Some say the grass is always greener on the other side. This saying is based on a quote by Ovid, who wrote a poem entitled “Art of Love,” which is believed to have been written sometime in the first century. The quote reads “The harvest is always richer in another man’s field.” The idea behind this quote is that as a people, we generally tend to want what we don’t have. Own a house? Probably wish it had more rooms or space like your neighbour’s home. Got a family vehicle? Probably wish you had that sports car the resident up the streets drives around with.
No matter where you find yourself in life, it’s human nature to want what others already have. I remember being almost destitute in my early 20’s, living in a cramped, moldy apartment that was substandard and eating canned peas and ramen noodles to survive. I remember wishing I had the kind of home that many of my friends had, including multi-room apartments or houses. Looking back now, I understand that I was in a position that warranted wanting more. But when I look at what I have now, a family home, reliable transportation and a family, I consider it enough. Always wanting more can be an unhealthy habit.
Part of the problem is the biological aspect that makes us believe that when someone has something greater or of better worth, it’s necessary to our survival. Another aspect is that the population tends to be inherently jealous of what others have. But it’s far more important to acknowledge and appreciate what we already have as opposed to yearning for what we don’t. It reminds me of a story that I heard, years ago when I was in college. There have been a number of iterations of this story, but this is the one I remember the best:
A professor stood in front of his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.
The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar slightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.
The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He then asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous YES.
The professor then produced two bottles of beer from under the table and poured their entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.
“Now,” said the professor as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things such as family, your children, your health, your friends and your favourite passions. And if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car. The sand is everything else, the small stuff. If you were to put the sand into the jar first, there would be no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you.”
Life isn’t easy, and there will always be situations that are critical and need to be immediately dealt with. So I’m certainly not making light of anyone’s difficulties. But it is of the utmost importance to recognize the things we do have and appreciate them. Especially in light of the current world situation, the bright side of things can mean the difference between continuing to fight, or lying down to be trampled.
Take care of the golf balls first, the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.
One of the professor’s students raiser her hand and inquired what the beer represented. The professor smiled and said, “I’m glad you asked that. The beer just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of beer with friends or family.” ☯