Man Does Not Live by Bread Alone Essay

Outline:

  • Man, a combination of soul and body
  • Body’s requirements
  • Man’s greediness
  • The virtue of contentment
  • The thirst for knowledge, the strongest impulse in man
  • The real aim of a scientist
  • Man’s interest in arts and literature
  • The head of a family, breadwinner and the relation of love
  • Emotions, intelligence forming the basis of man’s character
  • Man’s sacrifices for ideal, religion and country
  • The limitation of this maxim A balanced attitude.

It is a reference from the Holy Bible, according to which man needs many more things for his living apart from bread.

Although man has certainly a soul, yet we must remember that the soul does not live apart from the body. The body requires food and comfort, and the mind is inseparably connected with the body. It is because man requires food (and also clothing and many other things) that he is always eager to earn money with which he purchases commodities. Man is always engaged in the pursuit of wealth. It seems that if he can have enough money, he will have material comforts, and these will make him happy.

Most of us live in want, and therefore, it is natural for us to think that if we can satisfy our physical needs, we shall be happy. But a little reflection will make it clear that this is a onesided view of human life. If we go on satisfying our wants, we shall find that the satisfaction of one need does not bring contentment, it only creates new and ever new needs. From bullock carts we came to carriages, from carriages to trains and from trains to motors and airplanes. Still the hunger for more and more comfortable conveyance will continue. This is true of every other amenity of life. First we satisfy our needs, and then we want luxuries and of luxuries, there is no end.

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The problem is not solved if man is contented with little. If he lives on what he can get easily, his time will not be taken up with the quest for wealth. Then too, he must have something else to live for. Bread winning cannot be a major occupation for him. He must have other pursuits, other interests if he has to live at all.

The fact is that although man has a body, which requires to be fed, he also has a mind that has needs and desires that are not always connected with hunger or love for pleasure. Man does require bread and other material things, but they constitute only a part of his life. He does not need these alone. The thirst for knowledge, which some people consider the strongest impulse in man, is independent of the desire for comfort although knowledge gives us power and thus improves our material circumstances. Science has added immeasurably to man’s comforts and conveniences, but the great scientist – Galileo or Newton or Einstein – pursues science out of disinterested love for knowledge, and the application of science to improve material conditions is for him only a by-product.

What is true of science is truer of arts and literature, which, from material point of view, are useless or worse than useless. Age after age, man has delighted in poetry, he has sung songs and painted pictures and found ineffable joy in these activities. He has interested himself in those activities not because they have helped him to earn his bread – sometimes they have done the opposite but because he has imagination and because his life of emotions has appeared to him to be as important as his physical life. His intellect has taken him to science and philosophy, and his imagination and his emotions have found expression in art and literature.

Most men are neither scientists nor philosophers, neither poets nor artists. But they, too, have a rich fund of emotions, which play the most important part in their lives. The head of a family is called the breadwinner; superficially his most important function is to earn the wherewithal to feed his wife and children. But the relationship is not merely that of a breadwinner and his dependents. It is a relation of love and affection, and it is because of this relation that he faces the toil of earning his livelihood and theirs. It is on our loves and attachments, our jealousies and hatreds that the life of us all is centred; it is from this storehouse of emotions that we all derive sustenance. A few men commit suicide when they cannot find food, but most suicides out of some sorrow or disappointment.

It is emotions and our intelligence that forms the basis of man’s character, and unoften it is found that character is stronger than the urge of material needs. Men in all ages have made great sacrifices for an ideal religion, patriotism or some other things, which was proved stronger than the desire for food and the attachment to material things. All men do not make such large sacrifices, but every man at some moment or other feels that there are principles and causes that are superior to the claims of physical well being, that there are nobler things than bread. Breadwinning may take most of his time, but it does not absorb the whole of his being. Although he may not be able to live up to the ideal, he knows that the ideal exists, and it is this consciousness that really makes a man of him.

In the sordid struggle of life it is good to remember now and then that man does not live by bread alone. But we should not exaggerate the value of the saying. Generally men who have not only bread but also cakes, who live in comfort and luxury teach the poor that man does not live by bread alone. The poor man who cannot find two meals a day knows how necessary bread is to life. It is comfortable life that gives man the health and leisure to enjoy the delicacies of emotion or the subtler beauties of poetry and fine arts. Man does not, indeed, live by bread alone. But he requires bread if he has to live at all. No amount of poetry or philosophy can pass over the hard realities of life. Man’s primary right is the right to live, which is also the right to eat, and then only can he think of the nobler aspects of life.

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