Friday, January 16, 2009


One intriguing question for me is: why is it so difficult to change? There is this week (1/11-1/16/09) in the Deseret News there is a series of articles about addiction--mostly drug and alcohol addiction. They claim, based on some sort of survey by a government bureau, that there are over 20,000 people in Utah alone who need drug treatment services, but only about 10% are aware of that need. Apparently, the government feels that over 20,000 people in Utah need, from one problem alone, (drug and alcohol addiction) to change so badly that only professional interdiction of some sort will get them make that change and yet they either don’t know that they need to change or they are convinced themselves that they can make the change without professional help. Even some, according to the article, who recognise the need for help, feel that they can, or will, do it on their own because they lack the resources, or feel that they do, to use professional help.
Of course, those who steal and gamble, can be seen as attempting to prevent the need for change. In earlier days when there were not so many lotteries as there are today, the newspaper would typically publish the first comments of a "big winner". The comment I remember being most often reported was, "I don’t want anything to change." My own comment in private response was "then why did you buy a lottery ticket?" I believe that what they typically meant was that they didn’t want friends and family to view them as being different now that they are rich. But in all probability, they are going to be different and things will indeed change, but they will be different and things will change in ways that they would not want them to. For one thing, suddenly wealth almost always increases self-indulgence, and almost all rational men want to change in a direction away from self-indulgence, or at least, if they wish to indulge themselves it is in very controlled and very careful directions. For example, they may want to go on a cruise or visit a popular tourist spot or throw parties for friends and family. They may do some of those things, but usually, the self-indulgence takes forms that they had wished to change in the other direction. In War and Peace, the hero, Pierre Busuchov, in the early part of his life, talks endlessly of the value of liberal reforms, and says that if he were in control of his father’s vast estate, he would institute those reforms amongst his fathers serfs. Because he is an illegitimate son, he does not expect to have more than the regular allowance from the estate that he has always had. But his father has a change of heart on his deathbed and leaves the entire estate to Pierre. Pierre, however, is so overwhelmed with self-indulgence at his new-found wealth, that inspite of the fact that he is the richest man in Russia, he cannot muster the surplus capital to institute the reforms.
But those of us who do not gamble or steal or in some other way find ourselves the possessors of enough wealth to escape the need to change, still have a very difficult time changing, why? We will explore that question more later.

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