To read the original version in the author's native language click here
“What will you be ashamed of 50 years from now?”
Ooh la! Excellent question! I even dare to say that if we closed each day with a bit of time to answer the question “what did I do today that I am ashamed of?” that would bare great fruits!
50 years is a long time, more than double my age! Therefore, I’m going to go for an answer that would make sense both 50 years from now and today (and, unfortunately, also in the past, I believe).
So here it goes: I am very ashamed that we, as a society – and, I believe, even more profoundly as individuals – set as life goals the wonder trio Power, Wealth, and Fame.
As if the stamp of a good life had more ink the more these 3 criteria are collected.
The Wonder Trio
Power as in the desire to dominate, to control, to not depend on anyone;
Wealth not only regarding money, but also material things, the little comforts;
and Fame, as in the desire to be admired, the dependency on compliments and recognition – as if something only had value if someone, other than myself, saw it.
“Oh, that’s all very nice, but I don’t recognize myself in that desire for Power, Wealth, and Fame”. Wonderful! I hate generalizations, but I, that am weak, feel many, many times (although increasingly less) impelled to dedicate my life to climb the ladder of recognition so that I can have more, and be up there calling the shots.
“But why does that have to be bad? Isn’t it cool to live well and to want people to like me?”
Of course it’s cool, and none of this should be absolutized as bad! As if it wasn’t the case that Power is, so many times, an opportunity to lead well and empower people; Wealth a vehicle for such good deeds and an incentive for togetherness; and Fame favorable for a good message to be spread!
The point, I believe, is that if we set them as our life goals, we will easily be deceived to believe that it is in them that Happiness lies, life with meaning.
And then, we confuse satisfaction with Happiness, we bet that Happiness lies in the conquest of those things that bring us satisfaction. As if Happiness were proportional to the sum of satisfactions.
“Oh, but the rich, famous and powerful seem to live so much better!” Hmm, but do they?
It seems curious to me to note how obvious it appears to be (given history, and the testimonies of the rich, famous and powerful) that that satisfaction of Wealth, Power and Fame by itself is superficial and empty, it is not fulfilling.
The void the human being carries is not filled by the success the world might stamp on it.
Rather the opposite! How many famous people feel profoundly lonely, how many powerful people end up despised by everyone, and how many rich people live permanently unsatisfied?
This strongly suggests that being dependent on these criteria to evaluate if my life is well-lived or not is not very wise. Hence, we should be rational and use our dear friend Intellect:
if evidence tells us that Happiness is not found in Wealth, Power or Fame, let us have the coldness of eliminating them as life goals.
“Oh, but if it’s not for Power, Wealth, and Fame, what creates a life well-lived, the real success?”
Well, that’s the big question. But, like all great questions, it has the advantage that each one can take their guess. And what I stand for, besides what I’ve already said in this article, is that these 3 friends not only do not lead to Happiness, but they make the path there more difficult!
Hence, I support the replacement of this trio by a much less popular one: Detachment, Modesty, and Service.
Once again, not so much as a goal, but as a path in order to live with quality and profoundness, without illusions or false pretentiousness. And it is important to clarify them, so that no one accuses me, justly, of defending that living in misery is the best way to live.
I mean Detachment as disconnection, living simply – so that, above all, I don’t let material things get in my way of surrendering myself to others.
Modesty not as a burden that forces me to live with my head down, but as a calibrator that suggests that I look ahead, in the right measure of what I am, without wanting to stand out nor bring myself down.
And, finally, Service, not as in the casual charity, but as the profound disposition to de-center myself, to take my sight away from my monotonous bellybutton, and creatively reorient it to the fascinating interior of others, to the desire for the other to be well.
We have identified 3 powerful antidotes to the previous criteria: Detachment to murder Wealth, Modesty to rip apart Fame, and Service to decapitate Power.
“Oh, but that is quite unpopular” Hmm.. If, on the one hand, this sounds scary and unattractive, on the other hand, I believe that being armed with these 3 swords is quite tempting. And additionally, my optimism is here asking me to write that he thinks we are, as a society, curiously tending, slowly, towards them!
Let us pay attention to the discrete, but clear way that Detachment, despite the climbing consumerism, has been entering the world – by minimalist architecture, so distant from the exuberance of the past, and by the increasingly less distractive design.
To the way in which Modesty, despite the increasing cult of the “I”, has entered the increasing consciousness that I should be who I am; to the generalized critique of those who arrogantly think highly of themselves.
And, what more surprising than Service, which is now a trend! So many solidarity actions, so many volunteering programs, so many social departments, so many good deeds – it’s wonderful! (My skepticism is asking me to write that this service is not always brought up by the best reasons, but I have already muffled it, don’t worry.)
Now, it is only left for Detachment and Modesty to also become trendy, and the world will be truly mesmerizing!
Let the #detachedandmodest rise and, with a bit of luck – or better, with a bit of effort – 50 years from now, we will no longer be ashamed of stupidly running after the so immensely empty Power, Wealth, and Fame.