This economy lies with deceptive pleasure – destruction, pending one hell of a bill to pay. We suck and devour the heritage of descendant’s gifts, their demise through our greed. When the well runs dry, the piper calls for payment, recovery of burnt offerings to self without gods who care for a prayer. Easy plunder blinds our need for air, water, food, and fire. Misery awaits death and disaster, sending ignored warnings past personal pleasure.
It’s not yet too late to reverse unwanted ends with the wisdom of science, we can turn the page. What higher cause to save humanity, perhaps the planet, our tiny corner of the universe?
Look both ways to past mistakes, future consequences,
bookends for today’s wisdom.
Mind the gaps in human psyche for sources of timely recovery.
How much is enough? When do our simple desires or wants rise to the level of immoral greed?
Steal to feed your hungry family, and you may go to jail. An investment banker, who makes millions, steals from the public, nearly destroys the economy, and causes financial crises to millions of people; we talk about the banker’s greed and move on – no consequences.
Here’s how I see my own greed: my wants become immoral greed when my having too much causes others to go without or suffer. That view is mostly due to culture and my beliefs about human nature. If I lived the aesthetic life of a Trappist, I’d restrict myself so there would be more for others. I want to have enough without taking away from anyone, especially those in need. But not everyone feels that way.
If there are 10 things we both want, and we each take five, that might seem fair. But what if we need only two each, and will never need more? Do we hoard the other six? Collectors spend fortunes adding items to their collections. Is that greed? If so, is it immoral? If they also donate fortunes to philanthropic causes, does that change anything? Am I discussing greed, or is this an issue of caring about others.
Is greediness a normal part of our nature? Is it instinctive to be greedy to survive, but also part of a darker human condition to be immorally greedy? If the answer to both questions is yes, why? From whence does our greedy nature come? Why are some of us incredibly selfish, while others are altruistic to the point of self-denial? If we feel greedy, but don’t act on that feeling, is it ok? If it’s normal, as I contend it is, then we should feel no guilt. If our actions cause unnecessary harm to others, that’s different.
Why do some people think greed is immoral, yet they blindly practice it routinely? Is it really the opposite of liberality, which is defined as the behavior of someone who gives things or money in a generous way? I think these are both normal. We are greedy and generous.
Bill Gatesis very wealthy and continues to make a lot of money. He lives a good life that doubtless has some excesses. But, Gates is also very generous and kind. He is both an American capitalist and a kind and generous person. Many wealthy people seem to be. Some are not.
Is greed a form of self-preservation that has gone too far? When humans find themselves in extremely stressful situations, they become not only selfish and greedy, but dangerously so. Starvation changes us. When basic needs are not met, we don’t consider it greed when people take extreme actions to meet those needs.
Behavior in WWII concentration camps and American prisoners in Bataan and other places provide ample evidence to support this. Oddly, there are remarkable altruistic exceptions. Victor Frankl, in his book Man’s Search for Meaning, discusses why one camp prisoner will give away his last morsel of food to another who is dying. Yet, another prisoner will harm others, steal from them, or commit murder or suicide. While this was an observational basis for Frankl’s therapies and personal outlook, these very real human experiences testify to major differences in people.
If it has always been that way with people, will it continue? Is greed normal in other animals? Is survival of the fittest a basic instinct of our animal inheritance that now masquerades as greed?
Greed, like quality, is difficult to precisely define. Yet, also like quality, most of us know it when we see it; particularly when we see it in other people. However, we must admit that greed is something we seem to share, want it or not. We need to feel safe and that may mean not trusting that we will manage with enough. More is safer and better.
Our human nature has many facets and sides. Our morality is a big part of our nature, good or bad.
Keep in mind that if we take only what we need, we care for more than ourselves.
May we live our lives in concert with humanity and all of nature.
Let us look both ways and mind the gaps.
“…people have inside them something that could bring them to ruin…This basic truth of life has been denied by both believers and unbelievers in every age. Yet anyone who has tried to help others with their problems knows that we all share a common struggle against self-destructive tendencies. Hidden in the human heart are marvelous capacities for good and dreadful possibilities of evil.” ~ Stumbling Blocks or Stepping Stones, Benedict J. Groeschel
Steven stirred the pot when he responded to my previous post on the basic nature of humans with, “One word: Greed.” Reader comments followed with discussions about greed in terms of human nature. Sue V. weighed-in by suggesting that I compose a series of posts on the seven deadly sins alongside their antitheses, the seven virtues. I like that idea. I plan to write a series within the human nature theme reflecting on the human condition, using Sue’s suggestion as a method to breakout specific topics into manageable sized chunks.
I want my posts to be thought-provoking (we think about it), simple (easy to read and understand), and brief (1,000 words or less). If we can read it in five-to-ten minutes, comprehend it, and have an opinion; I’ve achieved those goals. I’m pleased when readers enjoy my dribble. I’m not trying to persuade or educate anyone, but only to explain my take on the topics.
After reading them, maybe you’ll ponder your opinion vis–à–vis either mine or someone’s comment, and share your views. I also want my posts to have a free-thinker flavor; secular, but with an inclusive bent, if that’s possible. I’m not opposed to religious comments. I think secular.
Morality (or immorality) is the series theme. It’s a better word than sin, vice, virtue, or others that I see as rooted in religious belief. Sin is a theist concept; morality seems more secular, at least to the degree that it’s subjective. I’ll borrow from the topics commonly known as sins. Words like vice and virtue are okay, but they add value judgment before discussion.
Moral and immoral may do the same thing, but I see them as opinions that are formed after discussion. Topics are natural, but often seen as immoral under certain conditions. For example, lust seems normal and humans could be extinct without it, but it’s on the list of sins. I’m not sure how or why chastity applies to anything other than medieval devices of questionable utility. How we see our basic nature and religion both affect how we’ll see the seven sins or vices.
I’ll follow Sue’s suggestion to include both sides of the moral coin. Like Pride and Humility (the yin and yang). I’ll begin with Greed on Friday. We can ride that pony until one of us falters. Then, I’ll choose another pair. I plan two posts per week.
I’m open to your suggestions for topics. After I get all boned up on each topic, I’ll post my remarks. Then, I’ll hang them out for your target practice.
The seven sins I found (with their opposites) are: pride (humility), greed (liberality), lust (chastity), envy (kindness), gluttony (abstinence), wrath (patience), and sloth (diligence). The Catholic Catechism lists virtues as prudence, justice, temperance, courage, faith, hope, and charity. The Bushido Code has seven or eight virtues of a Samurai warrior, four of which are generosity, forgiveness, compassion, and altruism.
While we’re not all the same, we each have our bright and dark sides.
They are difficult to explain in our personal nature,
but they’re there. Mind those gaps and look both ways.