Money

Mirrors

Me

 

Sylvia Caras, 1986

 

 

[Why] do ye spend money for that which is

not bread? And your labor for that which

satisfieth not? Hearken diligently unto

me, and eat that which is good, and let

your soul delight itself in fatness.

 

Isaiah 55:2

 

BEGINNINGS

"Money," Juanita said, "Money!" I demurred, she pressed forward, and this is the result!

When I first began to think of money as a topic for exploration and for applying my new computer, I thought in terms of bank balances and tax returns, budgets and car payments. And I wasn't interested. While I'm knowledgeable, I'm no expert in those areas. And many others are providing the knowledge and experience.

But I was still drawn to the main topic of money, perhaps women and money, and what I wanted to uncover evolved into money and women and psychology. Off I went to the library with a fat pile of note cards, allowing lots of time. Not necessary. How very little I found.

For instance in the Index to Feminist Quotations there are no entries under "money" or "wealth." I couldn't find much in magazines, or catalogs, and grew more curious. I began to wonder if I'd found an undiscovered topic, if there really was no topic, or if a pervasive secretiveness about money also affected the literature, and the world.

Could there really be a subject as broad as women and money that was unresearched? How was I to unveil the Eleusian riddles? Were women deliberately holding on to some secrets and rituals?

Juanita and I decided to work together. We asked people rather than books, and held four evening meetings for women, quite unstructured, where we tried to stay focused on an exercise or issue. We found the women immensely interested, urging us to continue the series, and wanting more structure. More structure: but we organized the group to find the structure! And didn't.

I decided to reflect, cite, and write.

How Money Came Into The World

Once upon a time, many, many years ago, men and women lived all their lives thinking only of death. They enjoyed nothing, neither food nor drink, for they thought only of the Angel of Death and the day when they would die. Why was this so? They had nothing else to think about. No other thoughts had yet been created. So what happened? As they grew older they grew thinner and thinner, for that is the nature of thoughts of death. It devours the flesh of men and women while they are still alive. And when these people died, they were no more than skin and bones and even the worms would not devour them.

One day the worms came before the Holy One, Blessed be He, and Lord of the World! When you created us you declared that we should eat meat. But what are we to eat when all those who die are so thin so that it is only with difficulty that their skins keep their bones together, and they have no meat. Shall we eat bones? "You are right," said the Holy One. "I will take counsel with my angels."

When the angels heard the complaints of the worms they too agreed that these were just, for had they not been created to eat flesh?

So what did the Holy One do? He brought money down into the world. A man would buy something for a hundred pieces of gold and sell it for two hundred, and he would play with matters of commerce and profit, until he forgot about death, for all the time he was thinking about money. And what did he do? With the two hundred that he had gained as profit he bought merchandise for one hundred and food for one hundred, and so he had something more to think about, how to make money and how to spend it. And because of the food he began to get fat.

And when men die, the worms rejoice and give thanks to the Holy One for his great mercies.

HISTORY AND TYPES

A generally accepted definition of money is "a medium of exchange, a standard of value, and a store of wealth." Ederer adds a "means of payment", and omits a store of wealth.

Coinage itself originated in the 7th century B.C.E. and has been used functionally, to facilitate exchange, ever since, even though we've now supplanted bits of beads with bits of plastic.

But the etymology, rather than the economics, gives intimations of women's ancient association with finances.

The modern English word "money" is from the Middle English monoie which comes from the Old French feminine noun monie. This in turn was a development from the Latin word moneta, also a feminine noun. Although this is not the place to carry on about the significance of word gender, it is striking that the word for money, so often considered a masculine province, is itself feminine. There is something even more deeply feminine about the word. It is the Latin name for the mother of the Muses who in Greek was called Mnemosyne. She was the goddess of memory. Thus out of the matrix or womb of memory come those creative engenderers we call the Muses who go into the name for minting, coining, and money. Money hides within its name the creative muses and their source in memory.

And also

The so called "root of all evil" took its name from a title of Rome's Great Mother, Juno Moneta (Juno the Admonisher), whose Capitoline temple included the Roman mint. Silver and gold coins manufactured there were valuable not only by reason of their precious metal but also by the blessing of the Goddess herself, which could effect good fortune and healing magic. Later popes carried on the pagan tradition by blessing Christian amulets and holy medals which were also used in trade.1

The attendant spirit of Juno Moneta was the erotic Cupid, corresponding to the Greeks' Eros, who was both child and companion of Aphrodite. Thus, "cupidity" used to mean erotic desire, but in Christian times its meaning was changed to greed for money.

