Things Taken for Granted

Psst. You might be interested to know that I am richer than Croesus. Much richer, in fact.

So are you, which I guess means it isn’t boasting to write, just among ourselves, about our astounding wealth.

Admittedly, our tableware isn’t solid gold – at least mine isn’t – but, winter or summer, we have fresh fruits, and meats or fish of our choosing. Sweets, too, tickle our tongues – if anything, in too much profusion. Did Croesus ever taste sushi, French wine or chocolate ice cream? I think not.

Our bodily wastes disappear with the press of a lever. We drink and bathe in clean water. Our clothes are soft and, as a general matter, neither they nor we stink. In the Lydian’s day, none of these things – except maybe soft clothes for the king – would have been true.

The buildings we live and work in are tight and temperature-controlled. Heat wouldn’t have been much of a problem to Croesus, it’s true, but no numbers of slaves or courtiers could have cooled him like an air conditioner does us on a day like today.

As to seeing the world: we can fly – higher, faster, and a lot more safely than Croesus’s Cretan neighbor Icarus – and visit places unimaginable to the monarchs of old. For more local trips, our cars travel faster than any team of horses, tirelessly. Our rides are smooth and inside our metal and glass bubbles, angelic – or devilish, if we’re in the mood – musicians can be heard performing whatever songs we choose. Match that for travel in comfort, old boy.

We are not likely to long feel the kinds of pains that were once an unavoidable part of everyday life – even for kings. Think: dentistry.

And as to personal dignity: we’re free – free to choose our individual paths in life, our leaders and our style of governance. Ok, so Croesus probably wouldn’t have much liked those freedoms, at least not in others – but I would argue that our freedoms ennoble us more than kingly powers did him, because his desires were achieved based, inevitably, on threats of force rather than mutual agreement.

Finally, we can expect to live about twice as long as poor old Croesus – or even longer, if we don’t eat or drink to excess, or smoke or become addicted to drugs. We have twice as much time to enjoy all the things that the richest of kings couldn’t have bought with all his treasures – and to savor the less tangible joys of life.

So in virtually every material respect, and I think in personal dignity, we are unimaginably richer than the richest kings of yore. Pity them – for all their gaudy power and their shiny trinkets, by today’s standards their lives were, to crib from Hobbes, “poor, nasty, brutish and short”

We, on the other hand, are singularly blessed, though we often seem to forget it.

M.H. Johnston

3 comments to Things Taken for Granted

  • KH  says:

    Nice! Attitude of gratitude – so nice

  • Dennis Paine  says:

    As uplifting as the speech I listened to yesterday. We do have many blessings to count.

    Thank you, Mark.

  • John Primm, MPM  says:

    You have a profound gift Mark. Would that it was my ‘fate’ to have helped you spread your words.

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