This might seem like a simple question and that it comes with a simple answer but upon closer examination, our answer quickly becomes quite complex! Now, we could get into the philosophy of it and economics but let’s skip over that…at least for now. Before reading on take a minute to pause and reflect upon this question and observe the answers that mind produces. What does money mean?
Now hopefully you took a minute to really reflect on this, if you didn’t it’s important that you do. Assuming that you did, what did you find? You probably came up with what most of us do. It means that we can buy things. Those things range from entertainment to food, shelter and other things that allow us to survive. And this is exactly right, money means that we can experience enjoyment and that we won’t die. These are two very powerful motivations.
So now we can see that money isn’t a thing so much as it is symbolic of our fundamental motivations. But so what? What does this have to do with anything, you might ask. Well, the concern is that how we relate to and use money is a direct result of our view of reality. The other concern is that our use of money impacts our families, societies, global communities and the environment.
We fear having little money because we’re scared of dying and of hating life. We strive to accumulate wealth to calm these fears and to purchase things that make us feel successful, secure and give us status. This entire situation fuels anger, aggression, fighting and corruption. The saying, “money is the root of all evil,” is way off. Rather, our distorted view of our human conditions, individually and collectively, leads us to a way of thinking and living that is massively destructive.
If we look at our resources logically and without bias, there are plenty of resources, right now, for all of us. We can all live just fine. All humans could also receive great educations, have a decent home, work in good conditions and take comfort in the fact that as we grow old and are unable to work that the collective resources will ensure that we aren’t thrown away or rendered homeless. Yet, we are so far from this, especially in the U.S..
I’ve experienced what it’s like to be dirt poor and also to have a lot of money. I have to say, when I had a lot of money I was the least happy with life and consumed by consuming. What I’ve learned is that as long as I can survive, things are pretty good but that means that I have to be able to let go of excess and luxuries. This means that I have to let go of desire, which is the flip-side to aggression, hatred, corruption and greed. With mounting graduate school debt I accept the fact that I may not have a lot and that’s okay. If I can survive and have a basic life, that’s great. If I make more, then my only wish is to help others benefit from it so they can relax and feel some ease.
If I were to win the lotto, sure there are several nice things I’d want to obtain but what I would mostly want to do with the money is to give it away while keeping an amount that would sustain me for years. I’d work for free, provide therapy for free to people. Therapy is a wonderful resource but also, sadly, a bit of luxury.
How nice would it be to live a basic life until I die but be able to give my work and effort away in order to support, help and care for as many people as possible. So what does money mean to me? Very little really, but just like you I’m caught in the trap of our economics and culture of greed and aggression. Oh how I hope this will change.