Sunday, June 29, 2008

Back in Wyoming

JULY, 2005

I awake each morning to the sight of the majestic snow-capped Grand Teton as the sunrise splashes its orange colors from peak to base and never fail to reflect upon the transitory nature of our lives. Against such a backdrop, man seems puny and insignificant, and the great immortal mountain appears to shrug and smile at our futile effort to play out the tiny swath of time we are allotted in some meaningful and fulfilling role.

Silly fools, the great mountain declares, as it presides forever over mankind and all its follies and foibles.

This season a tragic event prompts even deeper reflection.

One of my neighbors, John Walton, was killed in an airplane crash just a few miles from where we live. He was reputed to have a net worth in the neighborhood of eighteen billion dollars. By all accounts he was a good and decent man. Yet all those billions could not buy him one more millisecond of life.

I will not be tempted to rage against the futility of having all that money. It was amassed through honest labor by John's father who created Wal-Mart and, like many a devoted progenitor, bequeathed the fruits of his labor to his children. Creative entrepreneurship is, after all, a great gift and for the most part it enhances and does not diminish our lives.

But I cannot resist asking some questions about the real worth of money. How much is enough? Is there a point where acquisition morphs into greed? Is the amassment of money the criterion of a successful life? Indeed, what exactly is the definition of a successful life? Or its meaning.

Every morning, I ask the mountain to answer these questions. The mountain answers with a cryptic craggy smile.

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