I ran into a chum tonight quite by “accident” and both took time to update each other’s lives as it had been a long arc of time between connections. My friend is in real estate and purchases old homes, fixes them up and resells them for a tidy profit. He was telling me about a house he had just closed on, its previous owner obviously a buyer of fine wines based upon the stash he found. The man had passed and his daughter was needing to sell it and my buddy was only too happy to oblige, considering the price of said home too good to pass on.
Going into its basement, he found it stacked and stocked with fine wines, each one gathering dust from years of neglect and non-use. The owner, he had learned, had traveled the world visiting some of the finest vineyards and purchasing huge draughts of wine. My friend also found receipts among the ruins where the old man had run up some pretty serious tabs pursuing his life’s passion. Trouble is, the old man is dead and the wine lies in state, corked and wearing coats of mold and dust. Untasted. Suddenly it hit my friend: this could have been what Jesus had in mind when he said, “What profit is it for a man, if he should gain the world and lose his soul?”*
Of course, we know nothing of the man’s spiritual standing in life but how sad it is to spend your life and coffers on transitory things whose undignified ending is to occupy a place in a cold dark cellar, unseen, untouched and untasted.
On the drive home I heard that we Americans are spending less time sleeping, working longer hours, stalking the “dream” at the expense of our families, our bodies and our souls. We’re giving away FAR less, building our barns bigger** so we can sit around, I suppose, bragging to the Joneses that our barns, for pete’s sake, have vaulted ceilings, wrap-around decking, eight-tractor garages, bonus rooms, dormers, atriums, finished basements, plasma TVs in every stable, spreading manicured lawns, high palatial walls to keep out the riff-raff and that we’re working on drawings for further expansion. Our ‘barns‘, mind you.
How much wood can a woodchuck chuck? Forget that. How about: how much wine can a connoisseur drink? And for that matter, how much is too much or more than enough? Tolstoy wrote a short story on that very subject entitled, “How Much Land Does A Man Need?” and here is its summary as found in a Wikipedia entry:
“After slowly accumulating more and more property, a greedy Russian named Pahom hears that the Bashkirs, a minority race in Russia, are practically giving their land away. He decides to visit them and they offer him as much land as he wants, provided he can walk its perimeter in one day. Pahom agrees and goes out on his trek, but when the sun starts to set, he finds he has walked too far. Running back, Pahom collapses at the starting point just as the sun disappears behind the horizon. The Bashkirs try to congratulate him, only to find him dead. In answer to the question posed in the title, the Bashkirs bury him in a hole six feet long by two feet wide.”
What’s left of a man who chases the illusive wind of transitory pleasure? In this case, a dank, dark cellar littered with unused magnums of wine. And we call that living.