In The Money

October 16, 2012 § 8 Comments

It has been a productive summer and early fall, insomuch as productivity can be measured in outbuildings constructed, sawlogs sawn, firewood dropped, skidded, bucked, split, and stacked, kimchi made, beeves and pigs dispatched of, sausages mixed and stuffed, pasture cleared, soils amended, .22 rounds shot, blueberries harvested, mushrooms foraged, and so forth. As measured in paying work, well, not so much. I have spent less time at my desk this summer than I might have ever thought possible, and every time it seems as if I can no longer keep the ball in play, I am graced with some project or another, the paycheck for which is just enough to return to the world beyond my office windows.

Somehow, and certainly not inconsequentially, the writing of my most recent book about money and our cultural relationship to it has all but severed a long held spell I have been under for most of my adult life. Although have always been thrifty, perhaps even cheap, and although we have never gone without the basic essentials for even a day, I have nonetheless lived under a pall of worry regarding our finances. For too long I have chalked this up as an inevitable response to the uncertainty of self-employment, but now I understand that was merely a story I told myself and anyone who cared to listen. The truth is, I have often let my concerns over money lure me out of the flow of my life and keep me from becoming fully immersed in the portion of my world that is unrelated to my financial well being. I sense that I have not been alone in this regard.

That has not been the case this summer, or if it has, to a much lesser extent. Indeed, we are making and have less money than at any point in the past 15 or so years. And yet, we feel lighter and freer and nearer to our sense of what our lives should be than at any point in the past 15 or so years. Furthermore, we have noticed an interesting phenomenon: The less we think about money, the less we seem to need it. I am not yet sure of the pathways from the former to the latter, but I suspect they are pragmatic, rather than energetic or spiritual (although I can’t be sure). Because the less time I spend in pursuit of money, the more time I spend immersed in the skills and activities that cost not only cost nothing, but actually “pay” us in productive capacity. And the more I immerse myself in these skills and activities, the more I am drawn to others who share these interests, who both teach and learn from me.

All of this is not to say that we have somehow created some sort of moneyless utopian society in the rural hollows of northern Vermont. My life is still very much tied to the monetary realm, as I suspect it always will be. I guess what strikes me is that even within the context of this reality, I have a choice: I can allow money and the angst it generates to lead me by these reins. Or I can refuse to relinquish such control, and lead it.



§ 8 Responses to In The Money

  • I know what you mean. I know too many people yoked to their expensive mortgage, car payments, cell phone bills,e etc. and are working feverishly, sometimes both partners, with two or more jobs, to afford all of these amenities. Many work two jobs to do this, and wonder why they never have time to spend with their kids…They act like they have no other choice…Not everyone can do what you do, but you set an example for an alternative lifestyle that is very powerful.

  • Angela Kelly says:

    I can relate incredibly, and it could not have been better said.

  • KarlaJ says:

    Hear, hear! You’ve given me a lot to think about this morning!

  • Dave says:

    Wow, great post! And like your sons shirt says, “Life Is Good.” Life is indeed good.

  • I find it interesting that your income is lower now then 15 years ago. That seems to be going around a lot. And I, too, have noticed this phenomenon as you and the other commenters about needing less money as you think less about it. I also think that when people stop watching TV they think less about what they need and want and therefore spend less. (I don’t know how people can afford to watch TV with cable and satellite fees as high as they are.)
    But primarily I am stunned by your garlic after our awful crop. How did you do that?

    • Ben Hewitt says:

      Hi Andree,

      The garlic is the result of an intensive effort to revitalize our soils with micronutrients and trace minerals. We have been on this program for two years and the results are phenomenal. Check out if you’re keen to know more.

      Thanks for asking.

      – Ben

  • I’ve found that when we have more money, we spend more money. And if we have more money it’s because one of us is working harder than usual, which makes us want to spend more money so we feel better about working more.
    It’s a great gift to have time, the spending of which seems to stay with you longer than anything bought with money.

  • Ben says:

    “The borrower is slave to the lender.” -proverbs 22:7

    Taken this context, the term “debt free” means a bit more. You allude to feeling “lighter and freer.” Beholden only to what we truly need, and not to banks, telecoms, bosses, governments, and consumer junk is livin’ the good life.

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