Money is a poor excuse for a God.
Are you surprised by my assertion that we’ve made it into a god? What do people mean when they say “I’ve lost faith in the economy”? Why does the United States put “In God We Trust” on our money? Why do people (and the state) determine their, and each other’s, value through how much they earn? Why are people expected to spend at least 1/3 of their lifetime working? The US and much of the World have certainly put accumulation of wealth before care for humanity. And this just forces people who don’t worship money to keep chasing money, because they have been placed in a situation where they have to have money to live.
There is strong evidence, in fact, to the idea that Christianity created Capitalism, and that the link was nurtured and fostered throughout the 20th Century, especially in the US (where it also fostered libertarianism). This is not to say that Capitalism follows the actual teachings of Jesus, but it does follow the teachings and example of The Church, which is why you will often hear me say that Christianity (Catholic or Protestant) is a political system. I mean, so are Islam and Tibetan Buddhism, don’t get me wrong. Any religion that has centralized leaders becomes a political system.
Anytime we give something exalted status, we are in danger of being addicted to it. If something is all important, by definition we put it before anything else. Doing this with money is actually considered a disorder, but that doesn’t acknowledge that this is Capitalism. Addiction causes people to see things in binary terms, all good or all bad. Anne Wilson Schaef, author of When Society Becomes and Addict, offers these 6 indicators for addiction:
- You feel powerless to stop. Do you feel powerless to stop trying to accumulate money?
- You experience health related issues. Do you work despite the damage it might do to your health?
- Your relationships are strained. Your family and friends complain. Do you work rather than spend time with friends or family?
- You neglect more aspects of your life — mismanaging commitments. What do you forgo for the opportunity to make more money?
- Your work and home life suffer from the inability to meet expectations. If you don’t bring in enough money, does it affect your home life (we know if affects your work life)?
- You easily feel irritable or angry if you do not have your fix. When you get passed over for a promotion or a raise, do you get irritable and angry?
- You experience hard to avoid cravings. Do you feel like you have to show up for work no matter what?
- When you try to do without your fix, you go into a state of anxiety. When you don’t go to work, do you get anxious?
What would you do if you didn’t have to earn a living? If your bills were taken care of, how would you occupy your time? What would be important to you instead? Can you even envision living in a society where money is largely irrelevant?
Here’s a not-very-secret secret: Money is just a representation of an exchange of energy – almost no currency in the world is currently backed by anything, it’s all illusion. So if all money is, is just a representation of an exchange of energy, anything else you’ve attached to it is on you. Yes, you were very likely trained to have those attachments, but that’s all they are.
Addiction boils down to the ideas of enough, lack, and abundance. When I am in a mindset of lack, I feel like I have to scramble to get more. “More” is the mantra of the addict. I need more of this, I need more of that, more more more more. And it is rare that anyone in our society thinks they have enough money, a point that was driven home to me during the Occupy movement. I had a friend with a six figure income who was offended and in a state of panic/frenzy, because they felt attacked. They expended a lot of energy explaining to me how they didn’t have enough. I was again recently reminded of this by another friend who has a great deal of passive income. They are very focused on how much everything they have costs, and how they don’t have enough, and they have become dragons in the process, hoarding everything.
There are very few people “of means” who are not dragons. Bill Gates is giving away almost all of his wealth to health care; Warren Buffett is willing to pay higher taxes; George Soros works on humanitarian efforts; a number of celebrities fund a lot of charity causes, often fairly quietly. The vast majority of people with wealth hoard it though; they don’t want to even pay taxes to fund basic needs in society. Before you get horrified that this would be the death of the US economy, let me remind you that from 1944 to 1963, a very prosperous time in US history for the country as a whole, the tax rate for our wealthiest residents was 91-92%.
The way we begin to heal Lack is by connecting to the abundance in our lives and focusing on where there IS enough. Gratitude lists help in this regard. I had a teacher a number of years ago who had me write a 50 item gratitude list every night and call her with them. If that sounds like a lot, come at it from this point of view – if, when you woke up in the morning, everything that you hadn’t put on your gratitude list was gone, what would you put on your gratitude list? 50 items starts to sound short, doesn’t it?
The reason that this works is because, much like money, Lack is a fiction. There are enough resources to support every human being living on the planet equitably, allowing high wage earners to still feel like their efforts are valued. All we have to do is shift our mindset.
Part of that shift will have to include the idea that all people are valuable and deserving of compassion, simply by virtue of being born. That value does not equate to a price tag. When we start to realize that, we can start to move past feeling like the economy is some sort of contest we have to win. Everyone deserves respect, to be treated with humanity, and to feel a part of their community. The should be our default setting. It doesn’t seem to come with privilege though, which is interesting. If this idea is not part of your value system, you might want to look at why not? And if you think this is part of your value system but you find yourself treating some people as less valuable than others, you might also want to examine that. Change begins in the heart.
I would love to hear from people who have experienced a shift in consciousness along the lines of the concepts in this article. What has changed for you? Is your reality different now? Do you conduct yourself differently? Has your languaging changed? Do you share this with others?