Saturday, November 13, 2004

The Fisherman's Dream

The Fisherman's Dream

There comes a point in life when when we realize that there are only so much material things that we really need. Anything beyond that becomes either too costly to maintain or they begin to eat into other parts of our lives.

Material possessions always require maintenance. Books and furnitures have to be dusted; cars have to be washed and polished; jackets and gowns have to be dry-cleaned. Then we realize that after a while, it is quite difficult to manage and do everything ourselves, so we decide to hire a maid. We bank on the belief that if we earn enough money, we can afford to pay to overcome these inconveniences.

That's fine. But then another set of problem arises: you'll have to manage your maid. It is common these days to read horror stories in the papers about maids from hell. Though many are hardworking and well-behaved, every employer will still have to take the risk of entrusting his or her home and kids to a stranger.

Never mind if we have to go to ridiculous length of installing concealed video-cameras at home so that we can monitor our maids. I suppose these inconveniences are better than suffering the hassle of doing house chores or taking care of the kids ourselves.

But have we seriously considered whether we could do all these chores ourselves and do without maids?

Absolutely impossible, many would say. Both parents have to work. Only with double incomes can a family maintain their standard of living. We'd rather take our chances with maids.

But what is this so-called high standard of living? It's basically the capacity to acquire more and more material things in life--material things which we probably don't really need. It means getting trapped in the gridlocked traffic every morning to go to work, battling the same traffic in the evening only to come home and sit zombie-like in front of the TV to "de-stress" and spending weekends enduring shopping-cart jams at the hypermarket checkout counter. Is this a better life?

There are no right answers to all these questions. We choose the life we live. There are those who think that we should never chicken-out from the rat race and it is our life's mission to acquire material riches so that we can elevate our standing in society; there are also those who harbour the romantic notion that the happy life is one that is simple and self-sufficient.

I have a friend who used to wonder aloud if it is better leading the simple life of a fisherman. He spent a great of time in soul-searching, hovering between work and study, trying to decide what he wanted to do in life.

Today my friend is the founder and co-owner of a major public-listed company. He achieved all that through his own hardwork, self-belief, integrity and intelligence. I haven't met him for a couple of years now, but if I do bump into him one day, I'd like to ask him if he still harbours dreams of becoming a fisherman. Perhaps now, he can finally afford the "luxury" of becoming a fisherman.

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