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What money can’t buy

Posted on July 05, 2008 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes
Sunday, July 6, 2008

I am having an out-of-money experience.  — Author Unknown

It’s on everyone’s mind nowadays as we see the oil price index rise to stratospheric levels, the stock market plunge, the price of food, transport, tuition, electricity and practically everything jump to dangerously impossible levels. Everywhere you go, people are complaining about it and many are having great anxieties about the future.

With the way prices are spiraling, not a few seriously worry about their savings and the little assets they have. Will we be able to afford life in the next coming months or years in the style that we have been accustomed to, is a question I ask myself often these days. Other questions that beg for reassuring answers are: Will we be able to surmount this financial obstacle and move forward towards more acquisition of wealth enough to be ahead of inflation, recession, depression? Will I have enough for emergencies? Will I have enough for next month’s expenses? When will all this instability end ? Are the good times over?

Money and the economy are on everyone’s minds. People are tightening their belts and making do with the diminishing power of their income, which is becoming increasingly inadequate.

As an artist, I wonder if people will, in the near future, still have the resources to buy books, music, pictures, art, watch concerts and indulge in the so-called finer things in life. And yet I know from experience that when we were experiencing all that hardship under the later years of the Marcos regime, with the economy charting a negative direction of growth, we were booked solid for concerts. Just the same, it’s moments like these when I am almost always tempted to entertain the useless thought of imagining if I would be in a better situation today had I taken up, say, dentistry, law, architecture, etc. years ago. I don’t know whether economically I would be ahead; I do suspect, though, that I would probably be an alcoholic now if I had gone down a different path.

Money means many things to many people. For some, it is the root of all evil. For others, the loss or the immediate gain of it in fantastic sums is the cause of major anxieties, to be sure. Those are the two most common experiences of money. The pursuit of it, the earning, spending, saving, planning, and the creation of it demands a lot of energy from us. And a lot of that energy is spent on the acquisition, but more so, I suspect, on speculating. And we are constantly speculating whether what we have is enough. 

But what exactly is “enough”? Enough , I suppose, is anywhere between  “enough” to tide us through,  or to move ahead. Or it could be the best type of “enough” — to have enough to not ever worry about money, if there is ever such a state.

I know there are people who do not worry about money and I am completely fascinated by them. I have met a few and am in awe at how they live through life with aplomb and lightness. I notice that such people seem to have the following characteristics: one, they are not rich materially and are disinterested in accumulating money in large amounts; two, they hardly seem to worry about the economic twists and turns of their fortunes; three, they trust that the universe will provide; and four, they have a cheerful disposition and are passionate about life.

One may argue that these people are living in cocoons and are not facing up to the realities of living in this world. From a materialist point of view, that assessment may be spot on. I am reminded of a quote from Oscar Wilde that goes, “It is better to have a permanent income than to be fascinating.” But from the perspective of someone concerned with general happiness and well-being, it is a desirable state to be in.

“There’s no money in poetry, but then there’s no poetry in money, either,” Robert Graves said. He seems to summarize how the materialist and the “What, me worry?” types tend to be totally indifferent toward, or often completely disdainful of, one another, and ne’er the twain shall meet.

I also know that for many of us who are more often slaves of the material world than free poets, there is nothing like life’s reversals of fortune to knock some spiritual sense into us, and remind us to look at our own self-worth outside all monetary considerations. In other words, what are we really, without our little pile of wealth, status and all the trappings? To paraphrase M. Scott Peck, the decline in our fortunes often signals the start of our spiritual journey. It implies that money often prevents us from ever expanding into territories outside the gross realm of material acquisition. But the loss of money often leads one to clutch at philosophical ruminations, religious conversions, or to put it simply, the awakening to things that money cannot buy. After all, when we can’t have money, we belittle it, scoff at it and those who have it and align it with what it is powerless against.

It is gratifying to the soul to list what money cannot buy. To show that the best things in life are free, in the creativity classes I hold, one homework assignment I give is to list down 10 things we are all getting for free right now. It usually leaves a few students stumped until they realize that one must open one’s eyes to see what is already obvious — air, scenery, sound, the ground, gravity, health, one’s thoughts, etc. And when I make them do a list of 200 things, they find themselves close to the realm of greater awareness, even poetry, as they explore the more subtle presence of gifts that are everywhere, such as the smell of coffee that is comforting, the presence of other live human beings in the room who dream, love, fear, ache, laugh and rejoice at probably the same things we do, to name just a few observations.

The sudden loss of money can, indeed, make us feel and become more authentic to ourselves and to others. Somehow, when we are talking from the depths of our empty pockets, we seem more real. There are no pretenses because there is nothing to hide. On the other hand, when our money talks exclusively, very little else about us can be heard or known.

