Money changes everything. But it doesn’t have to be that way. If we look at money for what it really is, it doesn’t have to be a “bad” thing. After all, money is really only a medium of exchange that allows us to trade and interact with each other economically. Money isn’t something “real,” it is something that we humans make up and decide to use as a medium of exchange. What IS “real” is the exchange. And, it is the “exchange” that we totally lose sight of when we start to look at money as something “real.” The “exchange” is human interaction and human interaction becomes nothing when we begin to place the importance on money instead.
Let’s take going into a restaurant as an example of what I’m talking about. If you are (as most of us are) “money oriented,” you will decide that you WANT some food and that you have a RIGHT to it because you have MONEY in your pocket to buy it. You walk into a restaurant, sit down and start looking at the menu. You look at the food not only in terms of what looks appealing to your senses, but also in terms of what that food translates into in terms of money. You make your food choices and place your order with the waiter. You then begin to evaluate the waiter in terms of money. How polite is he? How attentive is he? Will he get your order right? All of these things decide his worth to you in terms of the tip that you will decide to give him when your monetary transaction is complete at the restaurant. You look right through him. You don’t notice his facial features beyond trying to establish basic recognition so you can pick him out from among the other waiters in the restaurant should you need him to do something for you. Maybe you are even rude and demanding – after all you’re paying him so why shouldn’t you get exactly what you want when you want it no matter how busy or tired or new the waiter might be? When you finish eating, you leave your mess spread out on the table for him to clean up. Why not? It’s his job. It’s what he gets paid for. You leave your evaluation and estimation of the man’s worth on the table in the form of money and you leave. On the way home you grumble to yourself about the cost of the food and maybe how it was or wasn’t worth it. You are tense and dissatisfied.
Now, imagine that you are out walking down a city street. You are hot, tired and hungry. Suddenly, up ahead you see a restaurant. You become filled with hope that your suffering will soon be relieved. You enter the restaurant and immediately the air conditioning cools your skin. A young woman takes you to a seat at a table and brings you a glass of refreshing cool water. You are happy to have a place to sit as your feet hurt from walking. The young woman then comes to your table and asks you what you would like to eat. You choose a sandwich from the menu and a small salad because you only have a certain amount of money in your pocket and want to be sure to have enough to thank this woman for her hospitality before leaving the restaurant. Before the waitress brings your food, you visit the restroom provided by those who own the restaurant. You notice and are grateful for all of the comforts and amenities that have been provided to you. A restroom, warm running water to wash with, towels to dry with, air conditioning for comfort, a place to sit, food to eat, plates and utensils to eat with, cool water and a person willing to bring these things to you. When you are finished eating your meal, you clean up after yourself the best that you can and leave a tip in order to show your gratitude to the waitress and you leave. You feel relaxed and satisfied. You have realized the “real” economic exchange taking place and it had nothing to do with money which was only the medium through which this exchange could take place.
You see, the wrong view of money gives the impression that everything in our lives is a “financial” exchange. But that is not truly the case. Imagine, if you will, that you have millions of dollars in your possession. You could buy anything you want, right? Wrong. If other people had not taken the time and energy and initiative to grow food, make clothing, or build housing, your money would buy you absolutely nothing. You could burn it to help keep you warm as you toil away trying to build your own housing, grow your own food or make your own clothing, but that is all. When we look at everything in terms of what it is worth in terms of monetary value, we are missing the point and missing out on life and what it means to be human. We are also fooling ourselves into thinking that if we only had enough money, we would be set for life. But without other people, we would not get anywhere at all no matter how much money we have.