HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) Updated May 13, 2012 12:00 AM
I have been wanting to write about money since it is the one thing we all deal with in our lives. We all have a relationship with money.
Money, as the song goes, makes the world go around. Money, as the saying goes, is also the root of all evil. Money changes everything, says Cyndi Lauper. If you look for quotes about money on the Internet, you will find a lot, and most of them, per many people’s experience, are quite true.
When I was growing up, I had very little money. My baon for school was barely enough for a complete meal and a soda, and I had to save enough for the bus ride home. But I didn’t feel deprived. Not at all. The world was simpler then. Many things were free. We did not have to buy bottled water. Gasoline was dirt cheap. We spent nothing to make phone calls. A date with your college girlfriend was simple and inexpensive. And Quezon City where we lived was so uncongested I did not mind taking long walks and enjoying the open space and fresh air. And so I saved money on bus fare.
In today’s world, it’s hard to imagine life without money. Everything costs a lot more today than 40 years ago. And aside from what you can’t live without — food, shelter, water, electricity, medicine, transportation — everywhere you turn, commerce has something tantalizing to sell to you that you’re supposed to need.
With many people feeling they have little money to spare even for the basic stuff, life has indeed become a pressure cooker. You struggle to stay afloat in a sea of expenses. And as you watch the affluent spend money with ease and with nary a care, you could feel shut out of the so-called best things that life can offer.
I know many people for whom the main (and almost sole) aim in life is the accumulation of wealth. They claim that they are doing what they can to save money for a better future for themselves and their families. So they work very hard while they deprive themselves of many comforts they could actually opt to have, just to save money.
I am kind of like that, but to a lesser degree. I work really hard at what I commit to. In good or bad times, I can manage to live quite simply and frugally, more or less. I am not a slave of fashion and do not feel compelled to go with the crowd on many things. I enjoy eating in cheap restaurants, and I do not mind buying pre-owned stuff. This perhaps comes from my middle-class upbringing and growing up in a big family where I had to wear hand-me-downs.
Once in a while, I spend on something expensive like a laptop, a camera or some new gadget. But when I do, I know I will get my money back since I use what I buy to make money, or at least to pay for what I spent on it. I fret when I have little cash, not so much because I fear hardship for myself but more because I do not want my family to be inconvenienced.
I once had a student in one of my workshops who told us he had lost about P100 million in a business venture and he was now down to his last P60 million. The other participants with way humbler means listened in utter disbelief. Was he telling us that he is now “poor” with just his “last” P60 million left? That brought us to the realization about money and wealth — that wealth and abundance are not fixed sums. Abundance is our attitude about what we have. To the very rich, a million pesos is nothing. To most people, it is a big deal. And yes, it takes a truly wise and evolved person to know how much money is “enough.”
In raising my kids, I always made sure they accounted for every centavo of change when I asked them to buy something. It was not as much a lesson in accounting as it was in honesty. I wanted them to learn that money is not something to be casual about. And stealing is a no-no under any circumstance. Whether you steal five centavos or P5 million, it is stealing.
No matter how many times I have heard stories about how people’s lives turned miserable after winning big in the lotto, I still want to win loads of money since I “know” (like everyone else it seems) that I will handle things differently if I win. I will be generous and share it with family and friends. I will donate to charity. I will help the poor. I will donate to the needy.
It’s so easy to make promises when the money is not there yet. But I have asked myself many times, if I ever actually happened to win the lotto, how many of the promises I have made myself will I actually keep? Will I feel “deprived” giving a portion of my wealth away? Will I have anxieties about being generous?
Money issues, according to chakra teacher Carolyn Myss, can hit us physically in our gut and genital area. When we worry about money, we feel it in those low chakras where survival concerns are dealt with. Watch how your tummy tightens when you think of money problems. We can’t begin to go up and cultivate the higher chakras if pressing matters are unresolved down below.
Our attitude towards money says a lot about us. I have met many people who discovered the “true” character of otherwise “decent” people after arguments and differences about money. For many, money is the test. People have cheated, lied and killed for money. Presidents, chief justices, judges, businessmen, holy men, etc. are subjected to the test not just once but many times. And yes, a great many of them have failed.
We like to say that money can’t buy happiness and proof of that is there are many poor people who are generally happier than the rich. That could be true. But with money, one has a choice to suffer the misery of one’s choosing — drugs, sex, gambling or any addiction one fancies. And when you are through messing up, you have the money to clean up the mess. There are those who believe that even the miserable state of one’s spirit can be rescued if you have money. There’s rehab, and once you are “fixed,” you can enjoy your money better.
I am constantly reminding myself that when you get down to it, money is simply a form of energy. It can’t be left unused for long, otherwise, it dissipates. Money must be spent, and while many will advise that it must be spent to make more of it, I think that it should also be spent for something as simple as “joy.” There is the joy of family bonding, the joy of travel, the joy of learning, the joy of indulging in a passion. Choose your joy. One need not quantify or account for these expenses scrupulously since, in truth, they are worth more than we realize.
Money is good for many things but not for all. And one must be wise to know when it serves us well and when it doesn’t. The sooner we develop a right attitude towards money, the better we will be. I read a quote on the net from an unknown source which goes, “If a person gets his attitude toward money straight, it will help straighten out almost every other area in his life.”
Many make the mistake of going for money as an end in itself. Mark wrote in the gospel, “For what does it profit a man if he gained the world but loses his soul?” Indeed.
A more effective quote that sobers me up is from a robber’s common spiel which goes, “Your money, or your life?” We must always be aware when the choice has gone down to this, and know how to choose.