Les rêveries du retraité solitaire

Les rêveries du retraité solitaire

The iPhone and the Lentil Stew

A few years ago, I read a story about a young Chinese boy who sold one of his kidneys to buy the latest iPhone. When I heard that story, it made me think of that story in the Bible about a guy who sold his birth-right for a bowl of lentil stew. For me, what those two stories have in common is that they talk about values. If you are willing to give away something essential, or very important, for a thing that will in no time become absolute or no longer exist, there is something wrong with your values. The purpose of philosophy is to learn how to make the distinction between what is essential and what is accessory. It's also at the core of many religious teachings and traditions, and what we find behind the writings of numerous thinkers and poets throughout the centuries.


I remember a very old story that I heard a long time ago that says a lot about values. It goes like this:


An old wise man was living alone in the jungle meditating and living a simple and frugal life. He was able to survive by growing fruits and vegetables in his small garden.One day, a thief who was lost in the jungle came to his hut and asked for hospitality. The old man gave him food and shelter for a few days until he was strong enough to find his way back to where he came from. Before leaving, the thief went through his benefactor’s belonging while the old man was working in his garden. He found a precious stone that was worth a lot of money. He told himself, “I’m going to ask the old man for the stone. If he doesn’t give it to me, I’ll just kill him.” He asked the old man for the stone and the old man gave it to him without hesitation.


A few years later, the thief came back to the old man’s hut. When the old man saw him, he said, “If you are coming for another precious stone, you’re out of luck. I already gave you the only one that I had .” The man said, “I’m not coming for another stone. I came back to get what you have that made you give me that precious stone so easily.”


Over the centuries, stories like this have transformed the hearts and minds of millions of people. They are short and simple, and yet they carry the seed of profound changes in the way people see themselves in relation with the people and the world around them. They teach us how to make that important distinction between what is essential and what is accessory in life.


It seems that people are sometimes reluctant to talk about their values because those values are often linked to an ideology or a religion that people tend to rightfully associate with the injustices and bad things that are still committed or that have been committed in the name of that ideology or religion.  A lot of people are also very careful not to impose their moral values on others because, knowing that they do not always live their lives in agreement with those values, they don’t want to be seen as self-righteous hypocrites.


If nobody is willing to transmit to the young ones the values that we inherited from the great philosophers and writers of the past, and to teach them about the wisdom of our religious traditions in spite of all their betrayals and mistakes, something else will fill the void. Publicity has a short and simple message that can be heard and seen everywhere, “If you are young, intelligent, beautiful and rich, you’ll be able to buy and enjoy all the stuff that you see online and on TV, and that will fulfill you and make you very happy.” That's how we end up with young people who think that a gadget is more important than one of their kidneys.


In a song called Putnam County, Tom Waits talks about young studs "bragging about being able to get more ass than a toilet seat."[1] That's normal for a horny teenager who is enthusiastically discovering and exploring his own sexuality to make bold and childish comments of that nature, but the United States of America has now a president who, not long before being elected, was bragging to a friend that because of his fame, power and fortune, it was so easy for him to "grab them by the pussy." What a pity! It tells a lot about the values of that man and the people who elected him. At his age, he should be more concerned about acquiring the depth and wisdom needed to hold such a position.


Our values define our character and what we really are. That's why it's so important to choose them carefully, and to do that we need to stop, reflect, meditate and learn a little bit about history. So many mistakes were made in the past by lunatic tyrants who had the wrong values and by the people who were so willing to follow them blindly on a road of misery and destruction.


To go back to that young Chinese boy, I'm sure that he thought he was going to be a lot happier with his new phone even with only one kidney. But what is he going to do a few years down the road when his stupid phone becomes obsolete, or when he becomes older and the only kidney that he has left starts acting up. Instead of an iPhone, he should have invested in a book that would have helped him acquire a little wisdom. He could have bought a collection of sayings by Confucius for only $5 on Amazon.

[1] Here’s the song on YouTube : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vG0t8oKcnkw



1 Poster un commentaire

A découvrir aussi

Ces blogs de Religion & Croyances pourraient vous intéresser

Inscrivez-vous au blog

Soyez prévenu par email des prochaines mises à jour

Rejoignez les 8 autres membres