The Perils of Success


My grandfather told me when I was a young boy to be humble.  He said, if I ever began to get full of myself to go outside on a clear night when the moon was absent and look up at the stars to gain perspective.

When I was born, my family didn’t have much money.  My dad worked for a trucking company where he started as a management trainee on the dock.  My dad’s father (the man who told me to look at the stars) was a high school science teacher and football coach and didn’t make much money.  But, my grandfather told me he decided to teach as opposed to going into business, because he felt he could make a difference in people’s lives.  My parents seemed to look down on that decision to some extent.  They thought he chose that profession because he experienced the Great Depression and teaching was a more secure path.  After all, why would one chose to make less money if one could make more in business?

At a very young age, prior to third grade, I lived in a nice little house in a nice little neighborhood in Ohio.  Kids played outside and there was a small forest behind the homes.  Our house was decorated modestly and filled with family photos and things that symbolized something about our life.  Everything seemed to make sense.

Time moved on and my dad progressed rapidly up the ranks.  When I hit second grade we moved to California due to my dad’s promotion.  He was promoted to the second in command for a large Fortune 500 company.  Eventually he got the top spot and we moved to a really nice house.  This was the house that was backed up against a beautiful nature preserve that I discussed in my previous post “Enigma”.

Along with my dad’s success came noticeable changes in my parents and what decorated the house.  The family photos and meaningful things were replaced by modern art-work and decorations that matched the paint, carpet, or furniture.  The meaningful things were stored away or hung downstairs in dark hallways or the laundry room or bathrooms.  My parents began to travel often, go to events, and wear nicer clothes.  I could see that they began to act and think like they had arrived.  I used to talk to my grandfather about how strange they are behaving and how I didn’t like the feel of the house.  I told him it felt more like a cold museum than a home.  He agreed.

Eventually I went off to college that wasn’t too far from my parents.  I could visit them on a weekend or during breaks.  While I was in college, my dad was let go by the board of directors.  Apparently, his decision to buy a large corporation took too long to integrate and turnaround the financial performance.

During my visits after this major event occurred, I saw my dad spending hours slumped in a chair watching TV.  Here was a powerful strong man who had lots of money, yet there he sat, utterly deflated, depressed, lifeless, surrounded by meaningless decorative art and things.  He spent decades of his energy, passion, and time in an entity that one day decided he was no longer needed.

I asked myself why doesn’t he go enjoy the fruits of his labor and travel, write, read, or whatever he may find of interest.  He has no economic barriers to pursue something that he may be passionate about.  But there he sat, in that same chair, slumped over watching TV.

And it was at this point that I realized his dad might have never told him to go outside on a clear night when the moon was absent and look up at the stars to gain perspective.  And if he did, perhaps my dad simply ignored his advice.

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19 thoughts on “The Perils of Success

  1. Fame or integrity: which is more important? Money or happiness: which is more valuable? Success or failure: which is more destructive? If you look to others for fulfillment, you will never truly be fulfilled. If your happiness depends on money, you will never be happy with yourself. Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.

    Lao Tzu (c.604 – 531 B.C.)

  2. Much food for thought here TC. Sometimes our Elders gain wisdom from their long years and pass it on, sometimes wisdom evades them and they have nothing to pass on except despair. The fulfilled dreams of parents often turn out to be empty phantoms and because they have lost the nourishing ground of life through pursuing wealth there is nothing left except to be entertained until death. If we can forgive and understand that they believed they were doing the right thing then maybe we can learn from their broken lives – I think that you have learned much TC from your own experience – thank you for sharing with us…

    • Your welcome. I think my dad was passionate about his job and the company and the wealth came with it. They are doing well and are quite comfortable:) But, I don’t think they realize or believe there are other alternatives or pathways that may be more fulfilling.

    • Well put, as always, Clinock. It’s very difficult, though, to accept such unconsciously given “gifts”. I struggle with that every moment. To overcome the failings of one’s parents, particularly when they prejudicially still cling to them as “right” and even dogmatically assert them as “the one and only way”, is a trying existential crucible that presses the limits of one’s spiritual resources. If only as the end approaches they had more questions rather than “answers”; but alas, this is not the case. Socratic they are not. I am not a forgiving person, but I do my best to accept what they have done and been, even if in my heart of hearts I find it unacceptable. It’s difficult . . . But what in Life ultimately isn’t?

  3. dragonstrand- you may be describing “authoritarian parenting” which I had and have revisited on google search to study again. “My way or the highway” or “There is no room for you to be thinking too in this house.” Such parenting separates, divides, and in a way conquers, instead of cherishing, listening, respecting, and sharing. The old “in order for me to be big, you must be small” routine. Some people deal with the “regime” by submitting to it and obeying authority as their way of coping in life, but perhaps at the cost of their unique self? Others become rebels or cynics and though creative may never stop reacting to the parents? Perhaps the trick is to rise above the parenting and see it for what it was, and becoming clear in your own mind that you are choosing another way that honors instead of divides? That gives as well as takes? Maybe it is possible to accept the few virtues of that parenting while knowing deep down that is not how you choose to be in the world, or how you have learned to see yourself- as fully deserving of better?

