The Eye of the Paradox The Zen of No-Money
There is just plain money, big-money, and no-money. Most of us grow up in the "just plain money" world. This is the middle class job, buying or renting a house, raising children, and paying off debts. This is a world that is rapidly fading away. Enter now the worlds of big-money and no-money.

The big-money world has many people that are like overactive pimps who forever take favors from their prized performers. The excesses of some of the stars in the more glamorous brokerage firms on Wall Street are just some of the more well known examples.

We talk of economic recession and even depression these days. No-money for schools, roads, police, national defense, and medical care to the needy. Unemployment seems higher than the official statistics. Riots. Crime. Angry voters willing to overthrow the two party system. Global economic gloom. There is uncertainty and risk in the money games people play with stocks, bonds, currencies, futures, and even old CD's and savings accounts.

When you have just plain money you may say things like, "If you are down and out--that is your own fault. I've got a job. You could find work if you really wanted to!" Then the tune changes when their job goes away, and no work shows up for month after month after month. Yes, yes, work at the McDonald's counter. Pack those fries; bag those burgers.

In the infamous 80's we paid more attention to money than to life. The family was devastated to keep up with the two-income Jones' and women's liberation. Child raising, child care services, and education of future citizens took a back seat. The future be damned. Let's take our profits now for there may be no tomorrow!

No-money is freedom in the sense of that 60's song from Big Brother and the Holding Company, "Freedom is just another word for nothing, nothing left to lose." Learning to live with no-money is the beginning of real financial freedom. If you're not free at $200/month, you are not going to be free at $10,000/month. Sounds shocking. Saving and investment is a habit. If not practiced on small amounts of money, it is not likely to happen with larger amounts. It is learning to live a higher standard of living on less.

No-money is like death for the timid. We can have no-money even with some money in the bank or pocket. No-money is what happens when the numbers you have will not buy what you think you want. You either adjust down what you want, find ways of getting it without money, or discover new methods of getting money. Usually it comes from unexpected directions.

Most folks prefer the living death of "working only for the money" to the loss of regular paychecks. These same people act surprised that their employer often has no- money; that she borrows large sums to continue the smooth operations of the firm which includes regular paychecks and employee benefits.

My last corporate job ended twelve years ago. At the time one of my co-workers cried because he thought I would soon die. The years have rolled on, I'm still alive. I feel more alive than many who have stayed behind. But freedom has a price: no "certain" regular paychecks and need for lots of faith.

One of the richest feeling moments of my life was when I took an AmTrack train across the United States from Oakland to Harrisburg, Pennsylvannia -- a three day journey. I felt rich because I had the time to do it, instead of rushing across in a jet plane. I had no- money. If I had been a successful lawyer, I would not have time because I would be counting all the money I was loosing during travel time. But I had the luxury of reflecting on life, of writing, and of meeting many wonderful people. Those of us with big-money or no-money can afford trains.

Having money means not having time, unless your money comes from inheritance or stored up reserves. I spend more money trying to catch up. I have shirts pressed for me by the dry cleaner, instead of doing it myself. I take a cab instead of a bus. Or, buy a car to get around even faster. Hire a maid to clean house. I don't have the time. It costs me money and stress to keep up the pace. I wind up feeling that I cannot afford to be without these support services.

There have been two or three periods when cash was so short that I counted pennies from hour to hour. At such times, time expanded, the days got very long. I felt fear and anxiety. I took up running for relief.

With no-money, I discovered inner and outer reserves forgotten when using money. I found forgotten bags of small change. I was so happy to find $12 in change. A $10 bill in an old Batman wallet. An old friend mailed a "care package" of dried food to keep me going. My landlord became my friend and did not evict me. I sold books that I would never read. Support and love came from many unexpected places. I learned to keep going despite fear. The world did not end. Yes, there is life during and after no-money.

Buddha dropped the life of a prince for that of a beggar. He wanted to free his own mind from the distractions of possessions which tend to own us more than we own them. Oh, how we suffer from that first dent on an expensive new car or handbag.

Having big-money or no-money creates social projections from others and oneself. Big-money gets in the way of relationship between people, just as much as no-money. With big- money we can buy endless distractions. With no-money we fear humiliation. Money is now a final goal in life and human relationships, not just a medium of exchange. Money rarely buys satisfaction for more than a few moments past the time of purchase. Like children, we enjoy the anticipation of Christmas morning more than the actual toys we get. So the work of capitalism is endless. This way we hope to insure an ever expanding economy.

Money is pure information. There is no-money in your bank account. There are only units of information. To say that I have $1000 is not much different than to say that I have 1000 inches. Money is nothing at all. It is abstract and unreal; and, therefore capable of representing anything whatsoever. This is why money is prey to manipulation, fraud, and bluster.

Money is the philosopher's stone of modern life. I suggest to friends that they buy an ounce of gold to hold in their hand for a long time. Images will come to the mind. Vacations, things to buy, investments to make. A sense of security. The fear of loss. It's all there in what that one ounce of gold represents, not the gold itself.

I have heard so much childish talk about how money is real. It is not. Money is purely a human-social creation for the purpose of facilitating trade. It is what you give to someone to compensate for their forgoing some good. The artisan gives her pot to you for $30. The prostitute gives you one-half hour of pleasure for $50. You get the pleasure; she gets $50 to compensate for putting up with you.

One of my favorite businessmen says, "I never think about money. If I focus on the money, it does not come. If I just look at what needs to be done, then the money comes." Or, as another businessman put it this way, "Money is like dating in school. When you go after people you want to date, they run away from you. But when we don't care any more, they show up in front of your face."

"Do What You Love, the Money Will Follow" is the title of a current book. Just don't always assume that you will have a house in the South of France and an Infiniti auto, along with a time slot on "Livestyles of the Rich and Famous." To get many of these things, you have to do things that you don't want to do.

I am surprised by the people who secretly desire things owned by business tycoons, but are not willing to do what these people do. The world is really about love; may we all someday become free of the symbol we call money. Then we can relate to people and things as themselves. This is the promise of the millennium: no-money. That is, being free to be all we are. Or, have we already arrived by way of the current recession? But we don't know it yet.

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