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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

"The Midas Touch"

[This essay was originally posted to a blog on Weebly. In transferring it I have updated and made corrections where necessary.]

I'm nearing the end of The Devil and Miss Prym by Paulo Coelho, and he's just told the story of King Midas. It's a cautionary tale: Midas was given one wish by the god Dionysus, and in his greed he asked that everything he touch turn to gold. The end is well-known: even his food and drink are turned to gold and, in Coelho's version, he dies of hunger and thirst in a week. (In some versions he learns his lesson and Dionysus restores him to normalcy).

From this story, we get the expression "the Midas touch," which is commonly considered a good thing. One of my favorite resources, The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, says that, "A person who is very successful or easily acquires riches is sometimes said to have a 'Midas touch.'"

Now isn't that odd? Greed is one of Christianity's "Seven Deadly Sins," and the first of Buddhism's "Three Poisons." And yet we speak admiringly of someone with a "Midas touch."

Slow learners?


  1. How did a fatal condition (greed-induced death through "The Midas Touch") become a praiseworthy skill?
  2. It's often said "Money can't buy happiness." Do you believe that? Why or why not?
  3. Does Midas's "sin" lie in becoming rich? Or in taking shortcuts? Or in valuing gold above everything? Or in something else?

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Use the above questions for personal reflection, for group discussion, or for "jump starting" a comment.

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