Can We Use Money Better?

When I decided to not use money for a year, it was no great sacrifice. In all honesty, I have never really been all that good at using it anyway, and although I have managed to find comfort in its existence from time to time, like many people, it has often served as more of a deterrent to my happiness than as a catalyst for it.

I didn’t, and still don’t, hold any far-fetched hopes of abolishing money from the world altogether, nor am I trying to convince anyone that they need to give up its use. However, I have found that in my own life, I am largely quite content with appreciating the present moment and all of the abundance that it offers without using money as a proxy for the value that I find there. In the numerous jobs that I have had over the course of my life and the various roles that I have played, I have found the most satisfaction in working for the simple cause of fulfilling the immediate goal of the task at hand without using my present actions as a conduit for further fulfillment.

For instance, when I was building fences at a home on Fourth Street to help earn my keep, it was done with the singular purpose of building the fences and not for a monetary reward. I have found that there is a certain purity in that much like the meditational practice of washing dishes that I learned from the Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh. Taking money out of the equation, the service that I offer is merely about the service, allowing me to feel purposeful in my endeavors beyond any further self gratification.

As far as how I survive, I continue to allow Life to provide as I provide for it. I have meager needs and have found that they are met quite adequately by my community as I seek out ways to meet the needs of others. Utilizing my gifts as a writer, filmmaker, artisan, craftsman, laborer, cook, photographer, counselor, teacher, and whatever other roles open themselves up to me, I feel that I offer certain values to my community that cannot be adequately quantified by our present monetary system. By offering my talents as gifts to my community, I have faith that my safety and security will be provided for and that any extra value received will be passed on throughout my community.

I realize that this is far from a perfect science, yet I also realize, having watched the economic meltdown over the last few years and seeing the discrepancies in the estimation of value throughout my society, that our system of finance has its imperfections as well. All that I can really do is to be the best version of myself that I can be, and hopefully inspire others to realize their own value beyond the inadequate representation we have come to rely on by adhering to the myopia of the monetary system.

I feel that money has been a fine tool, and has its uses. But as Abraham Maslow said, “If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.” For the changes that need to be made in the world, I feel that money is a largely inappropriate tool. We as a civilization have so many other possibilities toward creating the sustainable future we imagine, and I feel that we must look beyond the limiting confines of the economic system, especially one as fraught with injustice, coercion, and corruption as the one currently in use.

Ultimately, the purpose of my year-long experiment and my continued research is to explore the notion that money has guided the development of civilization, and culture is what keeps an economy alive. From the time that we started perceiving more value and interest in our tools than the reason we started using them, we inextricably changed the course of our evolution. My hope is to weave together the story of how money has been developed in concert with our religious systems, hierarchical governments, and the effects that our attention and obedience to these thought systems have affected human relationships, emotionally, mentally, sexuality, and spiritually.

More importantly, since money has been so ingrained into our system that most people can’t even conceive of living without it, I hope to find a more balanced way to use it. Do you think we can?


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