Avarice, Ambition, Vain-Glory

Written in 1759 – our style of communicating might have changed however the sentiments expressed here hold true today.

The great source of both the misery and disorders of human life, seems to arise from over-rating the difference between one permanent situation and another. Avarice over-rates the difference between poverty and riches: ambition, that between a private and a public station: vain-glory, that between obscurity and extensive reputation. The person under the influence of any of those extravagant passions, is not only miserable in his actual situation, but is often disposed to disturb the peace of society, in order to arrive at that which he so foolishly admires. The slightest observation, however, might satisfy him, that, in all the ordinary situations of human life, a well-disposed mind may be equally calm, equally cheerful, and equally contented. Some of those situations may, no doubt, deserve to be preferred to others: but none of them can deserve to be pursued with that passionate ardour which drives us to violate the rules either of prudence or of justice; or to corrupt the future tranquillity of our minds, either by shame from the remembrance of our own folly, or by remorse from the horror of our own injustice. Wherever prudence does not direct, wherever justice does not permit, the attempt to change our situation, the man who does attempt it, plays at the most Unequal of all games of hazard, and stakes every thing against scarce any thing.

from The Theory of Moral Sentiments by Adam Smith (1759)

Adam Smith is quoted by Dan Gilbert who poses the question, Why are we happy? in this TED Video.

Thanks to Julius for the quote and link. Thanks to all who have asked after my health. I’m still coughing and I’m going back to the house I have been staying in to add another ‘R’ to the fleet of R’s I originally took with me in February. Namely, resting, relaxing, reflecting, retreating and now recovering!

Tomorrow? – A post by Adrienne.

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