Would being rich make you happy?
If you think so, I’d like to tell you the story of Croesus, a king in ancient Greece and the wealthiest man of his time.
In the 6th century B.C. Croesus (“CREE – sus”) was visited by Solon, renown Athenian law maker and poet and perhaps the most brilliant mind of his day.
Croesus proudly showed Solon his grand palace, with room after room of lavish furnishings, great works of art and other of his finest possessions.
As the two men walked through his vast gardens Croesus spoke of his ever growing kingdom and its riches and in a burst of joy said to Solon, “Do you know of anyone happier than me?”
He was stunned when Solon fell silent. After an awkward moment of silence, Solon said, “I knew a poor man in Athens. He was an honest, compassionate man who worked hard to provide for his wife and children.
“He enjoyed his family, educated his children well and when they were grown, devoted himself to his wife and to serving Athens to the end of his days.”
“Yes,” said Solon nodding his head in satisfaction, “He was the happiest of men.”
“Alright,” an irritated Croesus bellowed, “With the exception of that man, do you know of anyone happier than me?”
Once again there was an awkward silence as Solon thought about the question. “There were two men,” said Solon. “Their father died when they were just boys and their mother’s health was bad.
“Even as children, they devoted themselves to her care and they worked to support the family.
“As men, they raised and cared for families of their own and for the rest of their lives each found time to devote to Athenian elders, much as in their youth, they had cared for their ailing mother.”
Now Croesus was angry. “Why do you think,” he hollered, “that these peasants live happier lives than the richest king in the world?”
“Oh King Croesus,” Solon replied, “Let no man be called happy before his death. Till then he is not happy, only lucky.”
And he explained that no-one knows what misfortune may befall any of us and as for things we own, they could be lost. He urged Croesus to unselfishly help others and to find greater meaning in life than the things that money could buy.
But after the men parted company Croesus ignored Solon’s advice and he pursued more riches. Then something catastrophic happened.
The powerful armies of Cyrus the Great of Persia defeated King Croesus’ armies. During the battles, Croesus’ magnificent palace was destroyed as were his gardens and everything he owned was carted off, his lifetime of dreams shattered.
Many lives had been lost and the now penniless Croesus was brutally taken prisoner.
Soon the blood-spattered, half-dead Croesus was dragged through the dirt to a stake. His captors then placed a large pile of wood around him, which they set ablaze.
As the orange-red flames rose high into the air and drew close to his body, in the intense heat, Croesus cried out, “Oh Solon, Oh Solon,” as he recalled the wise man’s words, “Let no man be called happy before his death. Till then he is not happy, only lucky.”
And Croesus called aloud Solon’s words about finding meaning in life greater than money.
As the flames were about to consume him, suddenly there was a remarkable twist of fate. Cyrus had heard Croesus’ cries and asked his translator what he was saying. When told, Cyrus ordered the fire immediately put out.
The emotionally overwrought Croesus was cut loose and Cyrus spoke with him.
Upon hearing the story of Solon and realizing the misfortune that had befallen Croesus could one day befall him, Cyrus had Croesus released. Cyrus then befriended him and made him one of his closest advisors.
This story from ancient times has a valuable lesson for us which is what money buys is fleeting. However much money you have could be lost to misfortune, such as to serious health problems or to bad business decisions.
As Solon advised, the way to happiness is to devote yourself to helping others and to doing things that bring greater meaning to your life. My suggestion is to strive for spiritual growth and also to pursue the higher callings of your heart.
Find the time to read some of history’s extraordinary books, even if it’s just allocating a half hour twice a week to do so. If you’ve always wanted to write, to paint, to sculpt, why wait any longer? Do it. Would yoga or other exercise help your mind and body? Do it.
Write letters to your friends, listen to your favorite music and literally smell the roses as you learn from Croesus’ mistake about the endless pursuit of possessions.
Success Tip of the Week:
The choices are yours as a world of joys beyond money awaits you.
Editor's Note: Croesus, Solon and Cyrus are well-known in history. This story is from legend.
In the next KazanToday:
Discovering one of life’s highest priorities from a story so strong, you may want to skip it.