Three things are the foundation of wealth:
A body, healthy and strong, able to do what we ask of it.
Our time our own, to spend as we please.
Money enough to do what is needful, to pay what we owe when the bill comes due.
Work, for its own sake, is not a fit offering. I am a human being, not a human doing. While of course the gift of life and the things we require in order to maintain that life flow to us, and from us, the relationship and the flow are in themselves lessons in balance, and the art of living.
Working for a living has become working to survive for so many of us. It is so easy to become distracted when we spend so little time doing work that matters to us and to the world, and have so little time to reflect and simply live. I find so much of my “down time” is spent recovering from the time spent working and commuting—the time that is not spent doing the personal work necessary to prepare for the labor of the next working week, that is.
I can’t help but think that part of this is by design. If we are too busy surviving, we don’t notice how much of our lives are stolen from us. We are too busy running to catch up, too worried that we’ve missed some task that needed to be done, trying to make the grade, hit the mark, cross the finish line that we can never reach.
We spend money in order to reclaim time, which suits the ones we labor for quite well. We buy food prepared and ready to eat so we can avoid the time spent cooking and cleaning up. Coffee every morning on the way to work, takeout at night. We buy things we no longer know how to make, clothing and a plethora of different products that do simple things that used to be accomplished with soap and water. Different soaps for the hair, the face, the hands, magical cleaning pads that mop and wipe and pick up pet hair—in a fraction of the time! Most of all, we buy simply because we can, to fill the hole within. We call it retail therapy. All of this fills the coffers of those who sell and while it does create gainful employment, what does it really cost us?
This time of sheltering in place goes to the crux of this issue. We are all defined by what we have, how much money we are bringing in. Why must we calculate the worth of our actions and lives constantly and make sure that we’re on the right side of the ledger? Simply staying home is the most valuable thing most of us can do, yet it feels like nothing, a sentence instead of an action.
Some of us, myself included, have this gift of time, however much more of it there is, to think on these things, to see who we are. Some of us are lucky enough to have our basic needs taken care of and can stay home, others are “essential,” and must work. Many of us who are in that position hold formerly “worthless,” “unskilled” jobs. Service is rarely respected or even adequately compensated. The definition of “Essential,” we should realize by now, is dependent on circumstance. It isn’t wise, or safe, in this world run by people who know the price of everything and the value of nothing, to make these judgments and force us all to live by them. Especially the people who are still on the streets.
A person without money always has the wolf at their door. Why are some people worthy and others not? It has nothing to do with the intrinsic value of people, it is a roll of the dice, and a sacrifice. If there are people on the streets, it keeps the rest of us in line. Job loss can happen to any of us, or the loss of the relationship that kept a roof over our heads. We are all one injury or piece of bad luck from disaster. This knowledge is part of the hole within, knowledge that keeps us from being whole.
We will not be whole until all of us can come in from the cold, until we redefine wealth. There is enough for us all.
Of course, we will all have to do the chores, so to speak, but we can all share them out far more equitably than we do now, and have far more of our time returned to us in the process. I have based my morning meditation as I walked to work on this triad, and all the ideas that have come out of it. I will continue to share them in future posts.