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Letter: Lesson from Epicurus

A wealthy Greek American visits Greece on a holiday and comes upon an old man sitting under a tree lazily sipping ouzo watching the sunset.

He notices fields of untended lush olive trees on the hill behind the man and asks, “Who do these trees belong to?”

“They’re mine,” answers the old man.

“Do you ever gather the olives?”

“Nope, just pick one when I want one.”

“Don’t you realize,” says the excited American, “if you pruned your trees and picked olives at peak, selling them would make lots of money. Americans love extra virgin olive oil.”

“What would I do with the money?” asks the old man.

“Why, you could start a family supermarket in America, call it Market Basket, hire your nephews to run it and get richer.”

“And then what?”

“You can build mansions, hire servants to do all the work.”

“And then what?”

“You could do anything you want.”

“You mean like sit outside and sip ouzo at sunset?”

“Not what we have, but what we enjoy, constitutes our abundance.” (Epicurus, from Travels with Epicurus by Daniel Klein)

But suppose Market Basket becomes a reality? Arthur T. will focus on a prosperity that generates jobs, good wages, profit sharing and loyal employees. What if Arthur S. gets greedy, hires CEOs to make billions and Arthur T disagrees? Maybe it’s time for Arthur S. to sit under the tree, sip ouzo, enjoy the sunset and travel with Epicurus.



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