Reflections on money,hypocrisy and middle-class

I've always felt uncomfortable over conversations involving personal financial affairs. I suck at it. I noticed this keenly when I wrote a mail to a friend a week ago, reminding him of the money he owed me for the work I did for him. While writing the email, I could sense my discomfort as my train of thought inched closer to write the exact amount he owed me. I squirmed. I replaced the amount figure with a vague reminder to pay what was due. While I thought it was okay for such thing to happen with a not-so-close friend, I was surprised to see myself reacting the same way, if not with a fragile sense of discomfort, with my dearer ones. 

As I reflected on my uneasiness towards money, I could see my conditioned response making sense with money as a Faustian bargain with the devil. Why does money always have to be this way? What makes money so powerful to dictate us to do things that we don't like, take up jobs that we don't enjoy, live in cities that we hate, and live lives of quiet desperation?

I looked around to see where money stood in my relationship with the world. It took me a while to see that my middle-class society has always been hypocritical in money matters. Although love, compassion, mutual respect, ethical behavior were taught as values to abide for, they never stood in the way of understanding money and its essential pursuit as the most practicable pursuit we were involved in. While I grew up being parented and advised that money is fleetingly impermanent, evil et al, prayer room was always its temporary locker,with wads of notes happily ensconced in the royal abode of Gods and Goddesses, deified in the smoke wafts of incense sticks and ever glittering diyas (lamps) 

However, If you come to think of it, the choice of its abode seems appropriate because today money seems to share every property we ascribe to God, consciousness and spirit. 

What is it that has universal presence, pervades all things, knows no limits, has as an essence that's immaterial and invisible, nonetheless, directs all human affairs? As Charles Eisenstein eloquently puts it, your answer could be either God or Consciousness or Spirit or MONEY.

Charles Eisenstein has been my inspiration in my pursuit to understand and eventually re-imagine money. In one of his lectures, he beautifully explains this from the historical perspective stating that both money and the idea of immaterial spirit were actually invented at the same time. In ancient Greece, before the time of pre-Socratic philosophers, there wasn't such a thing called as an immaterial spirit. Gods were identified with natural forces. They were an intimate part of nature. As society became monetized, it found itself comfortable to embrace the concept of God, as an immaterial spirit who ruled over nature.  

We have taken this immateriality to its extreme today, as we stand over the debris of the recent financial crisis and allow ourselves to be taken for a ride under grand delusions of growth and prosperity in a society whose economics  engenders hallucinated wealth

I don't know about others. But for me, the whole concept of money as a yardstick of value has been totally disrupted. I find my aspirations and inclinations gravitating towards those things for which the market economy has utter disregard or incapable of measuring its worth. Whatever the market economy values as precious, in its own standards, today seems less like a boon and more like a pain(think of car, high-rise apartment, technology gadgets), to be stayed away from, as far as possible, or to be ridden sooner, with sensible life-style design. 

Talking about money and value, in a beautiful blog I read, Charlie describes money as a law which states that a person, object, or item has a value that can rise and fall. He writes further, saying..
Money is a law, that is in place, until we no longer need it to be in place.  When we grasp that everything has value that cannot rise and fall, money will cease to matter.
While I am conscious of not labeling money conveniently as the villain in the story, happily distancing it from the complex machinations of my ego, I am earnestly beginning to explore the alternatives. What will the world look like without money? What will money look like, if it embodies our innate human values?

P.S. When I discussed about my thoughts expressed in this blog post with few of my friends, one of them remarked, "All, this is fine..But you are not telling my anything that will reassure the value I am placing on money. ". While I impulsively felt the need to say, "Isn't it obvious?", when I paused, I could see my friend's reaction without judgement and what it told me about the world we are living in.    


Venkataraman said...

Here's a heart-warming mail I received from Charlie( referred in the blog)
Venky,Thanks so much for your posting on my blog regarding money. I did read your article and thought it was good..well written, honest. What I was more excited by was your About page though. I totally love what you are doing with your life. It is inspiring and satisfying to read what you are up to across so many fields of interest.
Keep on doing what you are doing and this old world is going to keep changing into a place where we would all like to be.

Avinash Maurya said...

Really well written venky. this is one of my fav. post of yours mostly because it's a reflection on self. I can relate to most of the points mentioned about money, the thing that has only recently come between me and my life.
I have been reading responses to questions like "What is like to be a millionaire/billionaire?" on Quora and trying to observe how does money or no money changes our life. and I discovered it doesn't. A person with no money at all or a person with loads of money may have the same issues with life. Both know money is not the solution to their problems neither can money buy the solution*.
It's the middle class that is trapped itself in the money loop. We work for money everyday thinking it brings us closer to the light at the end of the tunnel. But the light is always out of reach. As it will be because any target oriented action led us nowhere.
Having said that, I think money do gives us the power to buy our freedom. I want money just to keep people quiet and let me do what I want to do in my life.

*interesting top answer

Venkataraman said...

Beautiful reply Avinash! I so resonate with what you wrote about freedom. Every financial transaction we undertake in this market economy world is a longing, yet incomplete barter for our freedom. Talking about money and rich

Saumya Gupta said...

As kids we were taught value and price are different. I believe as we grew we forgot the difference. We are all identities of excess.Our punitive measures are fine of so and so, our reformative measures are grants of so and so. We have scaled ourselves. And frankly Venkat money does embody our innate values.They freaking even quote how much was donated at a temple.That's too much of philanthropy haan??
Loved how you actually could value your discomfort and put it in understanding one of the biggest social stigma we face.
Great work!!

Venkataraman said...

'Identities of excess', beautifully put Saumya! We are Identities of excess, surviving on scarcity perhaps. When I say innate values, I refer to that pristine, endangered human spirit rarely seen across our civilization. While some are doing their best to ensure that this doesn't remain a romantic possibility, there are so many of us who are busy unconsciously doing enough and more to weed out tribes which still possess these human values in the name of development

Arun Palaniappan said...

Who was that friend by the way ? Urundai ?

Venkataraman said...

Are you referring to the P.S.? Not him..What reminds you of Rajesh suddenly?:) He is busy in U.S. Been a while since I spoke to him.

Destination Infinity said...

Money is not essentially a bad thing. Money is just an indicator of how much value you have provided to others. Which inturn will enable you to gain something of value. But, money is not the goal (unlike how many people see it) - It's only an indicator of our success in some field that contributes to the betterment of human civilization.

Venkataraman said...

Thanks for dropping by and sharing your thoughts!.