I've been studying the nature and value of money for awhile now, and I've only begun to scratch the surface of what the stuff is. Here in the United States, and perhaps elsewhere, philosophical and economic discussions about money are hopelessly entangled with political philosophy, which makes it all the harder, but I think I have a grasp of what American currency is, and how it got there.
Barter was the first way humans exchanged things they had for things they wanted. It works well when two people each have something they other wants and they value it equally. Otherwise, the trades can become inordinately complex, such is the stuff that fiction writers love to illustrate, because wacky hijinks ensue.
Debt counselors like it when their clients use cash for all of their transactions. That's because they understand that physical currency connects us to the power of money. If you've noticed that most money-drawing and prosperity spells use a couple of bucks as a material component, rather than a checkbook entry or ATM receipt, you're seeing the same idea in action. We don't fully realize the power of money if we keep it in the realm of bank balances and automatic bill payments.
This is no accident: money is the earth element, so by definition it's a material component. The fact that we've made various representations of money, from bills of credit to checks to a jumble of electron, obfuscates this fundamental truth. Money is physical, and forging a relationship with it is going to be much more difficult if you can't feel it in your hand, hear its clink, or smell its peculiar, musky odor.
NPR reports on a study that confirms what many of us already felt, that poor people are more charitable, in how they think about community and as a percentage of what they have. So what's going on here? I have some ideas, not all of which could possibly be correct at the same time, and I'm even more curious about the ideas I haven't thought of myself.
Not surprisingly, "religion" is cited as a motivator for charitable behavior, but from what I can tell, that generic term as applied in the studies cited actually means "Christian religion" instead. It's understandable that researchers focus their efforts on the largest groups, but the rest of us must read between the lines.
Although I grew up in a community with a strong Jewish presence, I never really delved into the wisdom of that path; therefore, I was completely unaware of the wisdom of Maimonides and his views on charity. The philosopher laid out eight levels of giving which observant Jews should follow as a tenet of their faith. I can't think of a reason Pagans shouldn't adopt something similar.
A story by NPR looks at how profit impacts cesarean births. The study shed some light on how money impacts our lives from the very first breath we take.
As reported, researchers hypothesized that doctors may opt for a more lucrative C-section if the mother doesn't know any better, and to find out they compared birth mothers who were also doctors to those who weren't, and looked at how many in each category delivered their children naturally. Doctors, the researchers reasoned, would resist a surgical procedure that wasn't medically necessary more often than anyone with average knowledge.
This is the first time I have been invited to write for a Pagan site, which is both an honor and a privilege. I'm mostly unknown, so it's only fair to introduce myself, and my topic. The topic's much more interesting, so let's start there: MONEY!
Money has always held a fascination for me, the sort of fascination that comes from growing up in a family that never had enough of it. It wasn't just that I wanted more of the stuff (who didn't?), it was the fact that we never quite went over the brink that amazed me, too. My mother worked magic with those bills and coins, always managing to pay the bills in time to keep creditors away, and still have enough of Dad's paycheck left to feed and clothe us.
I am in debt. Even when I do not count my study loans, I'm chronically--but not deeply-- in the red on my bank account. I don't have credit card loans, however, and I don't owe money or goods to anyone. I have had a tough year, but it's slowly getting better. Although I work, next to getting an education, my income does not cover all my costs. I am extremely lucky, though: I have a working partner who will gladly jump in and cover costs until my education is done and I can get an actual job that pays the bills.
I don't like being in debt. It's against the spirit of Hellenismos--or at least the two were antagonistic in ancient Hellas. Debts were paid off at the Deipnon--the end of the month--and those who could not pay them became serfs to their creditors. It was one of the main ways a citizen could become a slave.
It sounds a bit harsh, becoming a slave because of a missed payment. Yet, is modern life any different? Am I not tied to all people, companies and foundations who pull money from my bank account on a regular basis? Will not strong men and/or women show up on my doorstep if I can not afford to pay my bills and take items I own to pay off the debt? If all else fails, won't the government take my freedom? Aren't all of us a little enslaved to a economy which requires monthly contributions for protection, huge debts for housing and education, and for an ever-increasing number of people; financial support from their government simply to eat and have a roof to sleep under?