On Australian TV last night, I was watching an obnoxious heir to a sizeable wealth brag that he would often tell people he disliked to “shut up because my family can buy off your family.” This shows how well money can dehumanize someone who allows his wealth to be all he is.

Is there a middle ground? Can one be a poet and a materialist at the same time?

Logan Pearsall Smith has a cynical answer to this: “Those who set out to serve both God and Mammon soon discover that there is no God.” Or how about this quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.: “A man is usually more careful of his money than of his principles.” I can understand where these two quotes are coming from. Often, I have looked the other way at the expense of more noble callings to earn an extra buck. But on balance, I have willingly parted with money as well, for charity, and even for principles.

One of the most sobering reflections on the topic I have ever heard was from Jon Santos, a comedian and good friend who puts things in such wonderful perspective. In the middle of a conversation about the economic problems people were facing, a conversation that was turning more pessimistic every second, Jon wisely pointed out that “at least we were not in Burma.”

Being present to other realities can often lift us above our own problems.

* * *

The 42nd run of Tapping the Creative Universe (TCU), a workshop of “creative awakening,” is on once again. If you are in search of a more empowered, creative and joyful life, this workshop is for you. If you have not joined this session, now is the time to do it.

TCU will be held August 4 to 8, concluding August 11, from 7 to 9 p.m. at 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, QC. The cost of the workshop is still P5,000.

Please  write to emailjimp@gmail.com for a syllabus or  call Ollie at (0917)855-4303 for any other queries or for reservations.

28 to “What money can’t buy”

  1. Miles says:

    “I know there are people who do not worry about money and I am completely fascinated by them. I have met a few and am in awe at how they live through life with aplomb and lightness. I notice that such people seem to have the following characteristics: one, they are not rich materially and are disinterested in accumulating money in large amounts; two, they hardly seem to worry about the economic twists and turns of their fortunes; three, they trust that the universe will provide; and four, they have a cheerful disposition and are passionate about life.”

    Life is too short to put long face on it.

    Regards to the family!

  2. Desertfish says:

    “…the decline of our fortunes often signals the start of a spiritual journey” – Could we apply this to the current global crisis of scarcity and economic confusion despite the brilliant economists around? I suspect the current crisis is an invitation to shed off materialism on a global scale. But what of the already poor? I don’t know what path we will create or emerge in this desert of scarcity. Will the poor be isolated farther in this desert and their wandering far longer?
    Money, money, money. Wish i have enough these days even if only for bike accessories or new rubber shoes. Thank you for photographing this collective angst.

  3. jimparedes says:

    Miles–you put it so nicely!
    Desertfish–maybe the irony of this will be that the poor will show the world the direction to shedding off materialism.

  4. Desertfish says:

    Oops, thanks for this spark. I sort of see a firefly…

  5. Thing are going to get worst before they get better. The people who are hurt most are the median income works and below. It just takes all their spending power away.
    http://www.theinvestingspeculator.com

  6. pag sinasabi ng mama ko na wala siyang pera ang lagi kong sagot ay: “ma, ilabas mo ang bulsa mo pag ako nakakita ng piso dyan ibig sabihin hindi totoo ang sinasabi mo, may pera ka.” see, life is tough, and the price to live is tougher. at the end of the day, it’s all about the right mind set to be able to see things through, heave a sigh, and go on. after all, there is always a God who would take care of all of us right?

  7. kenjebz says:

    This blog had been nominated as one of the 2008 TOP 10 Pinoy Expats Blog.

    However, contest criteria requires that those nominated must add a sidebar link to the Search Site at http://kenjishiela.tripod.com/pinoyexpatsblog/

    Sir Jim, may you be kind to attached the HTML link of this contest found in their website?

    Thank you.

  8. rabsin_d says:

    Ciao Mr. Jim, Just finish reading your article and it just breaks my heart that all of the things that you wrote is quite true, ufortunately. Maybe that’s the reason why God gave us talents to share, and intelligence to spread. Yes, I am one of those desperate people who joined the PDA Season 2 Audition (Cebu) for the reason of minimizing our financial burden. However, I only managed to be on the Top 20, but life does’nt end their. You need to struggle for survival, that is what life is about.

    By the way, I’m Ricky de la Cruz, from Dumaguete City and my dad is your number one fan…Lolz! If you have time, try to check my blog: http://finlust.blogspot.com

  9. jimparedes says:

    Hey Ricky,

    PDA is not the only way to achieve your dreams. I had my share of rejections when I was starting, and even when I had a career going. Hang in here and show that your dream is powerful enough to alter reality.

