Importance of overcoming greed

Poverty wants much; but avarice, everything, said Publilius Syrus a Roman author of the 1st century.

True, it is natural for a man to be in perpetual need.  But to live in continuous greed is a sign of weakness. One, that is sure to spell doom if not overcome. Leo Tolstoy once wrote a story that gives the sublime message that destruction awaits a man when he is overtaken by greed.

The story is about a successful farmer, who was not satisfied with his lot. One day he received a novel offer. For 1000 rubles, he could buy all the land he could walk around in a day.  The only condition was that he had to be back at his starting point by sundown.

Early the next morning he started out walking at a fast pace. By midday he was very tired, but he kept going, covering more ground. Well into the afternoon, he realised that his greed had taken him far from the starting point. He quickened his pace and as the sun began to sink low in the sky, he began to run knowing that if he did not make it back by sundown the opportunity to become an even bigger landlord would be lost.
As the sun began to sink below the horizon he came within sight of the finish line. Gasping for breath, his heart pounding, he called upon every bit of strength left in his body and staggered across the line just before the sun disappeared. He immediately collapsed, blood streaming from his mouth.  In a few minutes he was dead.

Afterwards, his servants dug a grave. It was not much over six-feet long and three-feet wide!

Leo Tolstoy titled his story as, “How much land does a man need?”

The above story mirrors the state of the world today. “Give me more,” is the mantra of the millennium. This mantra is however an obstacle to contentment. For, when more is wanted, the innumerable blessings that life bestows in its path can never be appreciated. This will breed such dishonourable traits like self-indulgence and egoism. Besides, greediness is a hindrance in being altruistic to our fellow human beings. 

Greed takes various forms in our society. From greed for material possessions to greed for self-importance, it poisons a man and eats him to a point of self-destruction.  Among the various ways of overcoming greed, the most effective method is to develop a sense of gratefulness towards all of life’s many blessings.

Looking at the sunny side of life and celebrating life with all of its blessings and trials will eliminate greed from one’s inner self. Surly then the world can echo satirically with Leo Tolstoy, “How much land does a man need?”

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