Your Fair Share
By Bret Burquest (2001)
There is only so much land on this planet and they aren’t making anymore.
If the entire landmass of earth were divided into equal parcels, one parcel for every human being, it would compute to slightly less than five acres per person. And as the world population continues to grow, the equal parcels keep getting smaller.
Obviously, the world couldn’t be divided in this manner for a variety of reasons. Besides, with my luck, I’d probably wind up with five acres somewhere near the South Pole, in a ravine with septic problems and no view.
There are people who own hundreds and sometimes thousands of acres. Farmers and ranchers must have large chunks of land to make their operations feasible. Other people are content to live on a small piece of land in or near crowded population areas. Still others live in stacked boxes in the sky called condos, although I can’t understand why. Plus a large segment of the population owns no land; they rent or wander or live with mom and dad.
A more startling statistic is how much money each of us would have if divided equally. This number varies from time to time because of fluctuating exchange rates, the rising population, the introduction of additional currency into the system and so forth. But in general, if all of the currency in circulation in the world was converted to US dollars and divided equally among everyone on the planet, we would each have $530, give or take $20 depending on the fluctuating factors.
Bear in mind, this figure involves currency in circulation. That means all the money you have in your wallet or purse or cookie jar, plus all the cash businesses, including banks, have on hand. Basically, all the paper money and coins that have been printed or minted in all the countries in the world and are in public circulation, even if it’s sitting in a vault behind Alan Greenspan’s credenza. This does not mean accumulated wealth, such as stocks, bonds, real estate holdings and so on. Also, most banks only have enough cash on hand to cover a small percentage of customer deposits.
So if you own five acres of land and have $530 in your back pocket, you have acquired your piece of the global pie. Congratulations. It may not be much but it’s all we’ve got.
If you’re content with what you have or couldn't care less, I salute you. Peace of mind is far more important than land or money. And if you have more than your fair share, so much the better. Through effort or good fortune, you’ve exceeded the norm.
But if you’re dissatisfied unless you have more than your fair share, I pity you. More for you means less for others. Under those circumstances, you’ll never find peace of mind.
There’s a difference between having as much as you want and having as much as you need. Hardly anyone wants less than they need -- most want more than they need. But no one should want or need more than their fair share.
If you want more than your fair share, you suffer from envy.
If you need more than your fair share, you suffer from greed.
Greed and envy are two of the seven deadly sins. In either case, perhaps you should reappraise your lifestyle.
If being an opinionated windbag were a deadly sin, I’d be dead by now.
After decades of struggle, mostly trying to avoid work, I’ve managed to acquire my fair share (a couple more acres than five and a fluctuating cash flow hovering around the poverty line).
It’s not much but peace of mind is priceless.
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Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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