Monday, March 09, 2009



Money. Greed. Fear. The three horsemen of the new apocalypse. Everyone wants a scapegoat – the bankers, Bush, Obama, The Fed, the highly-paid CEOs. But in our zeal to find someone to crucify, we forget that all of us played a role in this economic crisis. Greed fueled the “housing boom” that had to inevitably crash.
An acquaintance told me during the height of the dizziness, “I can’t afford to NOT use all that equity in my home,” as he refinanced his way to debt. “That’s MY equity,” he assured me, not even realizing that “home equity” is a phantom asset. Where did we lose the notion that it is sound and wise to pay off our loans?
In our book “Extreme Simplicity: Homesteading in the City,” we shared in the last chapter some of the illusions of money that most of us carry around with us every day in our brains. We shared our perspective of something called “the four illusions of money,” which we originally read about in the 1979-80 Co-Evolution Quarterly.
One of these illusions is that if we have a lot of money, we will be free to do whatever it is that we feel we want to do. Of course, few people who are victims of this mental illusion ever define what they mean by “a lot” of money, and – amazingly – few take the time to specifically define those things that they “want to do.” I say amazingly, because how can one ever achieve any goal if you have not carefully and specifically defined the goal?
And the reason this idea is an illusion is because when we focus upon money – an abstraction – we tend to then lose sight of the fact that money is a tool to achieve some other goal. How and when did the acquisition of money become a goal in itself?
Of course, in a modern society, everyone has daily needs which are most readily met by money: paying rent or mortgages, buying food, medical needs for the family and children, insurance, gasoline for the car, clothes, etc. These are not the things I am speaking about.
I am referring to the need for us to define, personally, our short-term and long-term goals. Also, we should – perhaps even daily – continue to ask ourselves: What is the meaning of life? Why do I do what I do all day? Am I fulfilling whatever it is that I was born to do? If not, what can and should I do?
I strongly urge you all to read these details in the “Extreme Simplicity” book – and you can get the book from our store at, or you can get it at Amazon, or any bookstore which can order it.
But here is one way to break free from this particular monetary illusion. List several of your important goals in life. You cannot list “making more money” as one of your goals. Yes, money may help you to achieve your goals more quickly, but you cannot list earning more money as a goal. List those things that you want to do, or achieve, or those skills that you want to master.
List each of these goals on a separate piece of paper. Next, write a simple series of steps that you can see yourself actually doing that leads you in the direction of achieving that goal. Do not list money on this list.
Your steps for achieving your goals should include some of the following: Asking others to work with you to achieve your goals. Asking others to give you things that you need to achieve the goal, or barter with you for objects you need. Consider ways to trade your time or labor so that someone else can give you things or trade consultation or labor so that you might achieve your goals. See?
Begin to see the real world, apart from the webbery of money, and see the people in your life who can work with you to achieve your goals.
Those of you who take these steps, and move forward towards your goals, will find that world seems like an entirely different place. You will discover your brother, and you will find that when two or more of you are working cooperatively towards a meaningful goal, your life will be richer, more meaningful, and your fulfillment will come in the journey.

1 comment:

romy said...

Well said, Christopher. And its refreshing to know there's still someone around who realizes that there are things in this world more valuable than money.

Lots of people can't seem to get past the money they've lost in the markets, etc. Perhaps because they've allowed themselves to be defined by the illusion of money, material possessions, and/or status. Yet they don't realize - what good is financial wealth if one doesn't have inner peace? What good is spending days working at a high income job if one has no passion for the work they do? Or if one has no time to spend with family or friends because their life is consumed by chasing after money (for fear of losing what they have or greed of wanting more.) The thought that this could all be a major paradigm shift is lost on most people.

Like you allude to, there's opportunity to grow through change. Looking around at how people are dealing with the current economic situation, unfortunately, it seems like people are going along with society's script to accept a comfortable misery instead of cultivating an appreciation for whatever gifts life sends our way. Even hardships can be gifts... its just a matter of perception.