Money. Money. Money.
The big “M” word. The subject of countless newspaper articles, journal studies, reports, Google searches, and blog posts. The bone of contention for couples, families, and even friends. The obsession for hours of agony, nights of worry, and days of toil.
[By the way, this isn’t really a spiritual post. It’s a rare mundane post from me today.]
Money is temporary. It can be burned, ripped, lost, cut up, eaten, melted, and utterly destroyed. It flows. It comes and goes. You can take it from others and others can take it from you. It does not define worth–a lot of junk fetches a high price–nor self-worth. What is money? A piece of paper or a coin of metal, given an arbitrary value by a society and weighed and measured by a banking system to determine price and value. What is money? A piece of paper. A coin of metal. Paper. Metal. These are items we can find in our daily lives, and most of the time, we pass over them without a second glance. The only difference between the two is that one piece of paper holds more value in society than the other piece of paper. And we are told that the more pieces of this special paper or special metal we have, the better we are. The more worthy we are. The more special and happy we are.
By placing such a high value on something so fleeting and temporary, we tell everyone who has less of it that they are worth less. That their lives are worth less. In our economy and society, we have been told that the pursuit of money is more important than the pursuit of happiness. But there are many people out there, both within this country and outside of it, who have far less than the most average family in America, and they are happier than that average family because they have less.
Please, don’t think I’m saying that poverty is not a problem. I agree that it is a problem. Everyone should be able to eat three meals a day and have shelter, warmth, and good clothing. I am saying that for the last five thousand years or so, ever since the ancient Greeks, we have operated on the basis that money equates to value, and value equates to worth. We have all collectively agreed that money is the most important asset. Countless wars have been fought over money, since treasure and rare artifacts essentially are money. We have collectively agreed that “wealth” means the accumulation of money.
I am saying that this is our problem–we have allowed society to so narrowly define what it means to be wealthy, happy, and successful. I’m not rich, but I’m not poor. I’m in the middle. But I consider myself wealthy because I have so much more in my life than money. As long as my basic needs are met–able to afford food, transportation, clothes, and payment of bills–then the rest doesn’t matter. I’m sure there are people out there reading this who will say “You don’t understand what it’s like to be poor. You don’t understand what it’s like to not have money.” And they’re right–I don’t understand what it’s like to be monetarily poor. I don’t understand what it’s like to not have any money at all. And it’s possible that I’m only taking the view that money doesn’t matter very much because I have money.
I still take that view. In the grand scheme of the universe, does God or the gods or the universe give a damn about who has more money than whom? No, they care about how you use what is given to you, whether that’s talent, gifts, abilities, and assets like money. Your soul doesn’t care about money either. It can’t take that money back to the Other Side, so why bother getting fussed about something that you’re never going to see again? Money is fleeting–you can’t take it with you to the spirit world. When you die, someone else will get your money, whether it’s your children or your creditors or charities or the government. It doesn’t belong to you. Ever. Money never, ever truly belongs to you, because once you have it, you spend it. If you don’t have it, you get it from someone else, either by stealing or in payment or finding it on the street. Money does not belong to you. Yet we all labor under the illusion that money is ours, and we work so hard at dead-end, depressing jobs to earn something that will never really belong to us.
Wealth, however… if you take “wealth” out of the narrow societal context we have placed it in… then anyone can be truly wealthy. In my opinion, that means more than a pile of colored bills.