1. Larousse, 204.

In the Old Testament, the abundance of money is a blessing. In the New Testament wealth is condemned, and the rich assume stewardship. The Biblical evil was in the love of money, not in money itself, and this misinterpretation is perpetuated when the sensuality of cupidity with person matures into lust for objects.

There are many psychological and psychoanalytic speculations about money.

"Since money is an archetypal psychic reality, it will always be inherently problematic because psychic realities are complex, complicated. Therefore, money problems are inevitable, necessary, irreducible, always present; and potentially if not actually overwhelming.

Beware of when you pay your bills. Too prompt payment is appeasement; too slow, aggression. So say the labelers.

The buyer, interested in the purchase, owns books bought that will remain unread, sweaters still labeled, folded on the closet shelf, that new tea packet never tasted.

I feel a strong sense of obligation to know everything that's in my domain, bewilderment if I don't.

But

"...we compulsive shoppers have learned to look to a substance instead of to ourselves to solve our problems. We think self esteem comes wrapped in a shiny silver shopping bag, not in experience, introspection and work. We haven't learned the pleasures of restraint, only those of abandon. We're suckers for cultural myths like the Cinderella story,

with its insidious lesson that transformation comes from a change of wardrobe. We're not as good at changing our lives as we are at changing our clothes."

The collector is interested in the amassment of likes ...

The haggler takes pleasure in outwitting the seller ...

And the acquirer just likes the pleasure of acquisition ...

My own experience with bargains is that they're not. I'm so influenced by the good price that I lose the rest of my judgement. And I take home something that doesn't fit well, doesn't match my colors, isn't needed. I do much better with catalogs, time to peruse, compare prices, no pressure.

I'm puzzled by the bargain shopper; I don't understand how decisions can be made with such ease. I take very seriously not only how I spend my money, but what I have around me. My friend Linda loves to bargain shop, is elated with a find. "A bargain is a treasure," she says.

How we spend, deal with costs, bargains, ties in with attitudes of self. For instance, people who order the least expensive item on a menu. My mother in law, sweet martyr, was one of those, always fish, usually delicious Boston scrod, fish the bargain entree, scrod the bargain fish. And did she like fish? She never would have told, for the issue, after all, was faithful deportment, and she was deft.

The entrepreneur, Maria, says "I'm never depressed when I make money."

Perhaps accumulation gives her clear purpose.

The miser might remember "There's no pockets in a shroud."

Only those who are too weak to possess see anything wrong with the possessing fashion. Condemnation, coming from those who have never had, comes with a pathetic sound. Better get it all first, then if you still want to condemn, go ahead. But remember, getting takes the whole of life.

Money does alter the most basic life urges. The more money that is available to her, the less does a woman feel the need to feed and look after her own children. This was an astonishment. The explanation seems that when money opens up possibilities of other ways of doing things, even the most fundamental instincts undergo curtailment and change.

An examination of your money and the way you use money is a way of understanding yourself in the same way that a mirror provides a way of seeing yourself.

...paying attention to the details of our lives is part of understanding who we are, and part of growing. Our inattentiveness toward money is enough of a misperception of reality that it can lead us into trouble, in the same sense that any misperception of reality can lead to trouble.

Rajneesh comments that achieving the goals of the unreal self cannot lead to satisfaction.

BUT WHAT IS MONEY?

MONEY IS VIOLENCE:

"All money already belongs to someone else and therefore earning of money is a form of aggression."

MONEY IS ENERGY:

Old people (sometimes) deny themselves every luxury, and complain bitterly about ... (prices). The awareness that life or energy is running out leads them to compensate by piling up money, that is energy.

Emilie comments to a student, "You spend money like you spend your energy."

MONEY IS COMMUNICATION:

Money is a means of communication between an individual and his society; but this form of communication no longer provides communion. Modern money exemplifies contemporary man's lack of unity with his civilization and its goals, for although money has become an institution which brings together almost everyone into an international division of labor and consumption, it has not created friendship or genuine regard among men. People struggle for more and more money, and are unaware that the proper function of this institution is to facilitate mutual self-actualization in economic relations.

MONEY IS FERTILITY:

It can be spent to seed.

MONEY IS RESPONSIBILITY:

Making it means managing it.

MONEY IS RICH AND POOR:

The poor build the rich temples to inhabit. In this symbiosis the poor turn to the rich for sustenance and the rich depend on the poor to give meaning to their wealth. In the Hindu and Buddhist religions, almsgiving is counted towards a next, more altruistic incarnation, towards the reward of escaping the wheel. The householder needs the beggar to be object to his alms. So political discussions that propose implementing self-help, no caste, schools, housing, remove the aiders from the very path to religious salvation. And the beggar too, having come from a long line of beggars, wants no awareness of what change could be, could mean. So these two, donor and recipient, stay mired on their paths.

