Friday, September 20, 2013

A Neglected Piece of Me

Not many people know this about me, but one of my favorite books is 'The Art of War' by the ancient Chinese General Sun Tzu.  Every once and a while, I listen to this classic on audio while doing work, and sometimes, it causes me to ponder different things about my life. Tonight, what I take to ponder from The Art of War is a commonly added side note from the philosopher Tu Mu that implies there are five types of men in this world:

The employer, the brave man, the wise man, the stupid man and the covetous man.

These five types of men are very simply defined in that the wise man delights in establishing his merit, the brave man loves to show his courage in action, the covetous man is relatively quick at seizing advantages, the stupid man fears nothing, and the skillful employer knows how to utilize all of these men effectively.

At different points in my life, I believe I have taken on the roles of each of these men.  I have been brave, I have been wise, I have been stupid, and I have even been an employer. However, tonight I wonder about the covetous man. Knowing I have a birthday with a zero in it next year, I look back on my life and I look at my present lifestyle. I look at where my bank account and investments are and where I really want them to be.  I look at my successes, failures and foreseeable prospects. I also look at (for better or worse) the lives, lifestyles and prospects of the people I regularly see and deal with; and I wonder...

Should I be doing more to nurture the covetous man in me?

I know, covetous is such a dirty word in the Western world. However, when having conversations with some of my Chinese friends on the topic of growing up, I am occasionally struck as to how little emphasis was put on monetary success and seizing advantages in my upbringing by comparison. It's as if there was one set of tools in my my mind that was neglected and left unsharpened until noticed in adulthood. Of course, anything along the lines of behaving selfish or covetous is considered a sin in a white middle-class Judeo-Christian environment... but those teachings also profess that no man is without sin and to deny a part of ones self is to effectively deny the whole.

Is either perspective really so black and white?

What do you think?
Does someone need to be really "covetous" sometimes to excel in this world?

...and how does one go about honing their "covetousness"?