What is your relationship with money?

Our relationship with money

(Image: Sencathea is feeding infant Plutus (God of Wealth) from horn of plenty, Rome, Brooklyn Museum.)

A famous German philosopher and political economist Max Weber once said: “Man exists for the sake of his business, instead of the reverse.” Where do your stand with regard to this claim?

I am reading an interesting book by Jacob Needleman called “Money and The Meaning of Life”. I find it very rich and thought provoking. I would like to offer you a few abstracts from it to ponder:

“The problem of the place of money in our lives is continually new, and every day exposes each one of us to the discrepancy between what we are and what we wish to be, in age old contradiction between our behaviour and our ideas…

In order to obtain the most serious good of life it is necessary to give exactly the right amount of attention to the aspect of life represented by money. Can we grow to be attentive to what is secondary in human life while being deeply attentive to what is primary? For, if we do not give sufficient attention to what is secondary in life, then, sooner or later, what is secondary will take all our attention and leaves us no energy or time to pursue what is most essential. We must give the devil his due – no more, but also no less…

We are not angels. We are human beings. We are built to occupy two worlds simultaneously and in so doing to build within ourselves what has been called “the third world of men.”

The part of ourselves that must act and live our life in the material world needs to be embraced with the same attention that seeks contact with high forces and ideals.

How can the study of our behaviour with money show us the contradiction between what we are and what we imagine ourselves to be? Could this use of money be the principal means by which it could begin to serve the search for truth in our personal lives? We know we can take the measure of someone else by observing how he or she handles money. To what extent it is possible to take our own measure in the same way?

A point of ongoing examination is to recall or observe what happens when money enters into a relationship whether it be with a friend, a family member, a lover, or anyone at all. For this study, memory is much less reliable than the intention to observe a situation as it is unfolding. On the other hand, it is very difficult to sustain any such intention when money factors enter into our relationships. But if people really try, they are bound to see that money has the power to bring reality into situations. You and I may get along beautifully; we may feel we are soulmates; we may imagine we are willing to sacrifice for each other. But what happens when you ask me to lend you a hundred dollars? Or five hundred dollars? Or a thousand? Or, we may be excitedly discussing a project that we wish to undertake together. We can’t wait to get started. What happens when we see how much money we will have to put into it?…

There must be something in our lives that we really intangibly take more seriously than money – and it must be something that really and tangibly, metaphysically, is more serious than money… What could that something be? It cannot be what we usually call “morality” or “spirituality”. The perennial values that we would represent by such words has been contaminated by egoistic desires or, at the best, alienated from the essential aspects of ourselves. For most of us, the only thing that can actually be more important than money, and that actually is connected to what is objectively higher in ourselves than all our other parts, is the search for the truth about ourselves as we are.”

— Jacob Needleman, “Money and The Meaning of Life” —

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