Keeping Up with the Joneses

December 5, 2010

Do you know where the phrase “Keeping up with the Joneses” comes from? I did a little research and this is what I found out.

In the 1840’s, wealthy New Yorkers began to move from Manhattan and build great mansions along the Hudson River north of the city. One of the greatest belonged to Elizabeth Schermerhorn Jones, an heiress to the fortune of John Jacob Astor and aunt of the novelist Edith Wharton. She spent huge sums of money to maintain her mansion and entertain friends, and her neighbors attempted to match her spending – hence the phrase “Keeping up with the Jonesses.”

There’s an old legend about a greedy man and an envious man who were walking along. A stranger approached them and made an effort to know them. And after traveling a bit the stranger said, as he departed from them, that he would give each of them a gift. Whoever made a wish first would get what he wanted, and the other would get a double portion of what the first had asked for. The greedy man knew what he wanted, but he was afraid to make his wish because he wanted the double portion for himself and didn’t want the other to get it. And the envious man felt the same way, and he was also unwilling to wish first. After a while the stronger of the two grabbed the other by the throat and said he would choke him to death unless he made his wish. And at that the other man said, “Very well. I make my wish — I wish to be made blind in one eye.” Immediately he lost the sight of one eye, and his companion went blind in both.

Mr. Greed and Mr. Envy can be found today in many business partnerships. And the sad truth to this is that Mr. Greed and Mr. Envy can also be found in a lot of places like your neighborhood, your civic organizations, your schools and even in any institutions you can find.

Paul Eldridge says: “What we have not poisons what we have–. Our urge to acquire things is due less to the passion to possess them than to the vanity of feeling superior to those who envy our possession of them–. Envy transmutes other people’s base metals into gold–. Our envy is the yeast that swells the fortune of others–. No form of hatred is as keen as envy. It magnifies the importance of our enemy–and belittles our own. Greed on the other hand consumes the person. Enough is never enough and greed becomes a cruel taskmaster.

The thing that concerns me is that the young generation of today has put a premium on gadgets and creature comforts and the importance of having money over values and virtues.

“Sign up and work for us and you get a signing bonus.” Says a recruitment ad.

“Unless you wear this, carry this, apply this or use this then you do not belong.”

When was the last time you’ve ever seen a billboard that says: “Be content with what you have but never be content with what you can be?”

This material is credited to anonymity but I find this both poignant and revealing:

We read in the papers, we hear on the air,

Of killing and stealing, and crime everywhere.

We sigh, and we say, as we notice the trend,

“This young generation! Where will it all end?”

But can we be sure that it’s their fault alone?

That maybe most of it isn’t really our own?

Too much money to spend, too much idle time;

Too many movies of passion and crime;

Too many books not fit to be read;

Too much of evil in what they hear said;

Too many children encouraged to roam,

By too many parents who won’t stay at home.

Kids don’t make the movies, they don’t write the books,

That paint a gay picture of gangsters and crooks.

They don’t make the liquor, they don’t run the bars,

They don’t pass the laws, nor make the high-speed cars.

They don’t make the drugs that addle the brain;

It’s all done by older folks greedy for gain.

Thus in so many cases it must be confessed,

The label “Delinquent” fits older folks best.

Sydney Harris says: “The more you have to live for, the less you need to live on. Those who make acquisition their goal never have enough.

And of course ancient writings that have proven to be true all the time says: “Contentment with godliness is great gain.”

Work for gains and not for losses.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Mitch Yu

    Thanks Sir for another very inspiring Article.

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