T WAS THE MORNING OF OCTOBER 9, 2008—NOTHING particularly significant about the date. Except that it marked yet another morning of bad economic news, with financial markets around the world still reeling from a then 4-week-old economic tsunami, the worst since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Millions of investors had by then lost trillions of dollars, and millions of others—ordinary working families—were worrying about the loss of savings for their children’s education, about putting food on their table, about gas money to drive 10 miles for yet another fruitless job interview, about the evaporation of their retirement savings.
Yet that October morning, in the midst of all that widespread grief, came news that video game developer Richard Garriott, son of former American astronaut Owen Garriott, was about to ride a Russian Soyuz into space at a cost of more than $30 million. In the midst of worldwide financial chaos and belt-tightening, this guy had $30 million of spare change in his pocket!
If we’re truthful, many of us would have to admit to wishing (however fleetingly) that we had that kind of money. We tend to gloat over people with wealth and power and good looks and fame. How dull our own lives often look in comparison to theirs! But the temptation to drool can often be tempered as we look beyond externals.
While working on this editorial, I came upon an Internet site listing the photos of 81 celebrities who over the past 40 years or so have died from drug-related causes. And I found the catchall descriptive particularly telling. It read: “Some of the world’s most talented and famous people have been among the most tortured. And for one reason or another, they died because of drugs.” The eighty-first photo in the series was of the stunningly beautiful Natalie Wood, who at 43 drowned while intoxicated (wcbstv.com/slideshows/stars.killed.by.20.228595.html?rid=79).
Those times when the window cracks open just a little and we get a peek at what some of those we so avidly admire are going through in their personal lives, our own becomes more bearable. As during this past summer when Google cofounder Sergey Brin revealed he has a genetic trait that makes him a candidate for Parkinson’s. All of a sudden, being simply a lowly Google user—rather than one of its wealthy cofounders—didn’t seem that bad.
Yet some, I suspect, would be willing to take the money and hope for the best with Parkinson’s. In a 1995 survey (if I’m recalling it correctly), U.S. athletes were asked a question that ran somewhat as follows: If there were a drug you could take that would guarantee you’d receive a gold medal at the Olympics, but that would kill you in five years, would you take it? Something like 50 percent said yes.
The idea for this editorial came to me after I’d read a piece in the Parade magazine for Sunday, July 10, 2005. Responding to a reader’s question about the children of world-famous scientific superstar Albert Einstein, the Personality Parade column mentioned, among other details, that Einstein’s youngest son with his first wife, Mileva (Eduard Einstein), had “planned to study medicine but was diagnosed with schizophrenia at age 20 and was cared for by his mother until her death in 1948.” It went on to say that Eduard “spent the remainder of his life in a psychiatric institution.”
It’s easy to think that others are always more fortunate than we, that others are having more fun, that the grass is always greener on their side of the fence. But if we could understand the issues and struggles confronting those whose lives we wish we had, I think we’d choose our own more often than we might guess. And with God in ultimate control, we can be content to take what we get. And be thankful.
Roy Adams is associate editor of the Adventist Revew.