I’ve been reading Approaching Zion, by Hugh Nibley, a Mormon scholar. It condemns wealth-seeking, unbridled capitalism, and destruction of the environment. And it has been invading my thoughts. I’m questioning my career goals in life. Do I want to be rich? In Mormon doctrine, the only good reason for seeking riches is to help others. From The Book of Mormon: “But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God. And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good—to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted.”
It’s not just Mormon doctrine. Here are a few other teachings:
The King James Bible: “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth…But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven…For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” “…a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.”
Chögyam Trungpa, Tibetan Buddhist teacher:
“Our highly organized and technological society reflects our preoccupation with manipulating physical surroundings so as to shield ourselves from the irritations of the raw, rugged, unpredictable aspects of life. Push-button elevators, pre-packaged meat, air conditioning, flush toilets …weather satellites, bulldozers, fluorescent lighting, nine-to-five jobs, television – all are attempts to create a manageable, safe, predictable, pleasurable world… It is ego’s ambition to secure and entertain itself, trying to avoid all irritation. So we cling to our pleasures and possessions…”
So, where do we draw the line? Should I buy a Corvette for $60,000 when I could buy a less expensive one for a third of that price or less, and give the rest of the money away? When we take more than we actually need, aren’t we really being selfish? How can any wealthy person drop 30 grand on a vacation to Bora Bora when there are still people starving in the world? And I’m not just condemning the rich here. I’m guilty too. I love DVDs, vacations, “air conditioning,” etc. The irony of it is we try to amass all of these “riches” that comfort or amuse us, yet the end result is we’ve wasted our time, increased the strength of our addictions to ‘things’, and used up resources that ostensibly could have been used for a better purpose. So when can one relax and enjoy a movie?