My plans to retrace Captain Cook's unfinished voyage have been postponed a year while I work on the next Marine Diesel Basics book and get my new boat SV Oceandrifter ready for sea.
Valentine’s Day – tens of milions of people around the world will be sending cards, red roses, boxes of chocolate and taking their “most significant other” out for fun today. It’s the day of love, romance and happy endings.
And one person has come to embody this marketing tradition more than any other – Cupid, the boy with the cerub face and the bow who goes around shooting people with his magic arrows to make them fall in love.
Cupid is usually depicted as mischevious. So what’s the connection between him and the bankers who got us into the financial crisis and the Great Recession? And what exactly is cupidity?
Ever stopped to wonder? You might be surprised to learn what it means and how it’s actually Cupid’s arrows that got the world into the financial mess we are today.The word cupid comes from the Latin for “desire” and cupidity is the word for “excessive desire” – which is surely what so many people have been suffering from in recent years. Critics usually describe the parasitic bankers as “greedy” but what they’re really objecting to is excessive desire – cupidity.
“Greed” is not quite the same affliction, though it’s often used to mean the same thing. Many dictionaries give this as the meaning of the word. But a more accurate definition of “greed” is desire, but in the sense of fear of missing out.
So yes, so many bankers were greedy – they got into the derivatives fraud, even though they knew it was absurd and a sham, because they were afraid of missing out on the profits. Cupidity, on the other hand, is excessive desire. The two afflictions go hand in hand so often that it’s easy to confuse the two.
Why does this matter? Because it can help us be a little clearer about our own motivations. We may not have excessive desire; I really do not want to own a superyacht, my 32-foot sailboat is just fine. But I’m often guilt of greed. Eating an extra piece of cake today because there might not be any tomorrow. Going to an event, not because I actually really want to go, but because I’m afraid of missing out. Greed, in this sense, is far more pervasive than cupidity – but we lose sight of this in ourselves because we so conveniently confuse excessive desire with fear of missing out.
It’s easy to self-righteously condemn other people for being “greedy” – and thus make ourselves look virtuous. “We’re not greedy,” we tell ourselves, when in fact, we are motivated several times a day to take action, not by any strong desire for something, but out of a fear of missing out if we don’t act.
So yes, the banking and financial system urgently needs to be changed, but have some compassion for yourself and for others each time we get caught up in the games that have fear at their core. And if you see the little boy with the bow and arrow, take the bow and burn it!