humility and gratitude: aluminum foil

What is it about the prevalent tendency toward one-upmanship? Why is it that pride is not always limited to the more interior pursuits of quiet knowledge, of meaningful achievement, of security borne of discipline and hard work? Must everything be on display?

Credit-card companies, for example, began peddling Gold cards in the 1980s as a way to distinguish the truly elite from the merely creditworthy. The 1990s brought Platinum cards. The 2000s even saw Titanium cards. Will the 2010s offer a Palladium card? Can a Rhodium card be far behind? And will an Iridium card grant to access to Mars, having bought everything else our earthly life could imagine?

Just once I’d like to open my mail and receive a solicitation for an Aluminum card. To be sure, credit cards can be exceptionally useful, even indispensable in some quarters, but they are a tool, not an end. Security manifests itself in many ways, financial security reasonably among them, but as we cannot take it with us, does it make sense to devote lives to its accumulation at the expense of more lasting achievements and contributions, from children and families to strong communities and social innovation?

Humility and gratitude are the ideal foils to materialism. Sure, the solarium’s stained glass is stunning, the oceanfront condominium glorious, the Mercedes 700-series a sanctuary, the five-star restaurants indulgent…. But set up a foundation, volunteer at a nonprofit, raise families with integrity to the core—then discover the true meaning of precious mettle.

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