I first learned it from my grandmother. Now, my grandmother was a wonderful person. She taught me how to play the game monopoly. She understood that the name of the game is to acquire. She would accumulate everything she could and eventually she became the master of the board. And then she would always say the same thing to me. She'd look at me and she'd say, "One day, you'll learn to play the game."
One summer, I played monopoly almost everyday, all day long and that summer, I learned to play the game. I came to understand the only way to win is to make a total commitment to acquisition. I came to understand that money and possessions, that's the way that you keep score. And by the end of that summer, I was more ruthless than my grandmother. I was ready to bend the rules, if I had to, to win that game.
And I sat down with her to play that fall. I took everything she had. I watched her give her last dollar and quit in utter defeat. And then she had one more thing to teach me. Then she said, "Now it all goes back in the box – all those houses and hotels, all the rail roads and utility companies, all that property and all that wonderful money–now it all goes back in the box. None of it was really yours. You got all heated up about it for a while, but it was around a long time before you sat down at the board, and it will be here after you're gone. Players come and players go. Houses and cars, titles and clothes, bulging portfolios, even your body. Because the fact is that everything I clutch and consume and hoard is going to go back in the box and I’m going to lose it all.
So you have to ask yourself when you finally get the ultimate promotion, when you have made the ultimate purchase, when you buy the ultimate home, when you have stored up financial security, and climbed the ladder of success to the highest rung you can possibly climb it, and the thrill wears off - and it will wear off - Then what? How far do you have to walk down that road before you see where it leads? Surely you understand it will never be enough. So you have to ask yourself the question: What matters?
- A transcript of the film "Zeitgeist: Moving Forward" penned by John Ortberg