Monday, September 17, 2012

Cows, Hammocks, and a New Old Adage

You have heard the old story about the islander laying coolly in the hammock on the beach? I heard it again from a group of foreigners this weekend here in the Dominican Republic.

The story goes something like this:
The American businessman finds an islander laying in a hammock on the beach. He asks the islander, "Why don't you go work today?"

The islander responds, "Why?"

"To earn money," replies the American shocked at the question.

"Why?" the islander asks dumbfounded.

"To be able to buy a cow." The American now felt very informative and educational.

"But why?" responds the islander, still at a loss for what the American was getting at.

"To sell, to earn more money to buy more cows!" the exasperated American shouts waving his hands.

"Why do I want more cows?" questions the profoundly confused islander.

"To be able to hang in a hammock all day!" is the final response.
Cue the laughter of the critics of Western productivity.

Relax, the old saying is telling us. Relax. Why work so hard? Why push so hard to do what we are already doing? And I get it.

However, it would be far different if the ending was: "To be able to help the less fortunate."

You see, the old adage is targeted toward people working too hard for...what? Nothing but the false reality that there will be a point when you have earned the luxury of non-productivity. But both the islander and the American have mistaken priorities in the old version of the story. In fact, if you look, they want the same thing.

But what about the era when people worked so hard for helping others? To improve the world for the less fortunate? To bring food to the hungry and medicine to the diseased?

If we agree with the old adage, we are bound by the old mindset. If we revise it, we may just do something great.


photo from Andrea & Tawny

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