Also, this particular society conditions us to be very competitive. We’re brought up to try to be the best, so we put a lot of effort into doing well at school, doing well in sport; there are various values which are held to be particularly important.
For example, when I was a child a lot of importance was placed on IQ (Intelligence Quotient). One Christmas my younger sister was given a book about how to test your IQ. We all tried it – and my score was much lower than everybody else’s. I was pretty upset … It was a struggle because there was such an emphasis on being the best.
However, intelligence is just one aspect of humanity. And over the years I’ve met many people who probably wouldn’t score very high on an IQ test but yet have really wonderful gifts that perhaps might not be rated so highly in this culture (And it’s a great pity that they’re not.): qualities like kindness, patience, understanding, flexibility.
Whereas our society rates intelligence more highly because then you can get a good degree and a good job and make lots of money. And for most people having lots of money is considered to be very important; then you are seen as a success.
I have been greatly heartened in recent years by meeting people who are definitely very skilled, very gifted and yet quite deliberately earn just enough money to live at a modest level of comfort. I really celebrate that. They’re not intent on acquiring more than they need or having bigger and better cars, houses, computers or other gadgets.
This reflection by Ajahn Candasiri is from the Forest Sangha Newsletter, #93, 2014, (pdf) pp. 16-17.