Comments, In Focus, Needle's Eye

Why the rich man finds it hard to pass through the eye of the needle

The first listeners of this story were amazed, and in disbelief. For surely the rich were the most blessed of all? Today’s listeners no less. But why?

Nigel Pocock

What might the ‘needle’ represent in today’s world? How come a massive camel can pass through ‘more easily’? This is surely complete nonsense?

In our culture, and probably in most, riches are held up as the epitome of worldly and perhaps spiritual success.

People envy the wealthy, and want what they have. Riches bring power and status; the ability to influence people. But they also bring restrictions.

The iron gated mansion, with its dogs, security, fear of burglary and terrorism. But these are often egocentric, ruthless people. They have arrived at the top by their aggressive and hard personalities. Psychologists know such types as psychotic (‘P’ type) personalities.

Most such people are not in jail or psychiatric units. They are in Parliament or business, where ruthlessness and toughness are a prerequisite value. They are polite, suave, uber-cool. They are winners.

For men, this is a testosterone-fuelled trip of a lifetime, quite literally. Where a culture values such ruthlessness, then they awake, arise, and are harnessed to these values and the social structures that permit them.

They become Reinhard Heydrich, the ober fuehrer, travelling in his open-topped limo to work, announcing to his minions his power and status. Will these people get through the eye of the needle? Would they even want to?

For it is what is on the other side of the needle’s eye that matters! For as long as there is the drive to win power and status, above all else, why should such addicts want to go into such a steep reverse? For this is what lies on the other side of the needle.

This is a world where the myth – that happiness lies in the abundance of possessions and consumption of them, and can bring a constant river of bliss in its wake – is questioned, and greeted with scepticism. Not that celebration is despised; far from it. Indeed, it is a place in which deeper celebration, even in little things, is possible.

This is not the opiate of the people, but a place where critical thought can come together with joy, paradoxical as that might seem.

The humblest achievement of a disabled child can be celebrated at much as that of the greatest scientist, artist or engineer. It may be that public esteem is all the glory and honour that a politician or businessman will ever get.

The other side of the needle is a world in which the achievement of the least is celebrated. This is not to say that the consciousness of the proletariat is the measure of all truth. Uriah Heep reminds us of as much, and provides an important corrective. On the other side of the needle, which riches make it so difficult to reach, is another world where notions of honour and glory are entirely different.

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