Losing them, fixing them, forgetting to put them in
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Money, quite simply, is freedom. To be without it in our society is to be always limited. It is also a catalyst and does not give to its possessor any quality, positive or negative, which was not there already. It only serves to emphasize — to magnify and expand the possibilities.
Therefore, money should not be made an end in itself. It has no life of its own and is only as good or as evil as the uses to which it is put.
India Montrose Dick
Money is a visible symbol of the abyss we have created between ourselves and nature. In the beginning, we directed physical and mental energy into the environment. That same energy came echoing back to us in the form of sustenance, clothing, shelter, and so on. If we looked for food, we ate. If we built a hut, we stayed dry. Today, the same fundamental relationship remains, but it is stretched so thinly over so many intermediate steps as to be almost unrecognizable. I once supported myself for two months by cruising slowly through the Durham suburbs counting houses. The government, needless to say, was paying me. Day after day, street after street, one, two, three, four, five . . . My partner in the enterprise was a philosophical fellow, one with a nose for absurdity and a healthy irreverence for any form of authority. At first we enjoyed a series of two and three hour businessman’s lunches in various downtown bars, drinking pitchers of beer, collecting our $2.75 an hour, laughing at the supremely ridiculous guise in which our “fat job” good fortune had come to us. Gradually, though, the rosy haze began to wear off. Neither of us was to articulate it to the other, but somehow the utter irrelevance of our money-gaining activities to the real process of our lives began to take its toll. It dawned on us: Here we were, two animals, two biological creatures, keeping ourselves fat and sassy by counting down the endless identical rows of houses in the twilight zone suburbs of Durham, a city founded on the sale of a poisonous herb. In a world without money, such a totally surreal situation could never have arisen. Neither could I have drifted so far from that cornerstone of my sanity: my sense of humility before the lessons of nature. Since then, I haven’t set myself up as a farmer (I don’t have the money!), but I have become very suspicious of alienating jobs, however lucrative. Like almost everyone, I need an income. From now on, though, I hope to produce it by offering real services to real people. My psyche can be at peace with participation in that kind of simple “village economy.” Should the link between my actions and my food ever become any more tenuous than that, I hope I’ve got sense enough to see it and close the gap.
This guy loses a dime out of his pocket while pulling up his britches out at the outhouse and it falls into the bottom. So he takes out the rest of his change and the bills in his wallet and throws them down into the hole too because he didn’t want to climb down there just to get a dime out.
Re Money: This is a Name Withheld story. The nature of money has always eluded me. One long night I tried to concretize a dollar bill by rolling a fat joint with it. Dollar bills roll lousy and burn worse. The smell was deathly, like the smell must be in last century’s coffins — past rot, a smell of death long done. Lesson learned: money and euphoria can be counterforces. I didn’t get off.
In the interest of money: the rhinoceros is almost extinct (there is more profit in smuggling wild animals than opium) and third world countries are exploited by the makers of infant formula (causing widespread infant deaths due to the improper preparation of bottles).
Money is, to me, freedom, and freedom, time, and time, creativity. As I rock my child to sleep, singing, “Summertime, and the living is easy, Fish are jumping . . .” How explicit the economic basis to pleasurable existence — that summery, pastoral, floating-on-your-back, Cezanne-blue fruit thickening on the trees and time-calculated, repetitious, deadening work far, far away, or never known. Such is the basis of what is original in me — at odds, by nature, with the cantankerous confines of Western economics — at odds with all that refutes the child’s simple adherence to that “order explicit in things.”
I’ve been singin’ the blues about money for most of my days. Since I was knee high to a piggybank there has never been much of the stuff around. I have fretted, fussed and worried about it while scraping together just enough to get by. Just like my parents did. Just like their parents did.
Since I left home 14 years ago, I’ve approached the subject of low finance from various angles. For a few years I cared a lot how much money I had and what I could buy with it. Then I tried to avoid the topic by deliberately choosing a subsistence life-style and calling myself a hippie. But even when I was content to live simply and re-cycle creatively, I still worried if there would be enough to pay the rent.
In 1971 I joined a commune where all significant property is held in common; all basic (and not-so-basic) needs are covered by the community, and each member gets $2 allowance each week to spend as she/he pleases. It was bliss. I felt released. Liberated.
Uhm. Well, not quite. Just temporarily on parole. After five years I left the community (for reasons too complex to go into now) and am having to learn about money all over again. This time around I decided I want plenty. (Sort of a reaction to balance all those years below the poverty level.) In fact, I feel down right greedy. Trouble is, I still don’t have any. Well, not much anyway. I’ve been out here in the real world for more than a year and I swear that every dime I reach for turns to a penny.
Now, there comes a time when one must fix one’s steely gaze inward and ask, “Whatta ya doin’, kid?” So for the past few weeks I’ve been peering intently into the workings of my mind to discover what I do to keep myself poor. And I can’t understand why I didn’t notice this sooner. There seems to be a specific part of my brain that has the sole job of broadcasting a continual litany of self-righteous poverty. Little gems flit through my mind at the oddest moments. Like: “Money corrupts.” Original, huh? Another standard theme is about how the only way to get money is by exploiting other folks. One of the long playing favorites is “Blessed are the poor . . .” There’s more but I’m sure you get the picture. Financial security is immoral!
Now, whether this is wisdom or foolishness is beside the point. That tape in my head is in striking conflict with my frequent and emphatic entreaties to the universe to rain some manna down on my head, please.
So. It appears a decision is in order. A choice must be made. To have or not to have. I consider. I waver. I dream about skid row and castles. I continue to be afraid I’ll lose my soul if I make more than $75 a week. Even more afraid to find out that I have no choice. But as I ponder the moral purity of poverty the car broke down twice this week, I just lost my job, and the hospital is threatening to repossess my body if I don’t pay their bill. Maybe somebody will give me some money. Then I won’t have to make a decision.
Marjorie Bree Kalb