Lesson From an Old Man

As my first blog post, I’d like to share with you, a little, yet memorable story that I was told many years ago.   It’s an evergreen tale as you will soon realise, one from which we can all learn much.

 The story…..

Many years ago, on a late autumn afternoon, an old man sat on his rough-shod veranda, drinking in the last rays of the autumn sun. He was just about to go inside when he noticed in the distance, a figure emerging over the horizon.  He was intrigued, because in fact, not many people came his way.  His was a solitary existence, one he’d chosen for himself after his wife had died. 

 He had grown used to the peace and isolation.  He recognised every bird-call, understood the sounds from the creek bed, and the cry of a nearby animal.   The rising and the setting sun had become his clocks, for the hour-to-hour, minute-to-minute checking of time no longer held meaning for him. 

 He’d also grown sensitive to the changing seasons.  He loved the subtle blending of one season into another.  Winter was as exciting as autumn or spring, because that was the season where he had time to think and reflect about life.

 Much of his time was spent in his garden, tending and weeding, and reaping the rewards, a simple but rewarding life.  He had little need of modern conveniences as his produce was stored in nature’s hand.  When he needed food he simply dug it from the earth, or lifted a ripe piece of fruit from the arm of a nearby tree.

 The old man remained on his veranda, intrigued, waiting for the stranger’s approach.  By his positive stride, he could tell that the figure was that of a young man.  They greeted each other courteously and exchanged the usual pleasantries about the weather and so on.

 The young man was subsequently invited into the older man’s home to have a cup of tea and a bite to eat.  As he entered the house, the younger noted that the home was but one room, an all-purpose room that served as his living, sleeping and dining quarters.  It was fastidiously neat and tidy, with a few neatly-stacked books on a table, a couple of chairs close by, and a bed, neatly-made up in one corner.

 Unable to contain his feelings, the young man blurted out, “Goodness, you haven’t got much!” to which the elder laughed and said, “But neither have you!”  The younger man, quite taken aback by the quick response replied, “But I’m just passing through,” to which the older responded, “and so too am I boy, so too am I.”

 A not-so-simple response, if you stop to consider!

 But in fact there is a clear message for all of us.  You see the difference between the old man and so many of us today, is that he had more than likely found the true meaning of life.  With no television, he was free from the barrage of advertising that tends to plague our daily living.  Without television he was safe from the warring advertising moguls who tell us what we all need to have.

 True, he had precious little compared to today’s standards, but then he had no need for the trappings of success, for in reality he had so much of what so many of us crave, peace, contentment, freedom from debt, and that sense of connectedness ,that oneness with our planet that confirms who we are.

 The things you have to have……or, what the ads tell us we have to have!   

There is enough on earth for everybody’s need, but not for everyone’s greed. Mahatma Gandhi.

Sadly, almost without realizing it, people throughout the developed world have lost so much. Lured by the dazzle of sophisticated marketing, we have become chronic, wanton consumers in our quest for the newest and latest products. 

 It’s interesting to note that we manage well without particular gadgetry until that day when we are wooed by clever marketing.  And so we buy!  And when that purchase lies unused in a drawer, taking up space as a constant reminder that we didn’t really need it, we think we have learned.  But have we?  Nope!  We get sucked in again, and gain and…….again!  Worse still, we move to larger homes to accommodate both the new and the obsolete.   Those larger homes are the ‘must-haves’ because almost all of us are drowning in unwanted gadgetry that we can rarely offload.

 Stroll into any large furniture or white-goods store and I challenge you not to feel disconcerted by the array of the latest lounges or dining room suites, row upon row of them, all designed to last for little longer than five years or so.  And then what happens?  Worse still, what are the environmental consequences of this mass production?  How often, in our pursuit of more do we concern ourselves about the sweat shops in third-world countries where people have worked excessive hours, for minimal pay, so that we can have? 

Have you ever wondered about the cost to you of your television viewing?

 Maybe you should, because it’s my belief that television has gone from a medium for entertainment, to one for advertising, and not subtle advertising either!  You see, we are bombarded several times each hour of our viewing with things we’re told we need to buy to make our lives better – the best in televisions, new furniture, the latest-style beds, and gorgeous, more luxurious homes.  The list is endless.  It is relentless.  And, like it or not, it’s alluring!

 The cost of a thing is the amount of what I call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run. Thoreau (1817 – 1862)

 And of course we buy, and then, having changed our minds, we buy more.  These are consumables that must be paid for.  You may think that this simply means that we have to work longer and harder to do so.  It would be nice if this were all we had to worry about.  But in fact, perhaps we should now be turning our attention to things like,

  • How products are manufactured
  •  Where they were manufactured
  •  The size of the carbon footprint that our buying them has on the planet?

Granted it would be hard for us to go back to the simplistic lifestyle of the old man, but we all know in our hearts that things have to change.  As a society we must take an enormous back pedal if we care about survival in a world where population numbers are growing rapidly.

 What are your thoughts?  Where and how do you think we could make even modest changes that might benefit society?  Could you commit to change, be an agent for change, even for a short period of time?  What might the health/ emotional benefits be for you?

Please feel free to leave your comments below, perhaps keeping in mind what Mother Teresa so rightly said,

 “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean, but the ocean would be less because of that missing drop”.  Mother Teresa

 

   
   
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