I’ve been thinking about money a lot. It’s a favourite subject for me – I’m very interested in money.
A few years back when we (my family) were playing around with different poetic forms, some of us were writing haiku: 17 syllables in a 5-7-5 sequence. Hebe wrote this:
Money is currency, not a static thing. It is – is intended as – a flow. Stagnant (hoarded) money does not bless. Not to say that we shouldn’t save, but our savings should be like a reservoir with an overflow. There is (though our society seems to have a hard time grasping this concept) such a thing as ‘enough’. Once our savings goal, which should be moderate, just enough to cover needs and contingencies, has been met, then it should be allowed to flow out again, because it’s the flow that enables the blessing.
The question is, to what extent is its flow congruent with the flow of grace? If it is, it will bring blessing; if not it will set up contra-flows and eddies that threaten our wellbeing.
My thinking about money is always intertwined with thoughts about holy simplicity. How to follow a minimalist path wisely and realistically.
So this summer I’ve thought and read and researched a lot about living without money. There’s more on that topic than there used to be. Daniel Suelo, Peace Pilgrim, Heidemarie Schwermer, Mark Boyle – these are familiar names, but the numbers of people experimenting with moneyless practice have increased, and their findings make interesting reading.
I thought hard about moneyless living, wondered if I could do it. You have to have no home, really – because of council tax and other maintenance overheads; and you have to think about sourcing food. Most moneyless people rely heavily on dumpster-diving, and I feel uncomfortable with that. It’s not eating thrown-out food that bothers me but getting into trouble – going where I’m not welcome and being chased off, people being angry with me. That happens with authority figures anyway; I make people angry quite a lot, unwittingly, and I’m nervous of triggering rage. So while I’m happy to forage wild food and eat thrown-out food, I’m leery of instigating conflict/antagonism.
Also, I love the Buddhist monastic precept, that you should not take what is not given. That refines further the Judeo-Christian precept that you should not steal – you actually wait to be offered before you take. This precept seems to me to greatly enhance the chances of harmony in human society.
While I was pondering this, I came upon a moneyless blogger’s article on transport, in which he said he’d been much encouraged by a remark Daniel Suelo made that I either hadn’t read or had forgotten (I’ve read most of what Suelo has to say). This was to do with entitlement – that Suelo reportedly identified as a problem moneyless individuals sense that they couldn’t avail themselves of what was normally paid for. The particular matter in focus was riding on the subway. The blogger felt unentitled to ride on the subway with no bought ticket. But Suelo had said the subway (this is in America – I think they mean a train – underground?) was going in any case, so what was the harm in riding on it? The blogger embraced this argument gladly and thus solved his problem.
Now, while I am not greatly disturbed by the notion of people fare-hopping, I don’t want to do it myself. This time (unlike the dumpster diving) the issue for me is not just about getting into trouble.
Moneyless living should offer a practical and coherent philosophy, if one is to propose it as a way of living; and this business of riding the subway with no ticket exposes a big hole in it. Because the subway didn’t get there by itself, it was created within the money system. In order to have something as complex and sophisticated, drawing on that many disparate disciplines and commodities (sourcing, engineering manufacturing, operational) if you didn’t have a common currency like money you’d have to invent one. You couldn’t create something like a subway bartering pigs or apples or even iron ore. So really, if you are in favour of everyone (not just yourself) living without money – if you have embraced and are proposing it as a workable philosophy for human community – then you should model ways to live it that don’t depend on the money system. That’s what I think, though I well know that those who live without money disagree, because they go into this subject carefully. I am not interested in pursuing a philosophy of life that depends for its survival on a contrary philosophy. What I’ve seen so far of moneyless living in the Western world relies on a parasite-host arrangement which doesn’t attract me.
But because growth economics has an arising angel of certain death for the Earth and all of us who are part of the Earth, I am very interested in living as simply as possible – walking lightly, living frugally and sustainably, sharing as much as possible, owning as little as possible.
Minimalism and sharing form the most effective symbiosis for the good of the Earth and the wellbeing of people. Because this blog post is long now, I’ll write about that next time.