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A story

August 18, 2013

“Once upon a time in Silicon Valley there lived a busy, important man. He routinely logged twelve- to fourteen-hour days at his job, and sometimes weekends. He picked up an MBA and joined professional organizations and boards of directors to expand his contacts. He listened to business books on keeping up with the sharks and leadership lessons from Ghengis Khan on a special CD player in his car that sped up the reader’s voice so he could get through it in half the normal time. Even when he was not working, his mind drifted toward his work so that it was not only his occupation but also his preoccupation. He found the forty-hour work week such a good idea he would often do it twice a week.

His wife tried to slow him down, to remind him that he had a family. He knew that they were not as close as they once had been. He had not intended to drift away. It’s just that she always seemed to want time from him, and that is what he did not have to give. He gave at the office.

He was vaguely aware that his kids were growing up and he was missing it. From time to time his children would complain about books that he wasn’t reading to them, games of catch he wasn’t playing with them, lunches he wasn’t eating with them. But after a while they stopped complaining, because they stopped expecting that their lives might ever be different.

I’ll be more available to them in six months or so, he said to himself, when things settle down. And though he was a very bright guy, he didn’t seem to notice that things never settled down. Besides, he said to himself when he felt guilty, I’m doing it all for them. Of course this was not even partly true. He would have lived this way if they didn’t exist at aII. He lived this way even though they begged him to change. But because they didn’t move out to live in a cardboard box, because they lived in the home and ate the food and wore the clothes and played the video games that his money provided, he could say to himself, I’m doing it all for them. And no one knew him or loved him enough to tell him the truth.

He knew that he was not taking great care of his body. His doc tor told him he had some pretty serious warning signs—elevated blood pressure, high cholesterol—and told him he needed to cut down on the Twinkies and red meat and start an exercise program. So he stopped going to his doctor. There will be plenty of time for that, he said to himself, when things settle down.

He recognized that his life was out of balance. His wife nagged him about going to church — there was one down the street from them. He intended to go, but Sunday morning was the only time he could crash. He prided himself on being a practical man who lived in the real world where money is how you keep score. Besides, I can be spiritual without going to church, he said to himself. There will be plenty of time for that sort of thing when things settle down.

One day the chief operations officer of his company came to see him. “You won’t believe this, but things are booming to such an extent that we can’t keep up. It’s a miracle. This is our chance to catch the mother tide. If we catch this wave, we will be set for life. But it will require major changes. We have inventory headaches you would not believe. Orders are coming in so fast that supply can’t keep pace with demand. Our software is hopelessly outdated. If we don’t overhaul this operation from top to bottom, it will be a disaster.”

Then it hit him. He would put his company through a technological revolution. They would go completely wireless — 24/7 accessibility for everyone, universally mandatory hands-free phones, and fax machines in the employees’ washrooms. He thought up a new company motto—”We live for this!”—and had it printed on everything.

This was the opportunity of a lifetime. He was now available to everyone in the world except for those who needed him most, and whom he needed most—his wife, his children, himself, his friends, his God.

He said to his wife that night, “Do you realize what this means? We can relax. Our future is assured — we’re set for life. I know the market; I’ve covered every base, anticipated every contingency. This means financial security. We can finally go on that vacation you’ve been pestering me about.”

He was Master of the Board. But his wife had heard this sort of thing before; she had learned not to get her hopes up. At 11:00 she went up to bed by herself—as usual.

As the Master of the Board sat before his terminal rearranging the universe, there was only one microscopic detail that escaped his attention. An artery that had once been as supple as a blade of grass was now as dry as plaster and as stiff as old cement. The blood cells could barely squeeze through. Every day, while the man made plans, drafted urgent memos, anxiously checked his portfolio, artfully finessed his board, a few more chips of lipids and debris joined the plaque block. Every cigar, every pat of butter, every angry word, every irritation-filled drive in the car, every self-preoccupied thought had done its work. Quietly, efficiently, irresistibly, his body was preparing to do him in.

For more than half a century his heart had been pumping 70 millilitres of blood with every contraction, 14,000 pints each day, 100,000 beats every 24 hours—all without his ever sending it a memo or giving it a performance review. Now it skipped a beat. Then another. And a third. He gasped for air and clutched his chest. For a moment he was given the gift of blinding clarity. Even though he sat at the top of a hundred org charts, it turns out he wasn’t even in control of his own pulse. Funny thing: thousands of employees on multiple continents would obey his every word with fear and trembling. But a few ounces of recalcitrant muscle brought him to his knees. Now I lay me down to sleep…

His wife woke up at 3:00 a.m., and he was still not beside her. She went downstairs to drag him to bed and saw him still sitting in front of the computer terminal, his head on his desk. This is ridiculous, she said to herself. It’s like being married to a child. He would rather fall asleep in front of a screen than come to bed.

She touched him on the shoulder to wake him up, hut he did not respond, and his skin was alarmingly cold. Panicking, she felt a sick feeling in her stomach as she dialled 91 1. When the paramedics got there, they told her that he had suffered a massive heart attack, that he had already been dead for hours.

His death was a major story in the financial community. His obituary was written up in Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, it’s too bad he was dead, because he would have loved to read what they wrote about him.

Then came the memorial service. Because of his prominence, the whole community turned out. People filed past his casket and made the same foolish comment people always make at funerals: “He looks so peaceful.” Rigor mortis will do that. Death is nature’s way of telling you to slow down. They ask the same foolish question people ask when somebody rich dies: “I wonder how much he left.” He left it all. Everybody always leaves it all.”

I got this interesting story of ‘the rich fool’, once again from John Ortberg’s When the game is over, it all goes back into the box. It would have been so nice if it was fiction, but it is a true tale will see alive all around us. We all need to  give attention to what is important in our lives, especially home!

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From → a better you

4 Comments
  1. Jjf permalink

    This story is probably best compared to the story of the rich fool in the book of Luke chapter 12, captioned in the Good News edition as ‘The Parable of the Rich Fool’ – at least in its conclusion. While this man was busy getting deeper and deeper into the issues of getting richer, becoming more famous, expanding his business etc, he totally neglected the most important things or issues of life – his God, family and health. He probably never remembered (if he actually ever knew) that his heart ( our hearts) is a machine, which sometimes needs to be lubricated, some nuts and bolts of which need to be tightened etc. and so he kept himself busy with the least important things in the world, in his life, until he was stopped by the cold hands of death!

    But alas, most of us are like this foolish man, we go on and on, bothering about things we would leave behind on the day of reckoning – issues of this world, to get richer, become more famous etc, unfortunately to the total neglect of those things that should take the bulk of our attention – already listed above – doings things we shouldn’t do and leaving undone those that expedient to do.

    Readers should see this post as an early warning and make necessary adjustments in our ways of life and get wiser.
    A WORD IS INDEED ENOUGH FOR THE WISE.

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  2. Sometimes, when people are on that high way to the top, a veil over their eyes shuts out reality until it’s too late. Even though most people have heard the story of the rich fool from Sunday School days, they fail to make the connection when they are involved.

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  3. very wise words! God give us wisdom!

    Like

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