A Man Is Rich In Proportion To The Number Of Things Which He Can Afford To Let Alone Essays Example
It is only a deep thinking philosopher like Thoreau, who could explain the true meaning of life to people in a single statement like the one under discussion. “A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.” The true meaning of this quote is that people spend their entire life times searching for happiness and the riches to make their lives comfortable. However, in truth, the real riches lie in simplicity, for a simple man knows where the true wealth of a human being lies – it lies in spirituality, mental growth and emotional strength.
According to Thoreau, a man only needs a minimal of the material wealth to live his life. The more a man wants, less he is connected to his soul and reality. Thus, the life experiences of such a person are limited and thus, his spiritual and personal growth too is demented. This, even as makes the person richer materially, makes him poorer in truth. Thoreau was a Howard graduate and this clearly establishes the social background to which he belonged. Thus, it may be said that he chose poverty purposefully. Thoreau explains that he never owned more than ten cents or a bungalow or an estate. Nevertheless, he was considered by his friends as a realtor. The reason for the same is that he imbibed the whole of the scenery, farm houses within himself, in all their grandeur and frailty. In fact, once when he was on a lookout for a farm, he decided to hurry with the possession of the farm house, lest the farmer decided to make some improvements to the farm – cut out that hollow of the apple tree or removed those vines. Nevertheless, for the little time that Thoreau stayed there in that farmhouse, he imbued the scenery to such an extent that despite him leaving the farmhouse (on account of the farmer’s wife changing her mind about selling the farm), Thoreau still can reap the fruits the trees bear every year. Thus, while materially, Thoreau did not own that farmhouse, spiritually, the farmhouse became forever his’ because he accepted the farmhouse as it is, without needing to change anything with it at all. This is what Thoreau is trying to explain in his statement. A man is rich if he can accept the world around him as it is, without any need of change.
According to Thoreau, if a man can sit and enjoy his breakfast, instead of hurrying through it, real happiness could be found. Instead of worrying about the news every half an hour, if a man could simply let the world be around him, accepting everything and living his life at the pace of the world – the man would gain insights which will be richer than absolute material riches in the world. As is evident in the lines, “The morning wind forever blows, the poem of creation is uninterrupted; but few are the ears that hear it,” Thoreau believes that a person is reborn with the morning breeze. However, it is only few people who appreciate the freshness or rebirth that morning brings. It is only these people who are rich is true sense, for the rest are only running after what they perceive as true wealth, but which in truth is simply materialistic wealth – a sham, a veil in front of the eyes of a man – to keep him from seeing the truth.
Personally, I completely agree with the stand that Thoreau has taken in his life. It is my belief that materialistic hunger is the path most people take in a bid to find happiness. This path, however, is misdirection for true happiness lies in simplicity. True happiness lies in enjoying the sun rise, the morning breeze, the noise of a gushing river, the chirping of the birds, the smell of the lifting fog And is it not true to say that a person truly happy is the person wealthiest in the entire world? In paragraphs to follow, i have mentioned some of my personal experiences which have established the point that Thoreau had made above.
One other time, I had gone trekking on the Himalayas. The trek was extremely tedious and we were all walking on hard snow. At nights, we would make camps wherever we were. The mornings were especially beautiful, where the early morning sun rays would caress your cheek and the warmth of those would wake me up. The chill in the air, instead of freezing us, caressed us instead and made us alert. The sense of timelessness that persisted, with not a care in the world – no news to offer gossip material, no phones to disturb – it was all serene and pure, just like the Himalayas themselves. It was here, much like at that retreat, that I felt like I was breathing again. It felt so light, that feeling of weightlessness – almost as if I was being lifted to another, more mystical world.
The above two experiences are the richest experiences of my life and no other article, item or vacation has given me as much pleasure, and personal growth as the ones mentioned above. Much like Thoreau, I too understood that no amount of money can bring us the kind of happiness and insight into our living as being one with nature can.
Amongst some of my prized readings is a book by Somerset Maugham, The Razor’s Edge (1944). This book beautifully explains the trials of a soldier traumatized by war, who leaves the city and retreats in Himalayas in search of a higher meaning in his life. These trials and tribulations that he faces in Himalayas and how, ultimately, it is the solitude, the lack of comforts and material wealth, that brings him the peace he had craved for, is what makes for the first part of the novel. The second part of the novel is about the protagonist’s return to the society in a bid to save his friends from the clutches of materialism. How the world receives him and the way life goes on makes for the second part of the book. Here again, the very fact that lesser a man owns, richer his experiences are, is highlighted, as in the end, it is only the protagonist who is happy.
In more recent readings, the book, “The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari”, by Robin Sharma (1997), also works on the similar lines. Though it is a self help book, the book revolves around an extremely successful lawyer who quits at the peak of his career and goes to Himalayas in search of a new meaning in life. Much like the protagonist in Maugham’s book, Sharma’s protagonist too finds himself in solitude in midst of the nature and no possessions. He is aided by a cult of yogis who help him get in touch with himself through yoga, minimal speech and minimal consumption. In the end, he succeeds and rises above all human wants and needs, gains enlightenment and goes back into the world to guide more people into being possession-less and advertently, happier.
In most of the experiences, where personal and spiritual growth is prized, the person is considered wealthier than those having hordes of riches. The theme of minimum possessions is repeated time and again in several recounts of people into spiritualism and establishes the fact that people with least possessions are the happiest of the lot. It is apparent that the key to spiritual growth and happiness is to take every moment as it is, instead of worrying about the next target or upkeep of the present possessions. Thoreau understood this fact early in his life and decided to give up his aristocratic life, adopting a life of solitude.
He himself mentioned in his essay, “Where I lived and what i lived for” that it was best to live a life without any commitments and ownership. He, therefore, also hinted at living a life free from any emotional or material linkages. Thus, when he talks about the number of things a man can let alone, he is not only talking about material possessions, but also personal ones. The more a person holds on to a relationship, lesser his attention to other natural details becomes. Personal relationships only weigh a person down. The only relationship enriching for a man is the relationship with nature alone. Hence, when Thoreau says that “A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone,” Thoreau’s priorities and bent of mind can clearly be deduced and appreciated. I, for one, completely agree with Thoreau’s proposition.
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