Week 11: Consider This…
“The kings are the merchants. And their weapon is money. This is why, naturally, rebellion against power takes the form called poverty. The rebels against power are those denied any connection with money.”
This week I am reading The Name of the Rose, by Umberto Eco, which is where the above quote originates. If you’re not familiar with the book, it’s a story about an abbey in Italy where bizarre deaths of several of the monks occur during a time of intense political contention within the church, and two visiting monks are trying to solve the mystery while soothing the tensions. It reads the The Da Vinci Code mixed with a religious textbook, which is at times both fun and frustrating. However, during one of the more scholarly discussions, the aforementioned quote caught my attention.
In my job, I caption telephone calls for the hard-of-hearing, and I am exposed to a lot of people from a lot of different places in the country. Though I can’t say much about what I’ve heard (damn you FCC, you ruin all the fun), I can say a lot of people are angry, frustrated and scared. And most of it is caused by money–not having enough of it and/or being held at the mercy of people who have more of it. The natural line of defense against such frustration seems to be acquiring more money, but…does that ever really work? Do people ever think they have enough? Does it ever make them feel safe against all that anger?
So…what if instead of accumulating more, more money and status and STUFF…what if the opposite is actually true? What if limiting your wealth, or your need for wealth, is what makes you free?
Let me be clear: I’m not advocating actual poverty. I’m certainly not going to sell all my stuff and go live in a cave somewhere–I don’t camp. This is probably a very easy position for me to take personally as a relatively young, relatively healthy person who only has to support herself, a cat and a turtle. And I think the fact that starvation, homelessness, malnutrition and lack of medical care can live just down the road from the Kardashian residence is an evil, evil joke.
What I am saying is think about your financial troubles, all the stuff you can’t have or can’t afford, and try to see it not as sacrifice or oppression, but rebellion. Really think about what you’re buying and who you’re buying it from before you make a purchase. Cut out expenses whenever you can. I know everyone is doing this already, but here’s the trick: find ways to not only live with this, but be happy about it. Be creative with your limitations. Enjoy your self-sufficiency outside of material things.
If I’m being unclear, maybe this will do the trick:
“The things you own end up owning you.”
That’s Fight Club. And 10+ years later (1999), it’s still right on. The less you have, the less you owe, and the freer you are.