06 August 2014

Not-so-grand thing No. 2: Wealth

Let's be honest, wealth is great, I mean, look at that face! It's great to fly in private jets, buy expensive homes with expensive cars parked outside, stay in the best hotels, buy expensive things and so on. Who wouldn't sign up for such a life? I certainly would. Our world makes much of wealth. The reality shows all have people competing for large sums of money and we all envy the people who get a chance to win the cash prize. The media certainly doesn't spare us. The most wealthy people in the world are put on billboards, talk shows, magazines and the Internet and we all think that once we have money, we won't need much else. Money does solve a lot of problems, that's for sure. You can get the best education, medical care, food, security, vacations, e.t.c., when you're wealthy. However, wealth is not as grand as it is made out to be. Believe it or not, there are times when the wealthy wish they were 'normal'.

The wealthy struggle with many things that the not so wealthy do not have to contend with. The wealthy have trouble finding genuine friends. No man is an island. Even the most extreme of introverts needs friends, someone to share struggles, hopes and dreams with, someone to be there during difficult and challenging times. The dilemma the wealthy find themselves in is how are they to differentiate between people who have genuine interest in them and people who merely want their wealth? Sure, they can pile their money into heaps and roll in them but a pile of money cannot be your companion, you need someone to talk to and someone to speak to you. Because of this, many people who are wealthy struggle with loneliness and even end up fighting depression because of it.

Another natural problem with being wealthy is worry. Most people spend their entire life stressing and worrying. The first half of their lives are spent struggling with ulcers because of the stress involved in trying to get rich and the last half of their lives, again, struggling with ulcers only this time worrying about how to secure the wealth they spent the first half of their lives stressing to gain. Not that great a life, is it? If you put your money in the bank, the bank might go bankrupt, if you invest in real estate you'll need to consider natural disasters, if you invest in the stock market, it might crush, if you put your money in bags and store it in your house, the rodents might get it. And so wherever you turn, there are risks to contend with. The wise thing to do is probably spread all the money around, put your eggs in different baskets as it were. However, that will certainly cause you stress. It's a lot easier to carry eggs in one basket than in several. And then, of course, there are thieves and crooks everywhere who will try to rob you both at night and in broad daylight. In the end, the money that should have relieved you, is now the cause of your high blood pressure. Always looking over your shoulder and trying to be a step ahead could very well be an occupation in and of itself!

There are many other things that make wealth not so grand, perhaps one more. Many wealthy people die miserable. Wealth has a way of making you feel invincible. Since it solves 90% of the problems that the average human being on earth has to grapple with, the wealthy often begin to think that nothing can really bring them down. And then they get an incurable disease or age begins to catch up with them and it soon begins to dawn on them that all the money in the world cannot beat that final enemy we must all face: death. Life is short and not many wealthy people will feel they enjoyed their wealth enough, by the time their time is up and so they try all sorts of things to prolong their life. They spare no expense, paying for the best medical and health care. But death respects no man. Doesn't matter if your a prince or pauper, when you time is up, your time is up. In the end most wealthy people die miserable, failing to come to terms with the fact that their time was up. Jesus told a story about this, a farmer who had a great harvest. In fact, the story is often titled, "The Rich Fool". He begun to make plans for the future when death came knocking on his door.

So, do you still want to become stinking rich? Be my guest. But as they say, "Careful what you wish for".

And [Jesus] told them this [story]: "The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.' "Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry."' "But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?' "This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God."
¬Luke 12:16-21

02 August 2014

Pool - The Gentleman's Game

It has been said that women say about 7000 words a day but men only 3000. I don't find that very hard to believe having associated with both. Men generally don't talk a lot. And that's what I love about pool. Just last evening I played three games without saying anything more than 5 words to the two gentlemen I played total. You walk into the place, buy your tokens and place them in the queue of tokens at the corner of the table. You watch quietly, waiting for your turn to come up. When your turn comes up, the champion (as he is normally called), who won the previous game, removes the pool balls and sets them up. The challenger (who was waiting his turn) is the one who gets to play first. And the game begins. No how-are-you's, no what's-your-name's, no where-you-from's just straight up business.

In fact, putting up wagers doesn't require any talking either. Yesterday, for instance, I won the first game pretty convincingly. When I looked up after setting the balls up I found that they guy who had come up to challenge me had placed K20 on the table. I shook my head and waved my hand indicating that I wasn't interested. "K10?", he asked, which I also declined and on the game went. Turns out I made the right call turning his wager down. He was superb. He won the next two games we played and I tapped out.

That's not to say there's no room for conversation. If you feel chatty and are fortunate to find yourself playing an opponent who doesn't mind a little conversation, you go ahead and chat.

I call it the gentleman's game because there's no arguing when playing pool. There's no need for a referee. And there's always a degree of mutual respect. Even the most pathetic player is not laughed at or scorned. Everyone just watches in silence. At the end of the game, courteous players offer a handshake saying, "Good game." And the great thing about it is, while it takes some level of ability to be really good at it, with sufficient practice, anyone can learn to play a decent game of pool! I do hate, though, the silent tension that sometimes accompanies the game. There are times when opponents kind of size each other up and have an attitude about them as they play but it never escalates beyond mere body language.

The trouble with pool particularly in Zambia is that it is generally associated with drunkenness because it is typically found in bars. That's probably true almost all over the world but more so here. At least in other countries, pool tables are found in homes and there are pool parlours. Both of these are rare in Zambia. And it is quite perilous for young teenagers because they go into bars intrigued by the game and soon pick up a thirst for what everyone seems to really be enjoying around them as they play away. It isn't long before they begin to drink as well. It's quite unfortunate but the average individual you see who is good at the game probably drinks as well.

Despite it's bad rep, I love the game. It's a great recreational game and surely is the gentleman's game!