What is the curse of the Midas touch?
“There is no such thing as Success. Or, if you like to put it so, there is nothing that is not successful. That a thing is successful merely means that it is; a millionaire is successful in being a millionaire and a donkey in being a donkey.” G.K. Chesterton (On the Fallacy of Success).
What is success? We all seem to have some idea of what it is. And if we don’t, there are thousands of people out there who will teach you. There are thousands of online courses, tens of thousands of YouTube gurus, and millions of books out there that promise to lead you to success in 5 simple steps.
People with the “Midas touch” are universally praised and revered. They can use every opportunity to make money. They are able to turn everything they touch into gold. And yet, as G.K. Chesterton says, the Greeks have enshrined the “instinct that makes people rich” in the most telling myth about King Midas.
Midas, the affluent ruler of Phrygia, lived in a lavish palace with his beautiful daughter and was leading a life of extravagance. Despite his immense wealth, Midas was fixated on the pursuit of gold, believing it to be the ultimate source of happiness.
His avarice was such that he spent his days counting his golden coins, and occasionally he would even “bathe” in golden coins.
One day, a satyr by the name of Silenus was passing through Midas’s famous rose garden. He was so tired after days of feasting with his patron Bacchus that he lay down on the ground in total exhaustion to take a nap. Midas found him there, invited him in, and took care of him.
After several days, he took him back to Bacchus, the god of wine and pleasure. Bacchus was so glad to see Silenus that he promised to fulfill any one wish of Midas. After some consideration, Midas blurted: “I want to turn everything I touch into gold.” Bacchus advised him to think twice before making such a wish, but Midas didn’t listen.
The next day, Midas started touching everything in his castle. First, a small table turned into gold. Then, he touched a chair, a carpet, the floor – everything! Midas was ecstatic. Finally, his dream came true. He could have anything he wanted. He kept running around and touching everything he saw.
Finally, he sank down on his golden chair exhausted. He reached out for some grapes, but the moment he started chewing, he nearly broke his teeth – the grape became golden in his hand. He leaned over to enjoy the smell of a rose on his table, but as soon as he touched it, it turned into gold between his fingers and lost its fragrance.
Slowly, Midas started to realize what had happened to him. He touched a slice of bread, and it turned into gold. He touched a glass of water, and it turned into gold. Suddenly, fear gripped his soul. “What have I done!” he muttered and lay down on his couch. The pillow under his cheek turned into gold as well.Continue reading “G.K. Chesterton on the Fallacy of Success: The Curse of the Midas Touch”