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The True Source Of Greed


“How much of the ugly does it take to substitute for a lack of the beautiful? How many adventure films does it take to compensate for a lack of adventure? How many superhero movies must one watch, to compensate for the atrophied expression of one’s greatness? How much pornography to meet the need for intimacy? How much entertainment to substitute for missing play? It takes an infinite amount. That’s good news for economic growth, but bad news for the planet. Fortunately, our planet isn’t allowing much more of it, nor is our ravaged social fabric.” ~ Charles Eisenstein, The More Beautiful World Our Heart Knows Is Possible

Have you ever had an experience of true connection to another living being or with nature? Maybe you were taking a road trip on a beautiful road with your best friend, you had that perfect tune on the radio, and you shared your dreams together. Or maybe you were drifting through the forest alone but not really feeling alone at all – you felt “oneness” with the environment.

Think back to one of these moments in your life. Tell me, in that moment, did you want to go shopping? Did you have an appetite for junk food? Did you feel like “getting wasted?” Were you missing your favorite soap opera or sporting program? Did you feel like you were lacking any material possession whatsoever?

When I think back to these moments in my life, the only thing I wanted was for the moment to continue. I felt calm and content, full of gratitude simply for the experience of being alive. I had everything I needed in that moment – the loving attention of my friend, the gentle grounding of the sand between my toes, or the embrace of my dog after a long walk through the park. I was content and happy with all that I had, even if I didn’t have any money in my pocket. What I had was invaluable.

Let us pause for a moment now and think back to a different time in our lives – a time when we felt that we needed something – a new iPhone, those amazing $700 pair of shoes at Bloomingdales, maybe just “to get away.” How do you feel in these moments? Do you feel anything remotely resembling the feeling of true connection? If you are like me, you might feel like something is missing in your life, like there is a void within longing to be filled.

Modern consumer culture tells us the answer to that void is to buy something – anything. Advertisers know you are feeling that void because they promote that void. For decades, the Mad Men have been telling you that you aren’t good or happy enough and all you need to be happy is to buy their product. Perhaps one of these situations sounds familiar:

It is Friday night and you have a hot date. You are looking through your closet to find that perfect outfit except none of the two hundred different articles of clothing you own will suffice. It is either last year’s fashion, too big or small, the wrong color, whatever. So you head out to buy something new. You arrive at the store and feel excited because you know a safe connection will be made to a new object and you will feel good again.

Or maybe you’ve had a long day at work putting out fire after fire, dealing with all of your annoying co-workers, wishing you could escape it all. You get home and you are exhausted. Your spouse asks you about your day which, at this point, sounds way too much like your loud cubicle mate chatting with his girlfriend about their vacation plans on the phone all day. You just can’t take it anymore so you throw a fit, get in your car, and head to the nearest watering hole. There, you know, a connection with the whiskey will be made and you will feel good again.

Here, the root source of greed reveals itself. Whenever we feel disconnected from the world, we have a hunger for a connection – to anything. If this hunger is not satiated, it creates an emotional wound that festers. To protect that wound, we develop walls to keep people out because we are so fragile from years of not being heard that we don’t think we can survive another disappointment.  “At least the material good won’t betray us,” we think. We don’t realize that the material goods do betray us by failing to deliver the intimate connection to another being we all long for. This is why you can have a hundred pairs of shoes and still feel like you need more. No material acquisition can substitute for the experience of true intimacy and connection. But they can provide moments of feeling connected.  If one has enough financial means, it may even be possible to string enough of those moments together to be completely unaware of the true need for connection underneath.

You see, it may not seem like it to those on the outside but many wealthy people are suffering. Because they pay for everything, they have few people in their lives that are there because of a true connection. Their connections are bought and so they are never real.

Wealthy people also are not given permission to complain about anything. Society expects them to be perfectly happy and if they aren’t, they are judged harshly. You may even be judging me right now for offering empathy to them. This judgment makes finding experiences of true connection nearly impossible. Instead of connection, they are offered only conditional approval based upon acting or performing a certain way. They never get to live their authentic lives. In this circumstance, greed is nothing more than a futile attempt to relieve the very real pain of caused by a lack of real, authentic connection to the world.

Lee Daniels’ The Butler” told the story of those who served the rich for money and they spoke of two faces — the face of subservience that doesn’t intimidate the people he serves, and their real face. We all need to interact with each other’s real face in order to experience true connection. One easy-but-not-so-easy thing anyone of us can do if we really want to reduce the amount of greed in the world is to show our real face to everyone we come into contact.

So when we see people acting greedy, let us not antagonize them even further by telling them that they are a horrible, uncaring human being that needs to be banished from the planet. Instead, if we really want to eradicate greed in the world, let us offer our sincere attention, compassion, kindness, and friendship to those who do not know what they need.  Let us offer them an experience of true connection. These are gifts that can’t be purchased with money, yet they are essential for the true, lasting happiness of any human being. We must meet the real need underneath the greed.

