Wisdom has a way of surprising me. Often it plops in my lap unexpectedly, pulling thoughts into focus in an area I thought I had a grasp on. In those moments something profound is unfolding. Time seems to stand still as I take in new thoughts and ideas that grate against my preconceived notions. A recent bout of this came while we were in Bora Bora last month. Wisdom was ushered in by a man named Ebu.
Ebu was the resort shuttle driver. During the 20-minute drive from our resort to the small city of Vaitape, Ebu shared much with us of his life and culture on the island. It was absolutely fascinating!
I learned that Bora Bora is quite small and is home to only about 8,000 people. Close-knit, large families extend around the island where no one is a stranger. But with such a great distance between them and mainland exports, island life is simple. Homes are open air with few of our typical “common conveniences.” Life revolves around relationships with family and loved ones; employment as we know it is secondary and optional. The lifestyle there doesn’t require earning a regular wage, as food is readily available from fruit trees and ocean life and all other needs are met within the larger family structure. Extras and material luxuries are scarce whether employed or not, so some people work, some don’t. All is relaxed and laid-back.
As we passed simple cement block homes topped with metal roofing, I felt a twinge of guilt for the grandness of comfort I enjoy—not only on vacation, but also in everyday life.
Island life on Bora Bora is simple, but the people are not ignorant of the opulence abroad. Ebu was well aware of how people in larger countries live. He’s traveled extensively and understands the dependency most people have on earning money to purchase what is needed to survive. He understands it. But he also pities it. That was the surprising part.
He pities us—we who are surrounded by all our stuff, as well as the stress and loneliness and competition that our sort of society breeds. In our society, we must strive to survive, because without money, we would have no food, no shelter, no care. All we have is what money can buy us.
That’s the pity, he said. Money is necessary for survival in your culture. Here, we have what we need—fruit from the trees, fish from the ocean. No worries here. For you, he said, you have to make money to buy everything, very stressful for you.
What wisdom. And I have to agree: It is a pity how our system creates an atmosphere of stress and a dependency on money.
I would like a life with much less of both.
Now, how that actually happens, I have no idea. Suggestions welcome.