Tuesday, October 19, 2010

fanning and banking the flames

A shrink friend of mine once observed, "No one ever got rich by being nice."

That popped into my mind associatively as I watched a bit of a public TV show about the events leading up to King Philip's War which started in 1675 and lasted little more than a year. The war evolved out of the British desire to expand and prosper on land inhabited by various Indian tribes in what is now southern New England.

At first, there was peaceful coexistence. But bit by bit, the British imposed rules and arm-twisted the tribal leaders. Bit by bit they encroached. Bit by bit they insisted on Christianity, a laying down of arms, and a handing over of tribal land as a means of paying for medical services made necessary in the face of the smallpox, measles and other diseases brought to America by the foreign settlers. When the more-populous colonists had backed the Indians into a corner, the Indians fought ... and lost. (These days, what is left of the Indians has created gambling casinos which have been very successful in taking money from those who may be the descendants of those early colonists.)

You can't make an omlette without breaking eggs, but the sometimes-smug and sometimes-just-unaware arrogance of those who are better off ... well, it is easier to point fingers than to look in the mirror. True, those with advantages of education and wealth and wreathed attachment can shine a spotlight on the difficulty, but I think it is a problem that everyone faces -- setting aside the needs of others in hopes of fulfilling your own -- perhaps worthy -- desires.

You can't make an omlette without breaking eggs, but you can reflect and pay attention and correct the mistakes you make. Greed is not just a rich man's peccadillo. As my Zen teacher once said, "Without ego, nothing gets done." And the upshot of paying attention and taking responsibility -- capacities sometimes miraculously under-exercised by those who are most advantaged -- comes down to what Gautama Buddha suggested:

It is not what others do and do not do that is my concern. It is what I do and do not do -- that is my concern.

1 comment:

  1. The less you need is getting better, and... feeling all is better than none, and the last shall be first as all consumption is put behind us, and... don't read this, just look at the sky.

    Big stretch, now... up to heaven.