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Pea Soup for the Cynic's Soul

The Rich Man and the Fisherman

Once there was a rich man who visited a harbor with his associates. He was surveying the land, hoping to make a profit buying up ocean-front property. He had an expensive suit and a clipboard and jotted down notes as his associates advised him about interest rates, property taxes, and market fluctuations.

When his visit had concluded, he strolled back along the docks to his private helicopter but paused when he noticed a casually dressed man sitting in a lawn chair and enjoying the sun. He told his associates that he would be along shortly, and they continued back without him. The rich man approached the man in the lawn chair and asked him a question.

"Why are you not working?" the rich man said. "It's still early afternoon. What do you do for a living that you can quit so soon?"

"I'm a fisherman," the man in the lawn chair said. He took a pipe out of his mouth and gestured toward a worn but well-kept fishing barge, moored on the docks. "I caught and sold enough fish for today, so I'm spending the rest of the day enjoying the beautiful weather."

"How can you have caught enough fish? If you went back out this afternoon and caught more, you'd be all the richer for it."

"But what would that gain me?"

"Well," the rich man said, confused, "if you caught more fish and earned more money, you could buy another fishing boat and hire people to run it. Then you'd double your catch!"

"But what would I do then?"

"Why, you'd catch more fish. You'd earn enough money to buy a whole fleet of boats and hire crews to man them all."

"But what would I do then?" the fisherman repeated.

"Why, then you could sit back and relax and enjoy the sun and the waves and the breeze!"

"But that's what I'm doing now," the fisherman said, puffing on his pipe.

The rich man paused, smiled, and nodded.

"You don't understand," said the rich man. "I mean you could sit back, relax, and enjoy the sun and waves and breeze with beautiful women, one on each arm and feeding you grapes and cheese. You could buy this whole beach, hire servants to tend it, and keep this natural beauty all to yourself. See those other boats penning in your own and blocking your view? You could kick them all out. And when it strikes your fancy to take a break from this harbor, you could hop on a plane at a moment's notice, fly to some other exotic oceanside paradise, and buy that, too. You could have anything you wanted at the snap of your fingers. That's what you'd do then."

The fisherman took the pipe from his mouth and let his jaw slacken from the vision. "You're right!" the fisherman said. "I've been wasting all this time. Excuse me, sir! I have some fishing to do!" With that, he scrambled out of his chair and scurried away.