Greed is such a powerful, domineering vice. When we are greedy, we become so consumed by a never ending need for something more. Our unquenchable desires change us, and we become unrecognizable, even to ourselves.
In his fable, “The Dog and His Reflection,” Aesop reveals how easily and drastically greed can transform us. He tells of a dog so overcome with greed that he does not recognize himself and loses what he should have enjoyed.
This dog walks home from the butcher’s shop, where the butcher had given him a bone. The dog is very satisfied with his prize and hurries away as fast as he can with it.
A Better Bone
However, as he passes over the river on a small bridge, the dog notices his reflection in the river. This new dog he sees in the water has, what appears to be, a bigger bone! He is so overcome by greed and a desire for a better bone that he does not recognize that dog to be himself.
Believing this reflection to be a luckier dog with a better bone, he plunges into the river after this new bone. Yet, as Socrates says, “he who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.”
The dog does not stop to contemplate who that other dog is, or to realize the good bone he already has. He is so enveloped by his own greed that he cannot see himself, or the bone, for what they truly are.
Aesop shows, as Erich Fromm says in “Escape From Freedom,” that “greed is a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an endless effort to satisfy the need without ever reaching satisfaction.” With greed, we will never be pleased with the wonderful gifts that we already have. For we will continually look at yet another better thing we do not have.
If we do not work to overcome it, greed will very easily rule us. With greed as our ruler, there will always be a bigger house, better car, nicer clothes, and more money. All these goals will continually be out of reach.
Nothing will ever be good enough and we will never be able to sit and truly enjoy what he have. For a greedy heart and mind is a restless heart and mind. We will be miserable.
Thankful and Generous
Yet we can overcome and challenge the greedy forces and desires inside of us through thankful and generous practice for thankful and generous hearts reflect on what we do have, rather than what we do not have.
Practicing gratitude and generosity allows us to see the world outside of ourselves clearly. We see the many things that we should appreciate. Rather than always taking and receiving, we see how much we can give to others. We free ourselves from the dependence of wanting and needing more.
When we count our blessings, we will see ourselves and our lives as they truly are—wonderful and beautiful.