    • Thanks for these reflections, askcheeta. I was indeed subjected to said “authoritarian parenting”, which included physical abuse to “drive home” the roles. And you are correct–it is all about overcoming the vicious cycle rather than becoming the symptomatic victim of it.

      Cheers,

      ~DS~

  4. Did looking up at the stars make you humble?

    I stayed up late to lie out on the sidewalk this August and was treated to a spectacular view of the Perseid meteor shower. Awed? Definitely! It was magic! I think the sky makes me feel blessed more than humbled though, and probably just as much so in the daytime. I feel small compared to the vastness of space, but whenever I stare up, I always feel like we are very special to be at the center of it all. And then maybe that is humility.

    • Humility? Try hubris. If you think this post by “Tinc” has anything to do with us being “very special” and “at the center of it all” then you have definitely, once again, completely missed the point. But that is what you do best. It is your modus operandi and forte. Maybe one night you will wake up and instead of seeing a mirror in the starry sky you will see Eternity shattering your vain construction of existence.

    • I never feel like I am at the center…I feel like there is no center…It is a very uneasy realization for man to realize that this universe and perhaps other universes exist uncaring about out existence or what we do. But I always gain a sense of freedom from this basic principal, for I find it hard to understand why we do what we do and why I struggle with what we do. This is why I am so critical and negative from your perspective. I view our existence as unbound and limitless…yet we put ourselves in chains. We could learn a great deal by observing not only the inanimate freedom of nature, but also by observing the Orca the dolphin. They represent freedom to me. Such power and grace and one with their environment. They represent a challenge to the inanimate power and beauty…or they quite simply complement it. Then again…I am a Pisces:)

      Your element: Water

      Your ruling planets: Neptune

      Symbol: The Fish

      Your stone: Bloodstone

      Life Pursuit: To avoid feeling alone and instead feel connected to others and the world at large

      Vibration: Erratic Energy levels

      Pisces Secret Desire: To live their dreams and turn fantasies into realities.

      Description:
      Mysterious and alluring individuals, most Pisces are extremely talented, but even though they are gifted in many ways, they still manage to spend most of their lives battling “confusing” conditions. Pisces is the sign symbolised by the image of two fish. Their symbol depicts one fish heading upward, the other pulling downward. This mirrors how Pisceans are frequently torn between two pathways in life, or actually do live two very different existences at the same time.

      The number 2, is a very powerful number for them. This zodiac sign is acknowledged as being the Saint and the Sinner rolled into one; the trendsetter of fashion or art, the lost soul, the philosopher and the psychotic and the visionary. As a credit to them, considering their many vulnerable characteristics; Pisceans are incredibly adaptable and resilient. They are to be found leading the field in many diverse areas of life and many Pisces can be found represented amongst top business millionaires. On the other side of the coin, prisons, reform schools and all kinds of institutions statistically hold a high number of Pisceans too.

      The Piscean’s inner quest to explore their “ivory tower” syndrome can lead them into some most unusual and unlikely living conditions. Of all the signs of the zodiac, Pisces are the ones who end up in the most muddles over the years of their lives. They fantasize about situations, people and particularly romance – and because they spend so much time in their own form of ‘fantasy land’ this can catch them short in other more worldly areas. Because of this inner world of fantasy, Pisces people seldom perceive whatever is going on around them in its true light. They see life instead as they want to see it, coloring their view of the world in hues and tones far removed from its true reflection. No wonder this is the sign of both miracles and disillusionment. If you are a Pisces, be warned your emotions are a weak spot.

      One thing that plays havoc with your life is romance. When things romantically are going well for you, you are on cloud nine. When romance turns sour you land in a heap. Pisces often need to take lots of holidays (or time off) to recover from life’s many diverse pressures. You are the zodiac’s most sensitive sign, so you need to take extra special care of yourself. Nobody can beat you up, as much as you can beat yourself up within your own mind. In your purest form you are psychic, visionary and a guiding light to all who know you. But, in your “out of tune” state, you become depressed, obsessive and confused.
      Star Sign Compatibility

      How compatible is your star sign with another star sign?
      your fully- detailed astrology report no ordinary horoscope can provide.
      If you were born on the first or last day of a Sun sign, in astrological terms you were born on a cusp. If that’s the case, you will probably benefit from reading your own Sun sign and the Sun sign that ends or begins right before or after your date of birth. For example, if your birth date is 22 December, your Sun sign is Capricorn, but you probably have some Sagittarian traits as well

      • “I never feel like I am at the center…I feel like there is no center…It is a very uneasy realization for man to realize that this universe and perhaps other universes exist uncaring about out existence or what we do. But I always gain a sense of freedom from this basic principal, for I find it hard to understand why we do what we do and why I struggle with what we do. This is why I am so critical and negative from your perspective. I view our existence as unbound and limitless…yet we put ourselves in chains.”

        You are not the only David to ponder these questions. 😛

      • I was just curious if your grandfather’s advice worked for you, and that’s all I was asking. I think “sense of freedom” answers my question perfectly, so thank you.

        I’m a Scorpio. We supposedly offer each other respect and understanding. I don’t take horoscopes seriously at all, but I hope I always offer you those two things. 🙂

    • I don’t take horoscopes seriously either…but damn the general description seems to hit the nail on the head…crap! Yes, I always respect your opinion even if we diverge at times.

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