Saturday, October 15, 2005

When You Finally Have Nothing

I made the acquaintance of a Fort Worth, Texas oil baron at one point in my life. He rented office space in the building where I practiced architecture. It was basically a retirement office. His wife had told him he couldn’t hang around the house all day.

For the purposes of my story his name will be Mr. Jones. Mr. Jones was one of the people in the world blessed with money. His father and grandfather had been oil men and he had carried their oil and gas knowledge, producing properties and considerably deep pockets into his life as well.

I liked Mr. Jones. He was unfailingly polite to me, the young struggling architect anxious to make his claim on the world. On walks that took me past his office door he would call for me to come inside and visit.

Because I had grown up with more or less nothing, his life and attitudes intrigued me. Two things stand out in my mind from those visits.

I once asked him what he thought of poverty. He smiled and said simply “Well, I try very hard not to think of poverty at all.”

On another occasion I asked Mr. Jones what it was like to have accumulated so much that you really never have to worry about things anymore. I got the same ‘isn’t he cute’ smile from Mr. Jones. His answer surprised me. He said you don’t quit worrying. He added, “Once you have accumulated all, and indeed much more than you will ever need, then you worry if and how you might lose it all.”

The great spiritual teachers hold forth that wealth should not be our quest.

This is a difficult lesson for any of us.

Can we find our happiness in life once we begin to remove ourselves from the need to have all things?

For me, it is peace of mind that brings happiness. I have also discovered that my peace of mind appears to be tightly bound with the idea of having enough money that I do not need to worry about it any longer.

If we are to follow the logic of the spiritual teachers then it seems we must purge ourselves of the need to marry peace with plenty.

How then to be at peace while possessing little? That is the large question most of us face.

As for Mr. Jones, it remains in my memory that he was not free from worry even while being wealthy beyond what 99% of us will ever accumulate. Mr. Jones left earth last year, a victim of lung cancer. And, as the Country Western song goes, 'I’ve never seen a hearse with a luggage rack.'

Which way then are we to travel? Which bus makes its way to peace of mind with nothing hitched to its bumper or stored underneath?

When you finally have nothing, will you share it with me?


Robert Shapiro said...

Rick, that was a beautiful quest story and so well written. I appreciate of your desire to inspire the question for it is so often that the question is much more important then the answer is it not? Goodlife my friend.

hh said...

Asking the question opens new "doors"... finding answers can too.

Alot of us, try not to think about poverty, it's depressing. Alot of us, feel that we are responsible. But not neccessarily ready to admit just how much.

I envision, one day, a world without money, where people do things out of the goodness of their heart and work in everyone's interest, including their own. There is no greater reward.
We are quite a long way away from that. But it is preferable for the human species to progress, that they rely on their inner desire and mold it, rather than do things for something else, specifically money.