Avoiding The Deadly Sin Of Greed

By Greg O’Brien, Codfish Press

With May Day upon us, word last week that the nation’s economy was rebounding at a 4.8 percent pace seemed to take some of the edge off recent cries of greed that had been accelerated by distress calls of price gouging at the pumps, soaring oil company profits, an executive compensation package that netted out $114,000-a-day for playing corporate cribbage, and a president who doubts drivers are being overcharged for gas. The litany spawned a spate of defenders of the American way, challenging dumb-heads like me for suggesting restraint.

Even my nephew, an investment banker type in New York, weighed in. “No one cries when…others make hundreds of millions and billions off tech investments,” he wrote in an e-mail to me. “Why is running Exxon Mobil Corp. any different? This is the way capital markets work.”

He’s correct, but that’s just the point, a jarring footnote to Gordon Gekko’s address to the covetous Teldar Paper stockholders in the 1987 movie "Wall Street," a bleak commentary on our collective desire for material wealth or gain, ignoring all else. “Greed is right,” the high-flying Gekko preached in dialogue that is now cliché but every bit as relevant.  “Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all its forms—greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge—has marked the upward surge of mankind.”

Check the altimeter, folks. Many of us today are flying upside down. Present company included. I’m strapped in with the rest of them. Some have more wisely chosen other means of transportation, and are role models to consider, at least in their outlooks. For example, Barry Hynes, former president of the Boston City Council and son of the late Boston Mayor John B. Hynes, has been devoting his life for years to helping disadvantaged children from South Boston to Rwanda, establishing tuition-free schools and programs. “The world tells us to accumulate wealth, as much as we can, but that’s robbing us of great possibilities,” he says in a Boston Irish Reporter profile. “I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to die with any money in the bank.”

Neither does selfless County Cork-born Fr. Daniel J. Finn, who has pastured St. Mark’s in Dorchester, the church where Rose Kennedy and her father “Honey Fitz” once worshipped. “You have to meet people’s needs before you can preach to them,” he said last year in an interview. Finn tells the story of a spider that lay on the flat of his back with his feet in the air. “What are you doing down there?” a man asked the spider.

“I’m trying to hold up the sky,” the spider responds.

“That’s ridiculous,” the observer replies. “How can you do that?”

“Well, one does what one can,” says the spider.

But to do what one can, one must first open their eyes, cautions naturalist, friend and writing legend John Hay, the author of 16 books on nature and man. “Sometimes I think many of the world’s problems could be solved if people just stepped outside and looked around,” Hay, who lives up the street in Brewster on Dry Hill, notes in David Gessner’s new work, The Prophet of Dry Hill. “…It’s hard for people to get the idea these days.”

Get it or not, one way or another we are all spiders on our backs. The difference is whether we are resting, or holding something up—eyes wide open.



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