I once met a girl – a young woman actually – who in the course of a conversation said that she wanted the best of everything, and was determined to get it. I have never been so horrified in my life.
Not at the young woman – she was a particularly attractive person – and not at the determination, because many people have determination…but at the thought of actually getting the best of everything. It seemed a terrible curse to utter, and I was momentarily in fear that the ghost of J.P. Morgan or John D. Rockefeller would appear and snatch her to perdition.
” The best of everything” argues that there is a best of everything. Everything includes fluffy kittens, gold limousines, and 6-star cuisine…but it also includes rickets, vermin, and minefields. Would you like to be responsible for the finest landmine field in the world?
And if there is a best, there must be a worst. We have all seen the worst television shows ever made and suffered the worst cold known to humanity, but consider the question using the landmine field again. If you were responsible for the worst one ever made would it be because it blew everyone up or because all the landmines failed to go off and they could hold an Irish Folk Dancing festival on top of it?
Coming away from the semantics, though, consider what you would become if you did indeed have the best of everything – there would be nothing better to which to aspire. All ambition would leave you. No delight would steal in to fill its place. Indeed, you would be constantly alert and distressed on three counts:
a. You would be looking to see that nothing better was in the possession of anyone else – making you a prying, purseproud pest.
b. You would be horrified if someone else DID succeed in finding a better thing than you had. And you would obsess about it.
c. You would constantly be afraid that your possessions were falling behind. You would be in a desperate race against yourself and your own fears. You would try to hoard happiness but never feel it.
Now the desire to have nice things is natural, and by extension the hope that we have the very best of some particular thing is a wonderful feeling. It still savours of some of the three objections, but as long as it is only in one small thing, we can generally manage to stay sane. If we do have this one ultimate thing in our lives we would be well advised to deal with the rest of life and most other things on a more relaxed and casual basis.
Far better to have adequate understanding, health, friendships, possessions, and aspirations and to keep on an even keel – we’re more likely to make port safely then.