On Money by Steve Kanney

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Money is an important aspect of our society that lubricates the wheels of commerce. Looking at the history of barter and the gold standard, fiat currency is clearly better. In this sense money is undeniably a good thing. But our culture revolves around the accumulation of money, so how important should we view it in the whole scheme of life and why?Well, in Aikido we seek an ultimate sort of happiness not only for ourselves, but all beings. In that process we also need to produce a more temporal sense of happiness. For temporal happiness we need peace of mind, good health, wholesome friends and then money – in that order. Peace of mind is key. If you had lots of money, no peace of mind, no friends and poor health, chances are you would not be very happy. But the person with peace of mind who is poor, with few friends and poor health would at least have a fighting chance to find some moments of happiness. In fact, with peace of mind they might improve their health with lower stress and also find some decent friends. But the person with only money and no peace would be less likely to work their way out of their problems. Even in the west we say you can’t buy happiness, or friends and good health for that matter either.Despite the tertiary importance of money in producing happiness, in the west it takes on a central role in our lives. If our GDP growth rates stagnate, we panic. But look at the people starving in Africa. They don’t even know what a GDP growth rate is!? They just want enough food to make it through another day.  This huge divergence between the wealthy and poor, not only among countries but within them as well, is a serious problem on a global level This gap should inform our views on money. Let’s take a closer look.

The poor countries have problems with low levels of education, population explosion (related to poorly educated women), and the elite often take the majority of the country’s assets. Then should they ever climb out of their abject poverty (think China & India), their new found wealth would place the world’s natural resources under unbearable stress.

In the western world, we enjoy high standards of living (although the rift between wealthy and poor has reached alarming levels) and better education. At the same time we absorb a disproportionate share of the world’s natural resources to support our lifestyle. Again, we spend our time worrying about the rate at which our GDP grows while a large portion of mankind worries about starving.

Low levels of education and dire circumstances in the poor countries act as contributing factors to terrorism in the west. We should not be surprised, as historically the result of a wide rift between rich and poor is typically political instability, of which terrorism is a form. Should everyone in China and India start driving a car, we will quickly find our lifestyles called into serious question as well. Our myopic concerns about individual nation’s GDP growth need to take a back seat to more pressing matters. In the west we cannot divorce ourselves from the poverty of the remainder of the world.

We tend to bring money into the center of our lives as we view it as having some sort of lock on the ability to produce happiness. As we have seen above, nothing could be further from the truth. We need to look at money as a practical tool; the view that it can do more only serves to distort our reaction to the world around us. We need to look at the status of the human race and spend our time figuring out real solutions to population explosion, starvation, resource allocation and low levels of education, all symptoms of the gulf between rich and poor. Then our energies and resources will be properly balanced and therefore allocated in the most moral fashion. Next topic is power…
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  • Jason

    Money is a really funny thing…much like time – you never have enough of it, you constantly worry and stress about how to better manage it, and at the worst times when you realize that you don’t have anymore of it, you think of how much of it you’ve wasted.
    I’m absolutely not the person to be discussing money issues! Sadly, until relatively recently, I was just about the worst person I knew when it came to materialism and extravagant and gratuitous spending. But I’m happy to now say the addition of two beautiful little lives in my family has taught me exactly how much more money I need and exactly how poor (fiscally) I am, and thus, how overnight I need to become much more responsible with money. Having children will do that..and I’m also happy to report that they have also taught me the frivolousness of material and luxury items. It’s silly when you look back and think about some of the items you’ve “coveted” in the past, the things that were the object of your wants, especially when juxtaposed with the importance of your children and family…you begin to see the ridiculousness of it all. At least I did. Luckily.
    I’ve become much better. I have begun to view money as a tool and not a status symbol. That journey in and of itself has allowed me to grow in even further ways – allowing a progressive world view to develop, so to speak.
    And I believe this is one of those things that has now brought me to embrace Aikido with such zeal, the fact that I have matured and grown enough to “see” the paths that are available through training and practice.
    With an open mind and our Aikido training, I think we learn a certain humility – if we don’t, we should. I don’t think the principles we strive for will accept any less. And I believe with that humility comes a certain attitude that will place less importance on the material and simply the dollar. Unfortunately, I don’t think that our ultra-capitalistic and consumer-driven corporate marketing monster society will ever once again regain the simplistic and seemingly appreciative-for-what-we-have-and-don’t-want-more-than-we-need ideals that our Country once enjoyed. But it’s a nice thing to strive for. We can do it individually, and try our hardest to make our own changes in our immediate worlds. I can only hope I have the strength and wisdom to pass those ideals to my children…and that’s certainly one of the goals of my Aikido training.