This world of appearances is very strange indeed. Things are rarely what they seem. Masks are worn everywhere by men and women. The true state of things are rarely known to but a few. Riches are usually seen as a form of accumulation or abundance associated with a person, while poverty is obviously seen as lack in a variety of forms.
The man grasping unto his wealth is seen as rich. One perched upon a lucrative salary is also seen as lucky and rich. Another in the habit of amassing in order to experience that feeling called security is also seen as having made it. But, all these definition of riches are actually the opposite of what real riches represent.
True riches can really be quantified as the amount of things one can lose without freaking out. A man who has millions but will commit suicide if it suddenly disappears, is not rich and cannot feel that security which riches provide. This man with millions will always be nervous and tense, unconsciously or not, and usually he cannot understand why happiness eludes him even as he has to constantly monitor his assets in order to remain sane.
The regular poor guy isn’t any luckier. The fact that he has very little does not mean that he clings lightly to his little. The tenacity of the poor man over the sparse resources within his domain is remarkable. Such a one can cling to a disused pan to the point of biting off the ear of a person who wants to merely look at it.
I once met a man who used to be rich, but he became much richer when all believed he had become poor.
He used to run the local branch of a large international firm and had traveled to over 30 countries as a marketing executive. He was well paid, chauffeur driven and smoked the best cigars. Recession hit his company like a bang and as he was thrown out with a golden parachute, fraudsters homed-in on him, like flies to a dung heap, quickly stripping him of all his cash.
He sold his house, forward-paid all his children school fees, rented an apartment for his wife and kids and moved to another town to live in a one room apartment. He started trading in second hand clothes, in broad day light, much to the chagrin of his peers who avoided him as much as possible while using him for several beer-talk episodes – as an example of a man who fell from grace.
Over time, most of his rich and successful mates gradually died off. One suffered stroke. Another kidney failure. The other, cancer; of whatever organ the cancer chose. Another, beset of a cancer tired of feeding on breast milk , went for that delicacy called the gonads located somewhere in the scrotum, though by the time the doctors came to look, all they saw was a left-over prostrate. One hung himself over a failed business deal since he could not imagine life without his possessions. Another was ruined by liters of alcohol forced into a weak body container. Another died clutching the keys to his most prized possession, his car. Another died atop a woman as he was literally bent on leaving through the same pathway he came into this world. Another was consumed by so much long standing bitterness that the heat practically cooked all his internal organs. The rest grew so weary, cantankerous, sad and sick that one would wish they just died; for their own good.
But he kept getting younger. At the advanced age of 80 years, when he had no car and had to trek often, one could still notice the bulge in his cheeks that attested to years of smiling.
One day, I met him in a wedding ceremony he was officiating. Knowing his story, I waited to catch a discussion with him as I was curious to understand how he withstood the fall to the point of rising to such a height.
Again he smiled and told me that he’d been everywhere, smoked the best brand of cigar, traveled first class many times and visited many countries in his life. As he continued his narrative, his face shone as though lit from inside his head. He stated that here in the village without a car and electricity, there was also another joy that one could never get by travelling first class. The kola nuts, the palm wine and the stress-free life, he would not exchange. Then was good, now is good, was his view. Though the goods were of a different flavor for their time. He pointed out to me that these things did not matter much. Having acquired another perspective, he realized how pointless his interesting escapades involving money, property and women were. Judging from his new perspective though, his life now does not diminish the fun he had at the time. He went on to say that it was really fun to experience the fact that the world actually rotates. One moment one is up, usually for no clear reason one can ascribe to himself. The next moment one is down and the reason is not always clear, though one usually attempts to find one. He noted that the rotation was quite interesting so long as one was neither agitated nor attached.
His statement reminded me of the ferries-wheel, where the ride can be enjoyed regardless of the position of carriage.
By the time our discussion finished, I realized I had really met the kind of rich man that I could call a mentor.
Python and the Rainmaker…soon to be released.