Friday, April 25, 2014

Why we're on earth . . . ultimately

“Ultimately, you know why we’re here on earth . . . to get rich.” – Kevin O’Leary.

O’Leary’s a wealthy investor, one of the pair—with Amanda Lang—featured on the Lang and O’Leary Exchange on CBC. For half-an-hour, they alternately yell at each other, talk over one another and generally (it’s likely staged to be like this) disagree about emerging economic issues-of-the-day. O’Leary is full of the unfettered, unregulated marketplace theory, minimum taxation . . . and himself. Lang is the good cop arguing at every turn for some humanity to temper the bellicose pronouncements of O’Leary, the one who’s ultimately on earth to get rich.
                It’s too phony by half and one can’t be blamed for assuming that CBC has O’Leary on for the same reason they’ve long given Don Cherry airtime in the first intermission on Hockey Night in Canada; there’s an audience out there for loud-mouthed, right-wing cockiness!
                But wait! Maybe O’Leary's comment sticks in my craw like a sharp chicken bone because he’s inadvertently pointing out a bit of hypocrisy in the non-wealthy world of which I’m a card-carrying member. If someone had observed me day after day since I left grade school, I’m sure they would have arrived at the conclusion that my primary pursuit was to gather means, i.e. money and the things money can pay for. How I have longed to be wealthy, to have all my days secured by absolute, independent wealth. My pursuit of it was hindered only by a lack of the skills, the luck and the energy possessed by people like O’Leary.
                I have daydreamt of living in a mansion with servants while espousing egalitarian, left-wing platitudes. To put it bluntly, my ultimate drive in life has been to become rich, or at least comfortably well-off. One of my greatest personal fears (next to sickening and dying, that is) is that what wealth I have accumulated—modest as it is—may prove not to be enough to sustain me with dignity in my old age.
                Whatever O’Leary’s sins are, I ought to leave to him to discover. For most of the world, I think, the greatest folly is to be dishonest with oneself, about oneself. Seems to me that replacing the word “sin” with the word “hypocrisy” wherever it occurs in scripture might come closer to what’s meant by the original nature of human folly. It’s so universal. People trumpeting resurrection and eternal life as if they were irrefutable facts . . . and living their lives as if they were agnostic on the subject. People judging others for particular sins as if their own sins were nothing more than endearing foibles. In the words of Christian scriptures, people who strain gnats out of their drink, but swallow whole camels without blinking.
                This is the club of which I am a bona fide member.
                If O’Leary is wrong, then what are we ultimately on earth for? If not to get rich, then what? Or are we—like the dandelion that sprouts on our lawn without apparent purpose—just . . . here?
Maybe pondering purpose is wrong-headed altogether; maybe, like the dandelion in the lawn, the proper answer to “here’s why I’m on earth” is found in blooming as large and as yellow as possible before the obsessive suburban homeowner sprays you down.
Maybe T.S. Eliot said it best:

Though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald) brought in upon a platter,
I am no prophet—and here’s no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,

And in short, I was afraid (The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock)

And sprayed down we will all be, O’Leary and me included.
Meanwhile, tomorrow Lotto 6/49 will draw for an estimated $18,000,000.00! Have you got your ticket yet?

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