Thursday, June 20, 2019

Only What Is Necessary

In the Kyeongyang magazine, a psychiatrist writes about the black hole of greed and its antidote: temperance and the golden mean. Lessons learned from life.

He begins with a short story by Tolstoy: How Much Land Does a Man Need? Briefly, it's about a farmer told he could have cheaply all the land he could encircle by sunset. He began early in the morning but realized in the late afternoon that he would have difficulty returning to his starting point before sunset. In that case, he loses everything. He started his return trip but was so exhausted when he arrived that he dropped dead. Tolstoy gives us the answer to his question of how much land does a man need. He needs enough to be buried.

We can't see beyond the horizon. We don't have permission to enter this area. Our life is limited by the horizon of time. Time beyond the horizon does not influence us. It is the great unknown. Is this concept too difficult to understand? Time goes beyond the horizon never to return. Today's rice cannot fill the hunger I had yesterday.

He gives the example of a student who had the opportunity to take an exam for a job. He didn't feel that he was prepared and didn't take the exam. He did come to a time when he felt he had the knowledge to pass the exam, more so than anybody else, but the second opportunity never came. Time went beyond the horizon. Once the time is gone it never returns.

The word moderation and temperance are often used with food and drink but not limited to that. Wordly gain, carnal desire, lust for power, and many other cravings we need to control. Our cravings are many. When not controlled the wise both in the East and West have always emphasized misery and sadness will follow.

Controlling greed is no easy task. Problem is solved if we desired the necessary amount then temperance would not be necessary But the reality is a person who desires only 1,000 dollars when received goes on to desire ten times that sum, the person who says only one room would be perfect goes on to desire a penthouse.

Life begins with acknowledging time is limited and we don't know how much. We can make a guess. Nobody will remember reading these words in a few years. If we made a graph of our time on earth it would disappear into the horizon.

We crave as if we will live here on earth forever. We don't know when life will come to its horizon. It's not given us to know. If I knew I was to die tomorrow I would use my possessions in a most significant way since nothing goes beyond the horizon. If at that stage what would we crave what would we abandon? It will be different for each one of us but we will not be craving anything materially.

Do we fret about having something? It may be a shining sports car, a beautiful face, or even the praise of others, a nice house for the family or money to have the family live in comfort. To achieve these aims we have to understand the time needed for their acquisition and weigh them against the time left before the horizon. A person in his 50s these are not something to crave.

Moderation is not something to endure. We don't know how much time before the horizon but a need to live wisely. Once we realize that time is limited, at that moment, we will want only what is needed—only what is necessary.