Today’s Prayer to Passage will be from the book “Resources, Values and Development” by Amartya Sen.
Today I pray, “Dear God, Why do we follow the money? Amen.”
Following my prayer, I held the closed book in my hands and opened it to this passage on page 123:
“The Isolation Paradox:
Now, this individual faces a choice, let us say, between one unit of consumption now and three units of consumption in twenty years time. He knows, for some reason, that in twenty years he will be dead. He cares for the future generations, but it is not enough, let us assume, to make him sacrifice a unit of his present consumption for three units for the generation living in twenty years’ time. He decides, therefore, to consume the unit; but another man comes and tells him that if he saves one unit of consumption the other man will also save one unit. It would not be, by any means, irrational for the first man to change his mind now and to agree to save a unit. The gain to the future generation is much greater, and he can bring all this about by sacrificing himself only one unit of consumption. So he may, without any inconsistency, act differently in the two cases. This is the problem we may face in much larger scale in contrasting individual saving decisions with a political decision taken by the whole society. This paradox, which we shall refer to as ‘the isolation paradox’ for the rest of the paper, does not arise due to any inconsistency of values, but due to the differences of the nature of the choice involved in the two cases.”
First of all, I must extend a noticeable “hmmmm” to the fact that yesterday’s passage held themes of twenty years’ time and ideas of progression, improvement, evolution, expansion, and so forth. There is a “twenty years” pattern between yesterday and today. I’ll pay attention to this for a moment, which, for me, has come to represent anywhere between a minute and a lifetime.
Next, an exercise. I invite you to take a moment of your own (preferably about a minute unless you’d prefer to spend a lifetime pondering it) and imagine the top three situations in the entire world you view as the least lucky in this world of money. The top three impoverished situations you can imagine. Now, in this world of money and in keeping with your imagination, let us presume that you hold the chance of being born into one of those three monetary misfortunes in your next lifetime. Really sit with this now. Imagine being born into the very situation you pity the most.
Of course you would not, on any regular day, allow your mind to go there. That’s self-cruelty. And yet, what a perfect opportunity for imagination. We pay attention to so much of the horror and the fluff and the ridiculous around us. Sit with this one for a moment and allow it to change your economic way of thinking. Really really really really really. Really. And then count your blessings. You are very lucky.