Would you enjoy a pampered life?

Every man dies. Not every man really lives.
William Wallace
1270 – 1305

Consider this question: would you enjoy a pampered life? Your initial reaction might be, “Of course! I’d love a life where everything was taken care of for me.”

I’ll ask you to reconsider your answer in a moment; first, I want to tell you what made me contemplate the question. There was a news item a few days ago about a penguin that escaped from The Tokyo Sea Life Park. The small Humboldt penguin lived with 134 other penguins at the aquarium. For whatever reason, this bird developed a desire to explore the outside world, so it climbed over a substantial rock barrier and escaped.

My initial reaction was to wonder why in the world a penguin would want to escape from an aquarium. After all, it had lots of company, a steady supply of food, and good medical care — plus, it didn’t have to worry about predators. Initially, it seems like a pretty idyllic life.

But then I started thinking further. Studies show that the average life expectancy of elephants in European zoos is about one third the life expectancy of elephants in the wild. To be fair, some animals in captivity do enjoy longer lives than their natural brethren — but on the whole, it’s mainly very small animals that enjoy this benefit; the smaller the animal, the less stress they suffer from confinement. Elephants in the wild are accustomed to roaming some thirty miles daily. Confining them increases their stress levels and reduces their life expectancy.

So back to my question: would you like to live a life where all your basic needs were met but you were confined and controlled?

Our basic nature is to want freedom. Think about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. First we need the basics of survival: food and shelter. Once those requirements are met, we’re driven to seek goals which are personally more satisfying, with the ultimate goal being self-actualization.

I’m afraid that most of society is becoming more like the 134 penguins that stayed behind. We’re giving up our personal goals and dreams and settling for the basic needs of life.

I’m not sure what happened to that penguin, but I say three cheers for the little bird. It may have a shorter life, but I applaud its efforts to live fully and be free.

May you live all the days of your life.
Jonathan Swift
1667 – 1745

Copyright © 2012 John Chancellor

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