I was recently talking to couple of friends from another country, comparing notes about life as it is lived in our respective countries. Discussing the outlook and pursuits of people in the world today, I was explaining how education is a top priority in my nation since it helped ensure good-salary-paying jobs which in turn enabled a person to live comfortably.
A third world country with a huge population, many of our farmers are taking huge debts or selling their lands to fund their children’s studies. Their families are moving away from traditional occupations in agriculture sector in villages to jobs in the IT sector in cities. I told my friends that this was understable, as they did not want their children to suffer under the vagaries of weather, failed crops, greedy money lenders, exploitation by land owners to live in poverty as they had. They wanted to free their next generation and launch them in to a pattern of stability through financial security that ensured a life of dignity.
My friends talked about the interests and pursuits of the people in their country. They shared how for them, and for most for those in their country, wealth and richness was not about money in the bank, ownership of land or property, stocks etc. It was about time spent in pursuing their interests and being involved in helping other people.
Their idea of abundance was not the ability to buy things, but being to travel to other countries, explore their food, experience their culture etc. It was being able to work with refugees, teaching them life skills and ensuring they were equipped to live in the new country. It was the freedom to pursue their interests and the luxury to realise their passions that they considered as goals to achieve.
I was struck by the contrast of what each country considered and sought after as wealth worth pursuing and gaining. For us it’s all about how much material wealth that we have, the quantity of what we have as cash, while theirs is about the quality of life they lead.
Ours was about the ability to buy or spend, while theirs was about the ability to experience different things. Ours was all about tangible things, while theirs was about intangible things. Ours was about acquisition of concrete things, while theirs was the accruing of exploring experiences. Ours was about saving for some distant secure future, while theirs was about enjoying the present and savoring the day-to-day life.
Of course it is to be accepted and acknowledged that, when every day life and existence itself in question or jeopardy, it is impossible to think of adventure or experiencing. Yet I couldn’t but think that, maybe we have, in the pursuit of hard wealth, missed out on the real wealth viz. time and people, especially now at a time when our country is being touted as economically sound.
We have forgotten that the greatest treasure of all is human life and the time of existence, as when these are lost they can never be regained or restored. We have also lost out on teaching our children to decipher what is of value and what is worth saving, thrusting poverty mentality on them. We have traded real treasures for baubles and trinkets that neither have substance nor provide satisfaction.
It’s not as though we haven’t known the art of fine and right living. A look back at our history, a look at our sculptures and monuments and a look to our music and dance are enough to point out that ours is a ‘rich and varied heritage’. We just need to pause for look at where we have lost our way and trace back to find our original milestones and markers.
We become what we value and develop the nature of that which we hanker after. So, in our greed for gold, we have like Midas lost the sight and sense of sanctity of life and the commonsense of counting the days we are squandering. We have become hard and ruthless like the cash we handle, and reckless of the minutes we lose living the present in pursuit of an utopian future that we may not live to experience, let alone enjoy!
We have given up the training of our children for the provision of comforts that may end up destroying them, now and later. We have forgotten that our future is our children and traded the spending of time-in-hand with them for the acquisition of something we may lose any time. We have, as a nation, become callous and unfeeling, wasting lives and years (witness the rampage of violence and crime against the defenceless and the weak), destroying the very future we seek to secure.
Jesus said that true wealth is that which extends beyond a lifetime and thay which can be saved in a place where it cannot be stolen or destroyed. He also said that life is not in abundance of material things nor the accruing of it, something we tend to brush aside as irrelevant.
Time lost is lost forever and life wasted is wasted forever. Time and tide waits for no man, neither does life and living. When one passes on beyond to the land of the dead, nothing is of significance except how much you have valued people and how wisely you have used time.
Let’s wake up to what in the true sense is wealth, abundance and of value. Let’s conserve and preserve the real things that have substance and can give content as well as satisfaction. Let’s transfer the sense of what is of real worth to those who have real worth, our children and our generations!