There is an old story I remember about the devil in Paradise. He comes across a group of people throwing a ball back and forth across a net. They are laughing, carefree, thoroughly enjoying each other’s company, the freedom of movement, and the beauty of the setting. He asks one of the players, “So, who’s winning?”

“Winning?” replies the player, looking puzzled.

“Yeah,” says the devil, “What’s the score?”

“I don’t know. We don’t keep score.”

“What do you mean, you don’t keep score? You have to keep score, otherwise, you’ll never know who’s winning!”

The devil explained to the players how to keep score. Paradise has never been the same.


I remember in high school many of the popular guys wore these colored shirts and sweaters that had a small alligator emblazoned on the chest. There was a Czech student, even more recently immigrated to the States than I, who asked me the meaning of the logo. Knowing that the shirts with alligators sunning themselves over the pockets cost five times as much as the plain ones, I told him that having a logo shirt was a sign of status, and that this was one of the many ways the “in-crowd” distinguished themselves as being “cool.” And didn’t we all, at some time, craved to be amongst these superior beings? Somehow, my poor Czech classmate never understood why no one was impressed, and in fact laughed at him, when he came to school one day sporting a new shirt – with a small elephant over the pocket.


In the beginning of the movie “Becket” is a scene where Richard Burton, playing the role of Becket, turn to the King of England, played by Peter O’Toole, and attempts to teach the king to eat with a knife and fork. The king, who has been ripping the meat apart with his hands like the other nobles feasting in the room, demands to know why he should bother. Richard Burton explains, “It’s a subtlety, your majesty. It helps to separate us Normans,” pointing to the Saxon lords “from the rest of them.”


Our ability to be manipulated by the creators and maintainers of brands and customs defies logic and common sense. We no longer pay for the intrinsic value of a product, but for the perceived status its ownership gives us. How else to explain the willingness of someone to pay $5,000 to $25,000 for a timepiece to wear on the wrist that is no more accurate or visually attractive than a quartz watch for $100? Does having a small, white snow cap on top of that black ceramic pen make it write twenty times better than otherwise identical looking ballpoints? I’m not suggesting that we take a vow of poverty and relinquish all our worldly goods. The point is to know within oneself what is important and valuable. I suppose in a world where “extravagant” was a pejorative term instead of an admiring description, the wheels of capitalist commerce may come grinding to a halt, but I would favor the meeting of real world needs rather than the artificially created ones of many “luxury” products. Let’s face it. Most of us turn to artifacts of steel or plastic for diversion because we achieve only limited nourishment from other people, and are unable to grasp or commit to bigger issues.


I do not, by any means, consider myself a Communist or a Hare Krishna, and it is not pleasant for me to find myself on the same side of the materialism question. For those who grew up with “The Price Is Right” and the free toy inside the Cracker Jack box, though we might admit to the wrongness of it, material lust has settled firmly in our hearts. We will still be drawn to that “rich Corinthian leather” of that superbly performing  “Ultimate Driving Machine” with the beautiful blond whose tresses are whipping in the wind, but we can strive to keep things in some perspective, and acknowledge that the contemplation of the desire will in no way match the satisfaction of its fulfillment. We must ultimately deal with the painful reality that he who dies with the most toys is still dead. And even as we pay lip service to this unignorable truth, we continue to keep playing, trying to win the game, keeping score in the only way our material society has taught us. And if we stop to listen hard, in the background can be heard the laughter of the One Who Started the Game.

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18 Responses to Status

  1. Unknown says:

    Hey J—
    How are you my friend? I see that you\’ve been selected as \’the best of MSN spaces\’—and I was real happy to see that.  I like your sight, I like that there is usually some deep thought embedded into your quirky and fun stories that encourages or inspires someone to want to be a better person.  Plus, I think you have a great sense of humor!  As for now, things are really hard for me right now.  I feel somehow as if I\’ve fallen down some sort of dark tunnel—and I\’m not sure where I am going.  I\’m not trying to worry you, just trying to reach out to a friend because it can get terrible lonesome and isolated over here on this dark continent.
    And thanks for your encouraging words.  Your a giver of hope and life and that my dear J, is a blessed quality to have.

  2. Deirdre says:

    Keep preaching, Jorge, and please keep sharing these with us!  I especially can relate to the following, and think it is one of the best points you make in this piece:
    Let’s face it. Most of us turn to artifacts of steel or plastic for diversion because we achieve only limited nourishment from other people, and are unable to grasp or commit to bigger issues.

