Have you ever complained about a meal in a restaurant, or have you ever been upset when one of your favourite possessions got broken, or perhaps when you simply didn’t get what you want?
Now think of the people who are sleeping in cardboard boxes or shop doorways in the cold tonight. Think of the people who know they will not eat a full meal tomorrow. Think of the people who are fearing for their lives in this very moment, as bombs and bullets fly through the air. Think of the people who are kept as slaves and treated as sub-human. Think of the people who see no hope for a brighter tomorrow, so desperate and bleak is their situation.
Is your life like this?
Do you have a warm home? Good.
Do you have a comfortable bed to sleep on tonight? Good.
Do you have enough food in your cupboards and in your fridge to feed yourself tomorrow? Good.
Do you have any friends or family who care about you? Good.
Do you live in a safe environment where you can walk out of the door without being afraid? Good.
Do you appreciate all these things on a daily basis? Good.
You see, society encourages us to be demanding, rather than humble and grateful. We are encouraged to get attached to unimportant material things, like our designer wallpaper, our best upholstered chairs, our expensive shoes, our phone, and even our appearance. And when even the smallest thing upsets our nicely controlled apple cart, we get angry.
We expect the world to be here to give us pleasure, and if our pleasure is spoiled in some way, perhaps by our new smartphone not working as it should, or somebody spilling soup on our jacket, or some piece of our property being damaged, or even someone insulting our precious and carefully cultivated ego, we suddenly feel that our happiness is threatened, on a subtle level.
Because we derive our sense of security from material things, from emotional attachments to people and from our thoughts about who we are. If we didn’t, it simply would not matter to us if someone insulted us. It wouldn’t matter if someone scratched our car. Why should it!? The car is a piece of metal. Your ego is totally fictitious and insubstantial.
In these moments, when we feel like getting upset about something which is in truth insignificant, we simply need to remember the starving person, the homeless person, the terrified and lonely person. Would we stand in front of them and say “Oh just look at my new smart-phone. The screen is cracked! I’m so annoyed!”
We would look very self-centered and foolish indeed.
Yet people do this every, single, day. They complain about totally unimportant things that do not affect their wellbeing, their health, their happiness. Why do they do this? It is usually just an outlet for a subtle sense of frustration with life.
When people are really living the life they want to live, their is no frustration. If something breaks, stops working, gets stolen, they usually say “well, never mind. It’s not that important. I can be happy without it.”
If this would just become the mantra for the materialistic masses who are obsessed with their new clothes, gadgets, luxury homes, haircuts and carefully cultivated egos, we might just collectively make some headway as a society. We might just realise that things do not matter. People matter. Treating people the right way matters. Caring about people’s welfare matters. Our health matters. Our heart matters.
You can actually have these things – with care and kindness in your heart – and live in a tent in a field, with no material possessions whatsoever, and be totally happy and fulfilled.
Do we not realise that obsession with material things simply burdens our lives? It gives us more things to get upset about. A poor man is not anxious about his expensive watch getting stolen, or his car getting scratched. He just wants to eat, and be warm. To a cold and hungry human being, warmth and food us like a vision of heaven. But to a rich man, even his luxury food does not truly satisfy him.
Simple pleasures make a poor man feel like a king. A warm embrace to a lonely soul is like a shaft of sunlight that brings renewed life and hope to a dying flower. It is all they deeply desire. These are life’s true riches. Warmth. Care. Compassion. Gratitude and appreciation of life’s simple nourishments.
Only you know if you are truly rich, or if you are poor.
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