The unquenchable thirst for wealth

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The unquenchable thirst for wealth

A man in the Qi Dynasty during the Warring States Period left home early one morning. He was heading for the marketplace when he stumbled upon a gold store. The allure of the gold drew him into the busy place. After loitering around suspiciously, he began filling his pockets with gold and jewelry, as if it was the most natural thing to do.

As customers looked on bewildered, the man finished filling his now gold-laden pockets and casually walked out. After the authorities were alerted and a policeman had caught the brazen thief, the officer was so amazed that he had to ask the man why he stole the gold while so many people were watching.

The man’s answer was even more surprising. “Were there people there? When I was stealing I didn’t see anyone.”

The anecdote is from the book “Lie Tzu.”

It is often that one is so bewitched by something that he cannot but act rashly. Sun Tzu said, “If one’s mind is not settled, one cannot discern black from white, nor hear loud drums being played in front of him.”

There is another saying that if one’s eyes are covered with leaves he cannot see a mountain, and if one’s ears are plugged with beans he cannot hear thunder. If one’s greed makes him blind, he becomes like the man of the Qi Dynasty who took the gold without thinking about the situation and possible consequences.

The recent Park Yeon-cha scandal reminds me of this story. Those involved wanted so much that they couldn’t handle their greed, which in the end brought about their downfall. Those ensnared in the scandals include former senior government officials and a chairman of a large company. They didn’t need to be greedy, but they weren’t satisfied with what they already had.

There is another famous saying, often found inside public toilets: “The blue mountain tells me to live in silence and the blue sky tells me to live with integrity. I will put down love and my own mind and I will live like a breeze.” It is from a collection of quotations from Venerable Nadong of the late Goryeo Dynasty.

“Wealthy people are greedier” is another common saying in Korea. Those who have tasted wealth and glory want more. Leaders in our society who have difficulty controlling their greed should put up Nadong’s saying in their own bathrooms and meditate on the beauty of emptying their minds.



The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Yoo Kwang-jong [kjyoo@joongang.co.kr]
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