My interest in Buddhist meditation nurtures my equanimity about living with less in a well ordered house. An aim of the voluntary, contemplative work is to become "equanimous" - accepting, absorbing, discarding, ignoring impulse, input, and especially desire, craving. And this has led me to a less complicated life. Can you see yourself walking by the splendid boutiques on Manhattan's Madison Avenue and not imagining yourself in that superb Egyptian cotton shirt, that magnificent Hermes scarf. Can you imagine the centered calm which would allow you to look, appreciate as art, and not crave acquisition. Not even a flicker of "wouldn't that look pretty ...." And where, I wonder, would the redirection of energy be?

For myself, I saw a little of this living in Santa Cruz. It's not so much that I inside don't hunger, but that there's little that satisfies my appetites here, no designer clothing stores, no high tech marvels, not even a gourmet market. I don't mind at all until I'm in a more sophisticated environment, and then I feel ill dressed and desirous. I've traveled in India and Asia and don't miss our comforts, but once I'm home I luxuriate in the hot shower.

It's been more than 15 years that I've been working on "less", initially as a way to ration resources after I came alone to California. I realized very soon that I liked not having a sofa, only four dinner plates, and no large pot. (I used to own the apparatus to feed 36, and thus felt I had to.) And then I gave up my car, purposefully, and I liked that too. My son introduced me to the day pack, not such a popular item in San Francisco as for students in Santa Cruz, and after a few self-conscious days, I became aware of this terrific freedom of no vehicle, shank's mare, and started buying running shoes instead of gas and oil. And I was becoming more aware of how I was simplifying the tool, money, and its use.

Now I have a blender, a popcorn popper, a computer, and three plates. I still don't have a push button phone, but I do have two. And I shop some from Neiman Marcus and Horchow catalogs. I mind losing my image, and I like changing a little, allowing more choices.

How does one decide what's enough? Where in our bringing up is satiation discussed? When?

MONEY IS POWER:

Power is more than money.

Power is more than knowledge.

Is money only power?

Webster's Second, my favorite dictionary, traces power from the Latin - to be able, to have power - and gives the first meaning as the ability to act.

Is all affluence power?

There must be a willingness to don one's power, to accept the responsibilities of wealth, investing, donating, success. Too many are afraid of their own empowerment and the accompanying responsibility for self. This really has much more to do with self image than assets.

And what else is money? Security, belonging, a means of competition and pleasure, a reflector of values, useful to balance other feelings of inadequacy, ....

Other than power I think, -a deeper layer of consciousness.

MONEY IS RESPONSIBILITY:

Control is required to stay within a budget. The structure of budget and the structure of control strengthen each other, enable each other to be effective. We start to rebel against control around two, and some continue to act out as if two by coveting and behaving as if there were no financial bar. Overspending extravagantly, looking for attention, testing, waiting for authority to set the limits. And authority does, not with a spanking but with bad credit ratings and a repayment schedule.

A man friend feels that women are generally less sophisticated in their uses of money than men. He's likely right, and the causes are probably the same as those that feminism has been announcing for many years. It's hard to be worldly without being out in the world. But women do manage the budget well, so it's plausible they could take the leap across the domestic moat. It would entail having enough money to manage in a more complex way, and fair pay standards and other types of justice outside my range.

MONEY IS DEPENDENCE:

Women are often discouraged from maturity by a wish to remain Daddy's little girl, a wish desired by both Daddy and little girl. This encouragement of irresponsibility sets no model for financial control. It favors a style of indulgence and rescue.

It leads to statements like "I'm terrible at math; my husband does all that. I just handle my allowance."

The man's money is our money, but if that woman has income in her name, she considers that hers.

She thinks that winning a lottery or receiving a large inheritance are two of the best ways of getting ahead.

And marrying a rich spouse only traps her more since she has relinquished her potential.

But "I'd rather depend on somebody. I don't want to be aggressive, competitive," says Mary, single parent.

In its less specific dimension, it's being called the Cinderella Complex. The refusal of self control points to a wish to be controlled, by the parent or the prince. The weak super ego of the spendthrift wants rescue.

Who rescues the single adult? Where is the restraining influence over the suggestion of the mind to itself? What happens to the undirected impulse?

The prince feels

"With (her) there was always my uneasiness, my fear that she was expecting me to be the one to create the afternoons and evenings for her, to shape her life, to decide everything. I wanted to stay with my friend... but I knew my obligation was to stay with (her), to ask her to forgive me; I had hurt her?"

