Another short read and another good way to get the year started.
Henry Van Dyke’s The Mansion is a good, short book about John Weightman, a rich man who believes in God and has always placed his worship of God as a high priority. However, John does tend to “interpret” scripture to his liking. For example, if God says not to lay up treasure on earth where moth can corrupt and robbers can steal, then He clearly means that we ought best to protect our fortunes and lock away our life’s winnings.
John has a dream that he has died and gone to heaven. He meets up with an old friend and philanthropist along the way to the pearly gates. They enter the great city of heaven, and the friend, who spent his life serving and giving of his time and resources, is given an enormous mansion. He wishes well to our protagonist, John, who is led by a guide through the thoroughfare of heaven, past mansion after mansion. All the while, John is thinking about how big his mansion must be. After all, he founded a school, and donated a hospital wing, etc. He is led out of the suburbs, out past the country, for hours until he arrives at a tiny shack, and I wouldn’t even call it that.
He asks what this is supposed to mean. After all, he founded a school, and donated a hospital wing, etc. etc. The angel guiding John tells him that they used the materials they had, but John hadn’t sent them much to work with. But what about the school? But what about the hospital? The angel informs John that he was very generous, and that he was excellent at managing his investments and returns, and that’s why he had a mansion on earth. He was plenty acclaimed, and schools and hospitals carried his name. On earth. John awakens from the startling and moving experience and vows to be a changed man and give more to others.
This was a good read. I really enjoyed the way it puts life and afterlife into context. If you think about an afterlife as simply a continuation of mortal life, you can continue to make your investments, they are just longer term. Also, seeing as you will eventually be working under a new set of circumstances, it’s probably best to make your investments with the future circumstances in mind. Not only has Van Dyke given us a great inspirational metaphor to draw from, he’s actually given us an excellent business model.
I’ve found personally that long-term investments tend to be worth more than short-term investments. When I was married, my wife and I decided that the efforts we put into preserving our marriage and family would be long term efforts. If anything were to go wrong in the short term, it was okay, because we would keep working towards the end that was further ahead. It doesn’t matte how much money we make if we end up divorced. Money’s important, because food is important, but we’ve both decided that our marriage and happiness doesn’t depend on and is more important than money. (Besides, I’m going to be a teacher.)
Also, I reflect on the times that my friends have complained about working in Economics classes. It seems that most Economics students are less than willing to help others with their studies, because they pose a threat. The mentality seems to be: I will succeed by working on myself, not by helping others be more successful than me. I’m fortunate not to be in that boat; I’m going to be a teacher, and it seems that most of the people in my classes are of the thought that if we work together, we can all become better teachers and better the world. Even if there is some kind of competition involved, it’s not us against each other, but rather us against the world. We are willing to invest in one another’s long term successes, and hopefully that will make for more mansion-quality schools in the future.
The Mansion by Henry Van Dyke was an excellent book to read, and I got it for free online.
Read it. Live it. Build your mansion.