we make our role models like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs from the technology business, Ronaldo, Giggs, Tiger Woods from Sports, Murdoch from Media based solely on the fact that they are rich and famous and have worked "hard" to reach where they are today. We never try to find how they reach there. What all did they had to do, to reach there. Did they acted morally to reach those heights? Did they harm someone on their way? Specially given the recent disclosure of the working of the Murdoch empire or even the affairs of the above mentioned sport stars leaking to their fans. Sometimes I feel that taking such questions out of the idol making equation has led us today to the society where everything is judged with money. We are totally lost in judging what is right and wrong. And I find this scenario scary sometimes. Where will all this end? Where does the buck stop?     

All this makes me remember a story I wanted to share. The story of the last moments of the mighty Alexander the Great or Sikandar as we call him in India. After winning the world, Sikandar feel sick on his ship. The efforts of his doctors were all in vein. He begged the doctors to give him some more time to live so that he can keep his promise he made to his mother. The promise of seeing her after he as won the world. But the doctors could not even promise him 4 more breaths. Thus on his death bed, Sikandar who had won this world felt helpless and in remorse asked his companions to fulfill his last three wishes, after his death:

1. His doctors should carry his coffin for burial - so that the world knows that every breath of life is important and we should not take them for granted for no doctor in the world can grant you any in time of need.
2. The path to his grave and his grave should be studded with gold and all the precious stones of the world - so that the world knows that all this wealth will not go with anyone after death and it makes no sense running for it all through one's life.
3. His hands should hang out from his grave with palms facing up - so that the world knows that the conqueror of the world, the ruler of the world who came empty handed also left this world empty handed taking nothing with him.

If the world did not even learn from this, then I don't think there is anything else which can convince it. I remember another such tale from Sikandar's life but maybe I will write about it some other time.

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