Pilgrim Road Blog Photo

Pilgrim Road Blog Photo

Thursday, January 20, 2011

"Greed is good." ~ Gordon Gekko, Wall Street

Dear friends,
If you've never seen the movie "Treasure of the Sierra Madre", get on your Netflix que and order it up.  (Thanks to my dear nephew serving in Afghanistan, we've got Netflix for the whole year!)  Starring the inimitable Humphrey Bogart, this movie is the consummate example of the devastating power of greed.  Bogie plays an American expatriate in Mexico, who gets wind of a shot at a gold stake, and the rest of the story documents his downward slide into the pit of hell.  It's really a great picture.  I got to thinking about it again while David and I were studying the California Gold Rush.  Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to strike it rich.  Then I get educated on those who have made a fortune the fast, easy way,  and I see very few who weren't ruined by it one way or another.  Most likely I couldn't handle the stuff. 

The comedic portrait of greed is depicted in all its hilarity in another classic for a long, snowy Saturday afternoon..."It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World".  Please find a few hours to watch this one if you're feeling blue.  The bumblers in this classic include Spencer Tracy, Ethel Merman, Phil Silvers, Buddy Hackett, Mickey Rooney and a host of other stars, some with cameos (like the 3 Stooges!).  Greed lands this group of goofballs in some spectacularly stupid situations, and in the end...well, I just can't give it away.  You'll laugh till your gut hurts, especially when Ethel Merman gets shaken down for a set of keys.  But as usual, I digress...

Is there ever a time when greed is good?  Since there lives within the human soul a craving, a longing, an endless call for something more, mustn't there be a satisfaction for that deeply primal desire?  Greed for material things, or power, or control all seem to end in disaster, either physically, emotionally or spiritually.  There can be no doubt though, that mankind is thirsty.  Desperately thirsty for something to bring on the thing that the scripture points to as being at the bottom of all this want.  The thing we really want is joy.  So I got to thinking that maybe greed is not bad, only the object of our greed.  C.S. Lewis puts it perfectly (as he usually does):

"Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak.  We are half hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.  We are far too easily pleased."

I think this captures what I'm trying say.  There is a right answer to our innate "greed".  The Great One Himself doesn't chasten us for our longings in and of themselves. But He knows the folly of our looking for satisfaction anywhere but in God.  All the wonderful gifts of this physical world are a blessing, something to be grateful for, something to share, something to enjoy.  But they lose their savor so quickly, don't they?  The next fashion, a different vacation, some new technological toy - none of them do the trick.  The misdirected greed remains.

While you make your way on the pilgrim road today, you will most likely get hungry.  Not for a sandwich.  For that "something more", or should I say "Someone more" you were created for.  He is rich beyond all measure, and generous too.  He gives millions of temporal blessings, but what He really wants is you.
And what you really want, what Bogie's character really wanted, couldn't be satisfied by all the gold in all the ancient Aztec burial grounds.  I'm reminding myself while I remind you.  Get out of the slums.  It's time for a holiday at sea...

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


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