    Princess–As I always say, JUST DO IT!

    Kenjebz–thanks

  10. witsandnuts says:

    Surprising, but it’s true that we find it hard to name the things which money can’t money. Another good point is that in this life, people needs to appreciate the difference of being wealthy from being rich.

  11. auggie says:

    Maybe it’s time to dust-off that 60s best-seller, and re-read it again. The title of the paperback ? LIVING POOR WITH STYLE.

  12. It’s not actually Money which is the root of all evil. It’s the Love of Money that is.

    So it’s really how you allow money to operate in your life. Sabi nga nila, the usual thing that happens kasi is we let money to command where we should go; whereas we should be the ones commanding the money where to go.

    thanks, Jim. I love this article.

  13. benign0 says:

    A lack of worry for the availability or scarcity of ANYTHING for that matter also depends on flexibility.

    As our latest video on the Rice Crisis expresses, we just need to have an open mind in the way we respond to the crests and troughs of the economy and the various vicissitudes that life hits us with.

  14. Mon says:

    “I wonder if people will, in the near future, still have the resources to buy books, music, pictures, art, watch concerts and indulge in the so-called finer things in life.”

    The last time I went to a moviehouse was two years ago when V for Vendetta was showing. At least I can still buy good books, I bought two last Saturday.

  15. Juan says:

    you really are in need of money. do the workshop for free and become “more authentic” to yourself. lol.

  16. jimparedes says:

    uan,

    I do it for free sometimes and I do have free students in every run. But it runs six days and there’s food cost, electricity, materials costs etc. And I do believe in geting paid for good work.

    I also notice that when people put their money on something, they are more serious about it. This is a chalenging workshop and the tendency is to quit midway. Why don’t yo try it and see for yourself.

    By the way, why do you end all your comments with LOL, ha ha ha, etc? Nervous laughter? I don’t print or answer all your comments because some are just plain mean-spirited.

  17. Jim, I agree with what you said. There are more chances that people will put more effort on things that cost them something.

    Mon, maybe the reason why piracy in music and videos are so popular is because pirated materials are a lot cheaper than the original.

    So sad it has to be that way. Anyway, we should support our artists by buying original cds. Right, Jim? :)

  18. Mimie says:

    Hi, Jim. I really love this article. I also wrote about this in my blog. Thanks for the comment, by the way. I’m so happy that in spite of the adversities we face every day, we still find time to reflect on the finer things in life sans the need for money.

    God bless and more power!

  19. Kat says:

    “One may argue that these people are living in cocoons and are not facing up to the realities of living in this world. From a materialist point of view, that assessment may be spot on. I am reminded of a quote from Oscar Wilde that goes, “It is better to have a permanent income than to be fascinating.” But from the perspective of someone concerned with general happiness and well-being, it is a desirable state to be in.”

    Hello Jim. I just want to thank you for this entry. Also, I want to point out how comforting it is that a person of your status (accomplished artist, respected teacher) writes about money this way. Basta. It somehow reinforces my (and a lot of people’s) belief that money isn’t all that matters and that there are finer, more important things in life. If you have the time, here’s something I wrote on money while I was in Las Vegas with my father.

    Thanks again.

  20. Kat says:

    Aaack, the link won’t show, anyway it’s here:

    http://tissuepaperworld.pansitan.net/?p=243

  21. rabsin_d says:

    Geee! thankz for the uplifting advise. Don’t worry Mr. Jim cuz’ I’m still hanging..hehe! I’ll add you to my blog list…ayt? peace out

  22. rabsin_d says:

    By the way, just made a simple entry for you in my blog. Try checking it out: http://finlust.blogspot.com

    Thanks for inspiring not only me, but thousands of people. peace out

  23. Analyn says:

    jim, thanks for those insights. currently i am torn choosing a lucrative job against doing what i wanted to do (performing). a lot of people would definitely tell me to choose my career. this article has been a breather and coming from an artist like you, means a lot to me.

  24. Unat says:

    I have to agree!

    Our house was submerged in flood water for a night and after that I thought things will never be the same again.

    But i was really thankful that everyone in our family was alive. MAterial things can be seen and bought. But life, It’s priceless.

    Two thumbs up for John.

  25. Awesome topic!! I just had to comment.

  26. Mindy Bean says:

    Great article and I completely agree with Jon “at least we were not in Burma.”

  27. Amazing post! I initially found your blog a sometimes a week ago, and I subscribed on your RSS feed the identical day. I have several cool ideas for some upcoming posts you might write. I¡¯ll send you an email shortly. Keep up the good work.



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