  3. Patricia says:

    The story of the alligator and the elephant paints a shallow picture for us, doesn\’t it?…even in the small county where my sons went to school, students expected to have their own cars…but, those are the values parents are teaching their children these days…what a disappointment if the future doesn\’t hold what the current "in" things might be for these people…how depressing for them…
    I enjoyed reading, Jorge… 

  4. Brian says:

    I have to laugh at the people who, when they move over here (Brussels) with their SUVs and Hummers, struggle to parallel park one of these leviathans in a cramped parking space.   Have you ever seen a whale trying to hide among minnows?  An SUV parked badly is ticketed just as fast as a Golf, but with higher petrol consumption.
    Congrats on best of MSN Spaces.  It proves that MSN can do something right!

  5. Jaime Campbell says:

    Woo hoo!!!!!!  Go, Jorge!  You were right, I loved this piece.  Just perfect.
    Rock on, J-man.  Best of MSN Spaces!!!!  Woo-hoo!!!!  You know you\’ve got my vote.

  6. Dennis says:

    Thank you for your visit and comment on my space.  And congratulations to you for being featured on Best of MSN Spaces What\’s My Story.  I have enjoyed your space.  I see that you have some of my dear friends listed as spaces to visit.  Good Choices!

  7. Fat says:

    Thank you so much for stopping by and leaving such a nice comment. I look forward to exploring your space!
    ~ Fat Chick

  8. Pamela says:

    Hi Jorge!
    I just wanted to say congratulations on being featured.
    I said you were witty alright…
    Be Well.

  9. Aafrica says:

    first of all, congratulations on being featured!

    second, i agree with you on this extravagant materialism nowadays. but i\’m afraid greed, sadly, along side curiousity, are basic human characteristics. i don\’t think it will go away any time soon. also, i always think these \’status\’ seekers are also attention seekers. it\’s sad that they need others approval in order to go on with their lives. but what can one do?

  10. Kathryn says:

    First, congrats on being in Best of Spaces next week!!!!
    Next, as to your comment you left about dialogue–oh Jorge, I used to HATE writing dialogue, I wasn\’t good at it, I didn\’t like it, so I said, and most of my writing, thus, was narrative.
    I took a class a couple of years ago and when I tried to write dialogue at last, some of the students said "No one talks like this…" and I thought, "hey, wait a minute, I see what they mean…" and I started practicing…I made myself write dialogue, even when I didn\’t want to — and what was my most hated thing, has become one of my best things. It just takes practice, that and really thinking about how people talk, and not trying to do too much in it….etc.

  11. Manda says:

    very nice space

  12. Kelly says:

    You quoted one of my favorite films! I love Peter O\’Toole, too. Nice entry, it was just…SO GOOD.

  13. Patricia says:

    Hello, Jorge…are you being swamped, yet?…have a good week…

  14. Gelert says:

    Not forgetting also, how our flashing of such \’status symbols\’ so negatively affects other people. In order to step up, even in your own head, you have to step on someone\’s back.
    I was talking to two friends the other day who had identical bags which I commented on. (pretty uglee they were too – the bags, not the freinds!). \’Ahh said one, except hers cost £450, and mine cost £6 – it\’s a fake! who\’s smart eh?\’  The other one said, \’They may look the same, but I KNOW mine is real\’
    How sad is that? It\’s a bag love. Is this what we\’ve turned into?

  15. Lakota Clay says:

    "He who dies with the most toys is still dead."  I love it! I am getting very tired of \’keeping score\’.  It is a pain in the behind, and who am I trying to impress, anyway?
    Congrats on the honors.  I hope that you get lots of hits.  Lakota

  16. linda says:

    Jorge, this is a good subject but my problem has always been the opposite… I have a car and give it away and walk… my nice ex-man gives me another and I give it also away.  I have food and invite everyone to dinner.  I am an idealist and not materialistic,  but lucky me my husband is materialistic and we balance each other.  Or, I would be living in a field somewhere under a tree.  Also, he bought me this computer ,I would never of spent so much money on something for myself.  And now I have the world at my finger-tips.  I have met you.  What an honor.  Have a great week and I will be back to read all your great thoughts.  Linda

  17. Cheryl says:

    Great entry.  I once bought a Lois Votoon (sp?) backpack in a thrift shop for $20.  it was in perfect condition.  I then saw it in an expensive store for over a thousand dollars.  i still use it.

  18. Charity says:

    I really enjoyed this – I didn\’t discover this common sense wisdom until I was laid off in 2003. I literally lost everything and discovered that none of those things could put food on the table. It\’s been a long road to rebuilding my life and financial stability since then but now I live comfortably instead of extravagantly. Thanks for sharing and helping me remember and be grateful for having learned such an important life lesson earlier than most.

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