Right after college, I was traveling with a friend of mine, a fresh business graduate to visit his uncle at a countryside farm. His uncle a middle-aged farmer was placidly sitting in his porch listening to his favorite music. The farm was modest but well maintained. My friend Sid, a rookie scholar soon saw his newly acquired knowledge at work and began to measure up the surroundings. He appeared to have grasped the situation pretty quickly & seems to have a business plan ready for his indolently retired uncle. He cannily approached his uncle and like a shrewd businessman rolled his dice down. “Uncle, you can’t afford to be sitting idle like this. This farm has a huge potential, you may not be aware of but you are sitting on a gold mine, all you need to do is just put in some efforts and no sooner you will be rolling in money. Matured with age, his composed uncle took a deep breath and serenely replied; Son, a seasonal crop on this farm fetches me enough to support me & my hobby for the whole year and I still put some aside for the future. This keeps me busy only for a period of time, while rest of the year I get to relax & enjoy doing what I like the most – listening to music & playing violin. My needs are met by little efforts & a seasonal crop, what am I going to do with all that extra money?
The new grad’s effervescence of idea was not to be deterred by what seemed to be a pessimistic response. Sid rolled his sleeves and continued to lay his plan down to turn seasonally utilized farm into a money-making machine. Uncle, you are only taking a single crop on this farm, it’s such a waste of resources. You can take at least three to four rotating crops.
Then what? Asked uncle.
Within few years, you’ll have more than you have ever earned.
Then what? Asked uncle again.
You can also use that unused portion of land to set up poultry or even raise some cattle. Combo of dairy & farming you can never go wrong.
Uncle parroted the same two words “then what”?
Then you’ll have so much money that you’ll be able to buy the neighboring farms and own almost everything your eyes can see from here.
Uncle continued his rant, then what?
Well you’ll be so rich that your money will work for you and then you can just relax in your rocking chair & listen to music or play violin all day.
So what am I doing now? Asked uncle with a grin!!!
You want me to go through that whole extra mile to be at the exact same place?
Sid had his jaw dropped in complete dismay! I chuckled on what I thought a practical joke played right in front of me
Driving back Sid summed his frustration about that incident at farm in few words. Uncle is crazy & cynical, yes after ten years he’ll be in the same chair but that chair could be gold-plated. He’ll be twenty times wealthier then what he is now. He just doesn’t understand the meaning & importance of wealth. In lieu of proper response I just nodded in affirmation. I didn’t agree whole heartedly either way though.
Today I think of that farmer’s cynicism and to some extent it does make some real sense. To Sid’s point yes in ten years he would have increased his wealth, his purchasing power. But again that would have come at a cost. A cost that could be in form of – deteriorated health, daily stress, burning bridges, and most importantly missing out on those important moments with loved ones! That’s the whole essence of farmer’s wisdom (or skepticism), which ever way you look at it. The important question here is where should the line be drawn? How much really is enough? What sacrifices are justified for that extra mile? Does that really add any value; personally or to the society?
In pursuit of happiness are we really walking that extra mile or merely circling one?