19 April 2023

The Richest Person
on the Face of the Earth

There is recurring debate and wonderment about who is the richest person in the world. Forbes magazine has been keeping track of the wealthiest on the planet and has been posting its Billionaires List since 1987. Names like Elon Musk, Warren Buffett, Jeff Bezos, and Bill Gates along with lesser notables appear on that list and in the media with respect to who may be the Kings of Green Club.

But, we think there may be a different way to look at who is the World’s Wealthiest and determine who is the Richest Person on Earth. If you agree with our premise, you may come to a surprising conclusion rather than the Usual Suspect.

There are always fresh perspectives waiting for our eyes to consider. Let’s start from a Wide Angle by focusing on incarnation in the 21st century AD. What a gift it is to be born into this era of human history. Being born in this time period, we have the potential to live many lifetimes during one. Then, we have the potential to accomplish more in that one lifespan. Short as it is.

Many societies living until recent generations could claim average lifespan of only 40 years. Ours is nearing close to twice that. So from that standpoint alone, most of us moderns get the equivalent of at least two lifetimes.

Nevertheless, I remember meeting people on the South Dakota prairie who had not traveled outside of the three counties which surrounded their abodes. The same thing might be said about some people who live in big cities. While the opportunities are available, many still only experience one quite common but useful life: day to day and year to year as millions have over the generations and centuries. Maybe that is simply their karma. But, maybe there are other possibilities.

Where I presently reside, the Hutterites still live simple lives as communal farmers. As opposed to the Amish, they do use motorized vehicles. But not computers – except for farm operations. Although cellphones are making inroads into their unusual-to-modern-eyes existences. I suspect few of the Amish and Hutterite people ever get to travel outside their native states.

Then, there is the other hand. A friend in her 80th year boastfully remarked of having made 50 different moves in her lifetime. That surely is not a record, but would be something nigh impossible in other time periods.

Still, we don’t have to be itinerants or vagabonds to experience the expanses of this vast learning ground called Planet Earth. Modern transportation and communications allow for contact with far stretches of the world and  its billions of human and trillions of animal and plant inhabitants to be available for our study and experience.

Then, the wonders of books and libraries expanded people’s horizons when Gutenberg developed his printing press in the 15th century. But now, computers and digital libraries allow for geometrically greater possibilities for study and learning. Billions of books are close at hand to most all of us in one form or another.

All sorts of opportunities surround us – and lie within us – if we only take the time to look for them in the midst of the vast number of distractions of the times. The people we meet, the events in our lives, the places we travel, the books we read can all bring us to recover the wonders of our past existences, to right the wrongs we have done, and help build a better world. Even to bring the kingdom of heaven to light in our very midst.

It seems as if it is all here right now within our reach, closer than our right hands. If we are about the Work, we can be assured that when we return next time there will be much more goodness to go around. Fewer wars, less need for armies. More opportunities to give and share and create.

Again being born in the USA in the 21st Century, all of us experience many kinds of wealth. Think of the simple amenities we take for granted each day which have been unknown to royalty a few generations past and still are in some parts of the world:

• potable water out of the tap – then hot and cold and iced on demand
• vast choices of foods – fresh, frozen, dried, canned
• sheltered comfort – a roof over one’s head
• warm or cool air at the press of a switch
• instant communication via phone or Zoom to most every part of the world
• ready transportation via car to take us here there and most anywhere
• entertainments by talents of all kind, again on demand

And, we have yet to directly mention personal relationships. Think how many people you and I can contact in our lives. How many friends, partners, groups we can join. How many intimates we can attract – or vice versa.

Then, consider for a moment – marriages. One lone marriage was the norm – except for kings and caliphs – for millennia. Now in the West, multiple marriages are probably more common than monogamy. That does not even broach other possibilities romantic relationships in our time.

We have to mention in this vein a one-time neighbor who was reported to have been married 13 times. She may have broken her own record by now. Thirteen was the number told several years ago. Judy even surpassed the male lead in Somerset Maugham’s humorous short story, The Round Dozen.

“But, what about the money, the financial part of riches,” you might ask,
“that set Musk, Buffett, Bezos, and Gates apart from the rest?”

We have two responses:

1) In the West, most all of us have more money pass through our hands in a few days than folks in past centuries did in months or years. While we live with thousands of dollars, people in third world countries today manage with pennies and pesos. We don’t have to be Warren Buffett to enjoy money and consider ourselves rich.

2) Then we say, “The truest riches are family and friends, happiness and love, nature and and beauty. They can not be measured or counted or collected.” But, these are the intangibles which we can take with us here there and everywhere – even when we part the physical plane.

Mother Teresa spoke decades ago of the material deprivation in the East and spiritual deprivation in the West. All we need really do is to look around at the wonders of nature, the gifts of life, and the abundance of creation to sense how rich we are even in difficult times and circumstances.

We are reminded of the words of baseball great, Lou Gehrig. Mr. Gehrig played seventeen years at first base for the New York Yankees. He was known as one of baseball’s most durable players and finest hitters. Yet, the Iron Horse was diagnosed at age 36 with a disease which took his life in two years.

Lou Gehrig

Nonetheless, Lou recognized how fortunate he was and had been as he gave his farewell address to fans at Yankee Stadium:

“For the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break [his illness] I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”

How lucky we are! How rich we are! Just like Lou Gehrig! Maybe more so!

Join me in shouting, “I consider myself the richest person on the face of the earth.”


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