Today I heard several excellent people talk about how lack of money and the American dream (big house, car, etc) had affected and still affects their self -esteem. I felt really sad. I had carried that piece of aching guilt, about not having it financially together for many years. Just last March I had an Amazing Grace moment, (“was blind and now I see”) around money, and I now rarely carry that guilt, and I wanted to share with my friends and others, why.
For me that financial guilt was not simple, it had several parts, and the ideas behind it touched on some of my base ideas of what life and the world and myself are. I now see that “I am not living in the middle class” guilt as inaccurate and destructive in so many ways.
One root idea is that money is good, or at least a neutral way of meeting good needs. And if I was only psychologically and spiritually attuned enough, I would find a way to draw money, as much as I want, into my life. part of this idea, is there is enough for everyone to have the money and resources to be rich.
For starters, money is not neutral. there is nothing in the nature of money that is inherently bad, but the way it works in out society has really destructive aspects. A huge part of this has to do with interest. When the government prints money, it takes out a loan and has to pay interest, and then it gives the money to banks, which have to pay more interest, and then gives it to businesses and us, and need to get more interest. Money is like a hungry monster that always needs more. This system will not works in a stable, steady economy, there must be huge growth, or their is lack. And when their is lack, what do businesses and some people do? Hoard money. Why? Everything else in nature degrades, cars degrade, clothes wear out, land is taxed. But money if you have it, increases in value, so if you want to win the game of prosperity, the quickest way to do that is to hoard money, not to pass it around so everyone can use it.
Because of this, we live in a world where there is not enough money, there are winners, there are losers, there is not enough to do around. Intuitively, even if we have been told otherwise, we know this.There actually is enough food, enough housing (if we share and don’t hoard), but as long as these things are tied to money, we are in competition for a limited resource. Is it more moral to have more money? Pretty questionable.
Another inaccurate idea, is the very nature of the American dream. On some level, there is the idea that enough money can make us happy. And there is the idea that a large house for each person or family is “normal, and a root of that happiness. That dream is not sustainable for a majority of people. To have a large separate dwelling and yard, that tales maintenance, and costs to build requires a large enough amount of money (which means more “work” and time , that it causes us to have to overwork, and not have the time to be present, to enjoy what is around, us, to enjoy and really take in each other. We work harder to get a mansion (which is what even our modest houses would be considered in the rest of the world) and all the time and money isolates us and makes us more miserable. Web have other choices with less pace, and more time. and ,ore cooperation that are sustainable and make us happy, If you can’t maintain you own house, time or money wise, does that make you morally inferior? I don;t think so.
Part of the reason this “myth” that everyone who wants can have this financially abundant and wasteful lifestyle even exists is because of the 50’s and 60’s. There was an artificial prosperity in America, based on other countries giving us work and precious resources for almost nothing, and on us believing gas, and coal. and water, would just go on forever with no end. This artificial bubble of prosperity made us believe that we could live inefficient lifestyles where everyone could live like a king. And as reality has come back to balance over the last 5o years, as a nation we feel a collective guilt that we are doing something wrong because we can no longer all or at least mostly live a “middle class” lifestyle. This was a non-sustainable bubble that could never last.
Many of you who are reading this already know this, but once very basic resource needs are met, money is not the biggest determinant of happiness, it is time, connection, and meaning. If we are going to judge or evaluate ourselves in the world, those are the measuring sticks that make sense.
So the outgrowth of this is, if we don’t appear to have enough money, we are not alone, the system we live in sets this up./ We are not bad, we only have to find ways to survive and thrive, If we had fought harder to get money would that mean we are better people? Probably not.
If we can not afford a large middle class house, does that mean we are incompetent or morally inferior? No, maybe we are actually blessed, to find more sustainable ways to live and be happy.
if we do not find safety in our castles, we can find it in mature relationships. We can replace an instant abundance of things, with an abundance of time, experience, and intimacy. The very sharing we will have to do to live well, will bring us the connection that makes us happy.
To build the beautiful world we all dream about, we each need to use our gifts, not like a workaholic, but in balance with an open heart. But the way the world is set up, sometimes we will find a “job” where we can do this, and sometimes we are not. The system is not set up for everyone to be employed, and especially not for everyone to have a meaningful job. If we have one, give thanks, and be generous with our money, but we are not better., If we don’t, give in the ways we can to our community.and we are not less.
One real need that is not addresses for many is economic security. While few of will have to face not eating, to have to leave a home, not by choice is deeply disconnecting. And so we all feel like we have to “make it” and preferably squirrel some away for hard times, we live with a sense of deep insecurity. Traditionally we live in tribes. And security was shared by all. If only the successful hunter ate, the tribe would soon die out. We were not meant to all have to individually financially protect ou9rselves. We need find ways to share profoundly, to invest in the “bank” of our community, allowing that to be the buffer for hard times we all need.
Beneath this is a whole new way of seeing life, of not only believing, but living that we are one as well as being separate, Of choosing what we value, and what is important, of a true prosperity, that we all can really have,