Cardcaptor Sakura and a World Without Envy
True friendship is a rare thing.
In an early episode of Cardcaptor Sakura, a classic anime series, Tomoyo, one of Sakura’s friends, gets out of a convoy surrounded by bodyguards. She obviously comes from wealth.
Enchanted by the display, Sakura remarks that not many school kids have their very own bodyguards.
“Well,” remarks Tomoyo, “There are even fewer who have their own magical powers.” This isn’t said with snark, just a statement of the facts.
“Guess so,” says Sakura, and the episode continues without missing a beat. None of this is presented in a negative way. Sakura thinks it is really neat to have bodyguards. Tomoyo thinks it is really neat to have magical powers. Both are happy for the other, without a trace of envy or covetousness.
I found this extremely refreshing. A more recent show might have Sakura feel jealous about Tomoyo’s wealth, and have Tomoyo resentful that Sakura was the one chosen to have magical powers. Or maybe it would have Tomoyo resentful for the burden that having wealthy parents has placed on her lifestyle, and the entire episode would be an exercise in entitled introspection and discontentment.
Both friends can treat the blessings (or should I say, “privileges”) the other has as good things, with no guilt trips or qualifications.
And so it should be in our own friendships. To rejoice when something happens to them as if it had happened to us. However, it is rare to find a friend that harbors no envy, and this has been a known problem since people started writing stories.
In the Greek play Agamemnon, the returning king laments his lack of true companionship.
In few men is it part of nature to respect
a friend’s prosperity without begruding him,
as envy’s wicked poison settling to the heart
piles up the pain in one sick with unhappiness,
who, staggered under sufferings that are all his own,
winces again to the vision of a neighbor’s bliss.
And I can speak, for I have seen, I know it well,
this mirror of companionship, this shadow’s ghost,
all those who seemed my friends in their sincerity.
Just one of them, Odysseus, he who sailed unwilling,
once yoked to me pulled all his weight, nor ever slacked.
Dead though he be or living, I can say it still.
Of all the men close to Agamemnon, he found only one true friend.
Envy will kill your friendships and steal your happiness. If you ever come across someone who “winces to the vision of a neighbor’s bliss”, run far, far away. And if you ever feel a grumbling in your heart whenever someone else is happy, know that it is envy rotting your bones, and if you let it go on too long, it will destroy your soul.
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