A wise person once said something like this: “If ever you are intimidated by persons of wealth, imagine yourself standing in the shower next to them.” In my middle years I played in a squash league at an old prestigious athletic club. I soon became aware that wealth and social prestige was not worth one point in a squash match. I usually was an equal to most players and, at my best, a little superior. After a match in the locker room, as I pulled on my wrinkled pants and scuffed shoes I often noticed an opponent standing in front of a mirror in a five hundred dollar suit, straightening a sixty dollar tie. I am not a voyeur, but I felt even better in the shower next to him as expressed in my poem. Opponents treated me as an equal and it made me feel good. Wealth had nothing to do with skill, strength, or endurance and they knew it. Squash and most other athletics have their own social order unrelated to wealth and social prestige.
Years ago I tried to express myself with the following poem.
Standing in the Shower
I was standing in the shower room with every nozzle blasting
among wet bodies that could have been Greek or Roman castings.
Some were young but most were old struggling to survive,
hoping that a little youth somehow would revive.
Withered buts and bulging guts were plainly there to see,
results of the easy life that has always tempted me.
Those aging bodies will soon be dry, dressed in fine array
and will return to prestigious jobs with the highest pay.
Some will wear the robes of rank and medals of old wars.
Some still live in that past and will forever more.
I have no doubt that they are smart in a special way.
How else could they succeed and justify their pay?
Some volunteer to serve, as society demands,
and even give a little cash when conscience does command.
These pillars of society stand soapy next to me,
their robes and medals now are where I cannot see.
I think that they would trade past glory for a little health
and for a year of youth they’d give their hoarded wealth.
Robes and medals I’ll never have, and wealth has passed me by,
but I may be rich in other ways, should I tell you why?
I’ve lived my life without the sin of hurting some poor soul.
The search for truth through science has always been my goal.
I try to follow nature’s guiding laws and use my mind as well.
I try to understand my DNA and what it does compel.
To learn from life and my mistakes are things I always do.
I strive to help the suffering caused by the selfish few.
I try to plan ahead for stormy nights and periods of drought.
I understand that superstition is something I should doubt.
I know that to turn the other cheek will often ruin the day,
and to be a victim of aggression simply does not pay.
To believe all that we are told is such a foolish thing.
To the rubbish of the past we simply cannot cling.
Nor can we ignore nature’s laws that are given us.
Denying them is, no doubt, just incredulous.
To profit from the plight of others to satisfy one’s greed
is the most common sin justified by creed.
So, as I dry my body in the midst of royalty,
I feel as rich as anyone in all humility.
Robes and medals are secondary and do not count for much.
They are at best, in this short life, just a golden crutch.
The most important thing in life we should try to do
is letting others know what is false and true.
The smartest in the shower room certainly is not me.
Neither am I the richest, I know they’d all agree.
But wisdom is a special thing that comes to very few.
In my youth it was a seed, how glad I am it grew.
Comment: I don’t consider myself a wise person but now in my older years at least I’m still learning. I am a secular humanist, which simply means I don’t believe in a deity and I value human rights. I am not impressed by the political and social power money buys. I value justice, empathy, reason, and scientific inquiry.