Saturday, June 17, 2006

Paradox of possessions

Money, time, and love are the three legs of true wealth’s stool. What is money? It is a symbol for value, it is information; it is abstract. Humans are driven by symbols to go to war and fight for abstract causes. Money, being utterly abstract, is often valued more for itself than for what it actually buys—it is the ultimate “field of dreams.” Individuals and societies measure self worth by financial net worth, but this devalues the deeper qualities of awareness and soul that are the true source of all value.

It’s been said, "He who dies with the most toys, wins!" This is both true and not true. Some say, “Money does not matter,” but quietly and privately we fear poverty. Fear of homelessness, hunger, and a drop in social status drives many to an insane focus on money—at any cost. If you are poor with a positive state of mind, you may still suffer a sense of emotional degradation just from the social stigma of poverty. Such fears are well-founded in societies that fail to attain true wealth, since the members of those societies know they can and do fall into poverty. A world based on fear cannot be wealthy in any real sense.

Many of the “richest” people in the world are always “hungry.” Much shopping is for useless trinkets to replace the lack of meaning and love in life. Many a parent, for example, who has no time for talking with their children, will just buy toys. Most people identify with the stuff that they own as an extension of their personal ego.

Our possessions can own us. Attach ourselves to our possessions and we immediately lose our sense of true wealth. The very desire for not-yet-owned possessions breeds greed and lust. We suffer endless rounds of grasping for the goods that will make us “happy and full.” We get “more” but immediately need to get “more” again. There is no end in sight.

Walking by a beautiful garden filled with iris flowers, someone might think, “I don’t own it, how unfortunate!” So they miss the simple of joy of the experience. You don’t need to own things in order to enjoy them. To really “have” something we must be present to it. Taking time to appreciate the existence of an object, a friend, or a place is really having that object before us.

(This text taken from an article of mine titled "Realizing True Wealth" that first appeared in Verna Allee & Dinesh Chandra (Eds.) What is True Wealth & How Do We Create it? Indigo Press, A Division of Print and Media Associates, New Delhi, India, 2004.)

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

De-materialization of money

For years, I carried little pieces of gold, jade and silver in my pocket. I got the habit from my friend Glenn, who enjoyed buying small amounts of gold and silver along with hunting for jade at Big Sur beach in California.

Jade, silver and gold make excellent money tokens. The de-materialization of money started with paper money. Originally, paper money was "backed" by gold, silver or other tangible items. Later, we removed the "backing" or base of the money. Effectively, debasing the money.

Electronic computing turned money into intangible data configurations stored in computers. Actually, "money" is even more intangible than the computer's memory and electrons. It is the meaning that we give to these configurations that define money. Money has absolutely no physical basis at all, not even the electrons. It's all mental.

Money is a matter of conventions of social trust between us, banks, and governments. Inflation, deflation, monetary collapses are proofs of the conventional status of money. That should make us free of the spell of money, but it does not; for we depend on social conventions of trade and exchange for survival in our age of specialization.