Our personal growth obsession has reached such unprecedented girth it is spilling all over the internet. We feast at the trough of mirages without ever questioning the motivation of those who make a living preying on our individual and collective insecurities. As we surrender our eyeballs, we relinquish our critical thinking faculties; we take the (click)bait of those fishing for fools online. Before we know it, we’ve bought a $50 ebook, signed up for a course ran by enterprising people without credentials or expertise, and subscribed to a $250 a year newsletter.
If random folks like us grew fame and fortune from scratch then we are willing to pay hand over fist for access, for a glimpse behind the scenes and a sneak peak at their magic recipe. Not for one minute does it occur to us that we are the main ingredient of their success and that greed, both theirs and ours, enables it. We desperately covet all they have and are so impatient that we hand over what little we have in the hope we might shoot to superstardom by osmosis.
We pay for the privilege of having our eyeballs harvested by people whose only stock-in-trade is flashing our cash as few of us have realized we are the ones picking up the tab, hosting and funding the dreams of those unscrupulous others instead of working on ours. So much so that when they tell us they’re self-made, we believe and admire them.
We let them tell us and show us what success looks like, quantifying human worth in clicks and bucks that only ever benefit one person, and that person is never us. The bigger the ego, the bigger the payout; greed becomes both aspiration and inspiration as we choke on envy. And our hearts lay abandoned by the wayside like broken compasses that have outlived their usefulness.
Greed is the guru telling us what to do, where to go, how to use human eyeballs like ATMs and vanity mirrors to boldly grow where no human has grown before. Instead of tapping into our life experience to connect with others, we wring out as much pathos from it until it loses all meaning and becomes a caricature of humanity.
Instead of documenting our trials to dispel isolation and offer solace to others, we build a fortress for the self. And we make sure the drawbridge is up and the moat filled with the corpses of all those who dared push back against us, who dared question our ways in public. Under the guise of extending a helping hand to others, we take everything the outstretched hand offers before slapping it away while it remains desperate to hold ours. As the ego grows, the heart knows it will face defeat under the ruthless regime of individualism so we teach ourselves to silence it.
Competition means the winner takes it all while collaboration shares therefore it is anathema to greed as greed doesn’t care about others. Rather, greed helps itself to everything and is never satisfied; the more it gets, the more it wants until it turns into self-obsession. We cannot stop it even if we wanted to so we chain ourselves to our devices, churning out inconsequential content 24/7. The heart hinders; greed is our guide now, gloating about its net worth and regurgitating the same plea of “gimme, gimme, gimme”.
Greed clacks and clamors constantly as hearts whisper and wonder whether there might be a better way to live. If we accepted that worth is inherent to humanness rather than a dollar figure, would it change the way many of us approach our all too brief existence? What if we reframed every day as a gift that accrues value the more people we share it with, might hearts crippled by individualism regenerate? If we came together and put our combined creativity at the service of society, what might we achieve?
The whole is always stronger than the sum of its parts, whatever the context; look at the European Union! What better example of people transcending differences and coming together for peace is there currently in the world? We don’t even have a common language and yet here we are, the result of opening our hearts and minds, our homes and borders to our neighbors and forging an alliance that endures.
And what about the global communication network with worldwide reach and limitless potential? What about social media enabling us to build bridges and shrink the world until it becomes portable and fits inside our pockets? What do we do with the technology freeing us from arduous physical labor so we might focus on growing our minds to meet our needs?
Instead of thinking out loud together how best to address inequalities and discrimination, we think alone how best to serve ourselves. We purposely inhabit airtight echo chambers, becoming kings and queens of our niches. We revel in micro-celebrity, pandering to an audience of yay-sayers who worship and covet our branded greed. To be humble, to be discreet, and to dissent is to stray, to fall out of step with the zombified masses lusting for lucre and yet how else can we save ourselves? How?
The atomization of society is such that the girth of our wants takes precedence over the valor of our hearts; to want is to belong so we cheer one another on to always want more. We enlist the services of bloated egos to teach us how to grow our own greed and egg us on as aggressively as possible while grieving the death of fellow feeling. And we do not even see the paradox, the irony, the disconnect. We could, if we wanted, crack ourselves open so we might grow our hearts and remember what it means to be a human in a world alongside others.
Adrift in an ocean of materialism, we acquire and hoard possessions to placate the absence of love and the loneliness eating away at our psyches. We turn our diagnoses into identities and our illnesses into security blankets so they might define us because our hearts are dying and we have forgotten how to use them. We offer them up as sacrifices onto the altar of capitalism; we pawn our present to secure a future of abundance, unable to see we already have so much.What if instead of obsessing about growing our egos, we chose to grow our hearts and nurture those around us as well as our shared humanness?
Love is our only true wealth; it is also the only everlasting building material at our disposal and accrues worth the more of it we share. Has the time come to rescue our hearts from the clutches of greedy hucksters and use our imagination to counter greed with generosity of spirit? How about we give it a go?
I’m a French-American writer, journalist, and editor living out of a suitcase in transit between North America and Europe. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.