“Rosebud”

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For what shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?

No one sets out to lose what was once most important to them. But it still happens. For those in leadership roles, the subtle influence of money and power can take over, often with tragic results.

Citizen Kane, the classic Orson Welles film released in 1941, depicts the pernicious and corrosive effects that money and power can have on those who encounter them unprepared. The film opens with the camera meandering past a NO TRESPASSING sign and into a large estate. We see all the trappings of success, now in disrepair – an empty Bengal tiger cage, Venetian style boats bobbing in the lake, a golf course green with a dilapidated sign – and an enormous mansion up on the hill. Inside, Charles Foster Kane, an immensely wealthy newspaper tycoon, is on his deathbed. He utters the word “rosebud,” breathes his last, and lets a snow globe he has been clutching in his hand drop and shatter on the floor.

The rest of the film follows reporter Jerry Thompson as he attempts to learn the significance of Kane’s last word. By interviewing those who used to be close to Kane, Thompson is able to piece together Kane’s impoverished early childhood, the wealth his family stumbled into, his initial journalistic idealism, and the eventual blind pursuit of wealth and power that led to the destruction of all his relationships.

Although Thompson is unable to find out what “rosebud” was, he reaches the conclusion that:

Mr. Kane was a man who got everything he wanted, and then lost it. Maybe rosebud was something he couldn’t get, or something he lost.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with a desire for fine things and ambition. But there was something deeply wrong with Kane’s belief about what those things would bring him. In biblical terms, they became idols, which he served diligently. Their only command was that he accumulate more—more money, more power, more things. And they had to be acquired and consumed in greater and greater amounts.

In obedience to his idols, Kane sacrificed every relationship he had and trampled on every good belief he once held. He became whatever he had to be in order to serve his idols and in the end he was left with nothing of worth but a memory of a goodness long gone, symbolized by a sled from his childhood named Rosebud. Kane had gained the world, and in the process he had lost his soul.

Money and power are excellent tools for obtaining legitimate goals. But, the blind pursuit of money and power in and of themselves leaves us with nothing of lasting value. Kane only realized this error as he lay dying. It turns out that the pursuit of money and power are not only seductive, but phenomenally distracting from what matters in life, right up to the end.

Death, on the other hand, as Kane discovered to his horror, has a way of evaporating the perceived worth of massive empires, fame, caged exotic animals, golf courses, and boats. Surviving an encounter with wealth and power will require each of us to reject the self-centered and self-serving philosophy Kane lived by. There is an alternative way to seek real fulfilment and you can read about it here (http://www.raybeerhorst.com/personal-fulfillment/ )

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