I asked people what I should focus on when talking about money and spirituality on twitter. They greeted me with words that I consider new age plattitudes. Sorry people. Instead I’m getting back to basics, or trying to. This is sociology / economy 101.
Money is the basis for our economy. It is money that makes it possible for me to be a webdesigner yet eat bread every morning (and lunch). Money makes it possible (in combination with the miracle of the internet) for me to write this today and put dollars from Paypal into my debit account tomorrow. Which will buy me bread and olive oil the next day.
Money puts a value on stuff. Diamonds are worth so many meals (a lot of them). This value is obviously not an ethical or spiritual value. It is clear that if you are starving, diamonds aren’t what you want. You want bread. Or you want money to buy bread. But when there is no bread to be bought, money will not solve your problem.
Money is just a piece of paper, or a number in a machine, that we use to buy stuff with. If the stuff isn’t there, the money won’t help one bit.
I do not think the value of a person is determined by their bank accounts. Like energy, money does not come with a quality stamp. Energy can be used for good or for ill – so can money. Some rich people support charities they believe in. Other rich people just buy the latest car. Some invest in renewable resources, others invest in guns.
There is a difference.
The advantage of being poor is the advantage of not having to make such decisions. I’m sure that doesn’t console many people. After all: if you don’t have enough money to buy that bread the next day, that is enough to worry about.
The problem today is that poverty is no longer, in the West, about not having bread on the table. The problem is that a lot of people are heavily in debt. There is no longer a connect between: I have this much money and the conclusion: I can only spend this much money.
For me the basis of spirituality is not being selfish. Or more positively put: Being spiritual means taking responsibility to contribute to a better, more understanding, healthier world. Buying the latest flat screen TV is not necessary for that, unless you are planning to host the neighborhood movie theater. Buying it on credit is no better than stealing. Of course the terms of that steal are such that it only makes the bank richer, but that’s just another reason to not buy that TV. (I don’t own one BTW – I watch the news on my mobile phone).
Poverty used to be a spiritual ideal. That meant: not owning anything. It didn’t mean, not owning anything because really the bank owns it.
Being spiritually responsible about money means, in my book, making sure you don’t have unresponsible debt. Having a mortgage you can pay off every month is responsible debt. Buying that flat screen tv with a creditcard instead of paying up front is not. I’m conservative that way.