Money is that bone of contention that has created some of the world’s broadest divisions: the haves and the have-nots; the materialists and the spiritualists; the pragmatists and the philosophers. These divisions, however, are absolute only in theory and most of us find ourselves sitting on the fence- in between the two extremes of the money debate. We understand the need to be astute about money but fear its corrupting influence. We’re glad we have enough, but would like just a little bit more. We want to help those in need but want to be convinced beyond reasonable doubt that they truly need it. How come we give so freely of our advice but tighten up in cautious knots in when expected to give of our money? How do we develop the right perspective on money? How do we measure its correct importance in our lives? Most of us have developed a socially polite attitude towards money, which is more often than not, at variance with how we internally feel about it.
Although it started as a simple instrument of exchange, it has become that very thing of value that we, wittingly or unwittingly trade our every thing for. It seems to have become the value of all values. We trade our time, our skills, our youth, our family relationships (sometimes) and our health in its pursuit. It has been the basis of many a friendship as also the basis of many a break-up. We see it as compensation, reward, power; as oxygen to our way of life, as a license to behave indulgently, as a marker of social status, as an expression of love and in the very least- albeit fundamentally- as a currency of trade.
The topic of ‘Money’ interestingly brings to the surface all possible themes of thought such as: ideas about right and wrong, just and unjust, beautiful and ugly, the sublime and the vulgar, moral and immoral, the astute and the naïve and the pragmatic and the philosophical. This only goes to show that money has penetrated deeply into all aspects of our lives. Money tends to cleave our perception. Through its prospect, our world stands divided into two halves, which are forever in conflict and tireless debate with each other. And we find ourselves on a pendulum course swaying from one side of the debate to the other. Why is it that a simple instrument of exchange fosters in our minds such a perpetual restlessness?
With the exponential growth of industry and commerce, we’re all inevitably money-minded. In today’s world everything we wish for, for a comfortable existence, can be acquired- for a price. The effect of such money-mindedness is that we’re always sizing things up; measuring their worth; pronouncing them desirable or undesirable and feverishly seeking profit over loss. Our economic system has permeated every other aspect of our being and has now also become our philosophical system. Everything we have, we believe is worthy of trade. In fact in a strange travesty of thought, we consider only those things about us valuable that we can trade in a market place. Money- in our lives- has overstepped its boundaries and today, it seems, everything has a price.
… But then, is such an occurrence or such a circumstance, unnatural? Is it really an indication of man’s sin and his deviation from his spirituality? Is the business of living at odds with man’s spiritual existence? Or is the entire business of living- with all its trials and tribulations- the mere working of an indifferent natural law? Is it possible at all- one wonders- to be misguided, even in matters of money and blind ambition? It almost seems- on close examination- that the law naturally corrects all excesses and that its ultimate aim is to arrive to a state of equilibrium and balance.
Money- as it always ultimately reveals itself – doesn’t have any attribute, worth or power of its own. It is we who give it its reputation. Some of us fear it; some of us worship it, some serve it, some vehemently deny it importance and some others master it. It’s very apparent that money behaves exactly as our mind prompts it to behave. If you prompt it to lord over you, it will. Money itself comes with its price and as such will extract that price. Sometimes we pay with our health, sometimes we trade our relationships and mostly we pay with our time. Like the Merchant of Venice, money will try and extract its pound of flesh.
Yet, money it seems, is an instrument of trade on more than one level. Through its temptation and false promises and then through its inevitable betrayal, man is left to himself- at first lost in its pursuit and then heroically redeemed.
So why is it that everything must be paid for? Why must man pay to discover himself? Every bright new day has to wait for the end of a long, lingering night. The transactions of money in our lives only reflect the working of another, higher natural law. Existence is never even. All highs are followed by lows; abundance by paucity; day by night and inhalation by exhalation. All that comes must go. And for all that comes, something else must go. Nature seeks balance; a repose in nothingness. Nature favors neither the rich nor the poor. She simply ensures and sustains the co-existence of both. There cannot be one without the other. The presence of riches in one area of your life is always balanced by an equal poverty in another. The problem really with the human mind is that the rich are blind to their poverty and the poor are blind to their wealth. Like a famous wit has said: ‘Success has made failures of so many men.’ When our self-esteem is derived from the weight of our wallets, it shows a dangerous dependence over money and a great poverty of spirit. Money is only a shadow. And gigantic as it may seem in a certain light, chasing it amounts to nothing more than chasing a shadow. The real work that we do, in fact, is in the least rewarded by money. Its higher reward comes in the form of greater self-reliance and a gradual independence from all things external.
In the final analysis, whichever way you look at it, the balance sheet of life always ends in a perfect tally. We’re all poor to only that extent that we’re rich.