MONEY IS TIME:

Time is money. Hurry, hurry, scurry, make each moment produce. Money is time. Buy leisure by hiring another to do the task, mow the lawn, clean the house. Am I allowed leisure when I must remember time is money? How much should I pay to watch an hour's television show, go out to dinner, enjoy a movie? Personally, I'd rather earn less, spend less, and have more free time. That takes resolution of the earn less:have less ratio, a difficult issue to resolve.

MONEY IS VALUES:

What do I say to the world when I spend money? What values am I expressing? Do I have to reflect my class, my social and ethnic background? And how significant is that in a portrait of my own personality? Very, I'd say. If my budget shows 35% entertainment, and you've banked 25%; if I take taxis and you walk; if I buy books and you use the library, well then I've described two quite different people. Designer clothes, second hand bargains, grocery coupons, deli to go, lots of costume jewelry, one string of good pearls, Consumer Reports, Vogue, Volkswagen, Rolex, all make statements about values and in some places, about social acceptability. New Yorkers and hotel staff are particularly adept at making these judgments. I'd like to know too, to include this level of consciousness in my presentation of self to other.

Where is the accountability in these value expressions? And do I owe consistency to a set of standards? Any set - mine, parental, social? Must I have a consciousness of what my actions mean?

MONEY IS AGGRESSION:

Much violence occurs around money, though money is usually the secondary issue. Babies cry appropriately for food. But when children whine for a quarter, or nowadays a dollar, for the toy that all the kids have, they and we are learning to bend to peer pressure, to the pressure of television ads and heroes. When these children grow up to adulthood and want VCR's and food processors, still influenced by ads and peers, the crying and whining that was effective becomes bickering, blaming and even battering.

On an international level there is a translation to the pursuit of territory and power through big bucks military budgets, though underlying is the childlike distress that that country has more rockets (read toys) than we do.

MONEY IS SECURITY:

Money is whatever money is to you!

CONCLUSIONS

Henry Fielding tells us that "The use of money is all the advantage there is in having money."

John F. Kennedy said

Centuries ago the essayist Burton referred with scorn to those who were "possessed by their money" rather than possessors of it. We ... do not intend to be mastered by our money or by our monetary problems. We intend to master them with unity and generosity --- and we shall do so in the name of freedom.

And Edward Gibbon's conclusion: "I am indeed rich, since my income is superior to my expense, and my expense is equal to my wishes."

Volcker, the United States top political money man, is quoted as asking "What's the subject of life---to get rich ...Those fellows out there getting rich could be dancing around the real subject of life."

The Wall Street Journal once called money "an article which may be used as a universal passport to everywhere except heaven, and as a universal provider of everything except happiness."

"We were all discovering something that seemed hard only when it was new. Money was not pieces of paper the farmers burned to show their wealth. Money was life."

I want to remember I have choice, choice in career, choice in living style and location. It is imperative to examine my life, be conscious of the options, be deliberate in following a path, to reply to what's significant, to have scrutinized the alternatives and be willing to justify the preferences. I must know how much money, how much time is enough to cause what I've chosen to happen to happen. The process calls for disciplined self-examination, difficult, and leads, for me, to an accountable and sometimes satisfying life.

CITATIONS

The Academic American Encyclopedia, vol. 13. Princeton, NJ: Areta Publishing Co., Inc., p. 525.

Armah, Ayi Kwei. The Beautiful Ones are Not Yet Born. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin Company, 1968.

Borneman, Ernest. The Psychoanalysis of money. New York: Urizen, 1976.

Consumers Digest, January, 1986.

Desmonde, William H. Magic, Myth, and Money. New York, The Free Press of Glencoe, Inc., 1962.

Dictionary of Quotable Definitions. Eugene E. Brussell, ed. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1970.

Ederer, Rupert J. The Evolution of Money. Washington Public Affairs Press, 1964.

Harnsburger, Caroline. Treasury of Presidential Quotations. Chicago: Follett, 1964.

Joyce, John Alexander. "There's no pockets in a shroud."

Jungk, Peter Stephen. Shabbat: A Rite of Passage in Jerusalem. Times Books, 1985.

Lockhart, Russell A., Soul and Money, 1982.

Mademoiselle, July, 1985, p. 120 ff.

MchPhee, Carol, and Fitzgerald, Ann, compilers. Index to Feminist Quotations. New York: Thomas Crowell, 1979.

Newsweek, February 24, 1986, p. 50.

Noy, Dov. Moroccan Jewish Folktales. New York: Herzl Press, 1966.

Phillips, Michael. The Seven Laws of Money. New York: Random House, 1974.

Wiseman, Thomas. The Money Motive. New York: Random House, 1974.