The True Source Of Greed
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13 Responses to “The True Source Of Greed”

  1. John Halderman 1/1/14 6:11 am #

    I agree with your assessment of where greed comes from. I think this separation is one of the two possible foundational operating perspectives, Oneness or separation. From either of these, stems all of our further perceptions, interpretations, concepts, thoughts, beleifs and behavior.
    As Einstein put it, Is the universe friendly or hostile?
    And selfishness, which seems to be the basis of gree and all human problems, is derived from separation.

  2. navdeep 1/9/14 6:54 am #

    a wonderful website.. keep up the brilliant work.. the content is so apt.. so good to know we’re finally realising something is not right in the world… a different kind of thinking is needed to make sense of this universe

  3. Dietmar Wessel 1/10/14 11:45 pm #

    Hi, I enjoy your site & agree with many of the philosophies applied, however in my opinion there is too much focus on the perception that people who appear to have wealth are superficial and not happy.

    Wealth is subjective: how much is is too much & how little is too little? I respect people who have, with honesty & integrity, made a secure life for their family. In our western culture that we live in our governments won’t allow us all to live in the parklands & wash in the river as we do when we go camping. Too many rules are made to protect ourselves from ourselves by wrapping us up in cotton wool so we don’t get hurt & over policing / governing & controlling most of us.

    I feel that technology has a lot to answer for, just like this Facebook which has me on my bum doing this instead of walking the dog. Just as someone wasn’t walking the dog when they created this great awareness site Sustainable Man. Technology and man make production robots who have made many people unemployed, even phone systems that have done away with the receptionist, not a human in site. And what happened with the paperless office which was meant to save the forests?

    Mankind is just the wrong term for us, as I see most are very unkind, and that includes those with lots & those with much less. Watching the news of an evening and seeing countries like Syria whose own people turn on each other, neighbour killing neighbour because of a religious belief.

    I am lucky – I and my family do not live with a daily threat of death as many on this planet do. I think most people just want to live in a safe secure environment with enough food & housing & opportunity for their kids to grow up healthy and happy. However, people always seem to want just that little bit more: if we have one slice of bread we want something on it & then more water. If we have one goat for milk we then want another so we can sell or trade the milk for other goods. It just snowballs from there. Next, we see a neighbour who has three goats can send his child to school; with four goats I could send all of my kids to school. And on it goes.

    The poorest families in the poorest countries have the most children in the hope that the children will grow to help provide for the family. But unfortunately they are too poor to properly feed and provide for the children in the first place.

    Most greed actually starts with need. A need to provide food and shelter to our loved ones. Poverty is subjective, just as wealth is. We compare our life circumstances to those around us. I understand your point that people should be satisfied with less, but what is less? Less than what? At what point does anyone define that they have enough? What is “enough” for one is not enough for another. Perhaps we all just live in a bubble with mirrors.

  4. QRiddler 1/12/14 4:11 am #


  5. Matthew Kuehlhorn 1/15/14 11:25 pm #

    I agree. The attention makes relationship sacred again. Yet, it is a step in the right direction to truly changing the system. The system of money, I believe is causing a greed as the system is designed to grow without limitation.

    Great article.

  6. Marielle 1/16/14 1:18 am #

    The more senses we use when interacting the stronger and vivid memory and neuron connection. This society is not ment for us to grow up, to take personal responsibility over our active choices. It dont let us see the destruction we create by enhancing the bottle feeders keeping us ocupied with junk. We need to make food from scratch and learn what nutricion is about, not taking evrything for granted. Take the power of our responsibility back to us. To learn, to interact, to experience. We live in a womb of shit, full of excrements, pollution, destructions. Its time to come out and face the world! Take your responsibility back! Learn from your mistakes and grow you own mindtree from others seeds!

  7. Frederic 1/16/14 1:25 pm #

    You guys are amazing… Everything you post, write about, share, is spot on and profound, and just what Humanity needs right now… thank you, and keep up the good educational work, we’ll all grow up thanks to people like you…

  8. Cocoy777 1/19/14 1:46 am #

    I believe that material wealth is safe (and which I recommend)…. if we have spiritual wealth (love and wisdom) as its basis.

    God bless.

  9. myriam 3/21/14 12:47 am #

    So true! Thanks for sharing!


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    […] “How much of the ugly does it take to substitute for a lack of the beautiful? How many adventure films does it take to compensate for a lack of adventure? How many superhero movies must one watch, to compensate for the atrophied expression of one’s greatness? How much pornography to meet the need for intimacy? How much entertainment to substitute for missing play? It takes an infinite amount. That’s good news for economic growth, but bad news for the planet. Fortunately, our planet isn’t allowing much more of it, nor is our ravaged social fabric.” ~ Charles Eisenstein, The More Beautiful World Our Heart Knows Is Possible – See more at: Sustainableman […]

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