March 21, 2014: How much is enough? by Patrick Sieben

WEB-070210PatrickSiebenMugAm I the only one who has a problem with the shameless selfishness of “get”? As in, get more than… get better than… get more of… get away with…

It is increasingly distressing to me that the whole idea of success in life these days seems to revolve around “getting.”

Maybe it’s just me. If that’s the case, you should stop reading this and go on to the police calls section of the paper. On the other hand, you too might just feel that we have as individuals, as a community and as a nation become a bit self-absorbed when we choose courses of action based solely on potential acquisition — on how much we can get.

For instance, we used to be taught that stealing was the wrong. We learned this principle at home, at school and at church. Our teachers were many, and of one voice. The preacher and the coach may have quibbled over the play-calling at last week’s game, but they were in absolute agreement that stealing was wrong.

I am concerned that this may no longer be true.

Today there seems to be a desire to legitimize or defend doing the wrong thing if it brings about some personal benefit.

The answer to the question, “Why shouldn’t you steal?” has always been, “Because stealing is wrong.” Now, it seems, there are other unpalatable alternative answers: “It’s not stealing if you don’t get caught.”   “….because if you get caught, then you might go to jail.”  “….because if you steal from your friend then they won’t like you anymore.”  “….because they have so much that they wouldn’t miss it.”

And my all- time favorite: “It would be OK to steal food if you were hungry.” (Just in case you might be inclined to agree with this one, remember that starving is wrong, too. But acknowledging that does not make stealing right.)

Stealing is wrong, and to justify stealing for the purpose of personal acquisition is nothing more than justifying greed.

Ah, greed. It is after all one of the Seven Deadly Sins. Webster defines greed as “a selfish desire to have more of something (especially money).”

Yet our society sends the message in multiple ways that I need to get more — more money, more automobiles, more prestige… (It is possible my spouse would say I do not need to get more electric trains, but she would be mistaken; there is no such thing as too many electric trains.)

In reality I am absolutely sure I do not need more. Yes, of course there are things I would like to acquire and often the desire has motivated me to work harder or learn more or save money — but really, I have plenty.

Maybe it is human nature to think that we must have more, but when we look at much of the rest of the world, we see that we really do live in a land of plenty — or, more accurately, a land of excess.

There are finite amounts of just about everything: Precious metals, fresh water, all of our other resources… The Earth seems infinitely abundant, but as our world population increases, the amount of all earthly “stuff” must be divided into ever shrinking portions.

So today may be a good time to redefine success and reconsider “get.” Maybe we do not need to get as much as we thought we must have. Be thankful for what you do have, and work hard so that your acquisitions have meaningful value.

Most of all, consider that you share the planet with 7,200,000,000 others who also struggle to define the word “get.”

— Patrick Sieben is the Director of Bands at Cloud County Community College and a member of the Concordia Year of Peace Committee.



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