Take out a dollar bill. Now stare at it. Regard it thoughtfully and ask yourself some questions. What is money? Where does it come from? How did it get here? What does it do? Is it for real? What are its origins? Why does this piece of paper have power? Why do I work as hard as I do for it?
Now think about what your life would look like without it.
In some manner, money touches every second of every day. Think about what would happen if you had to build your own cabin in the woods, hunting and gathering for your nutrition in a hostile world while you worried about random raiding parties. Not so attractive, eh? Anything more civilized takes either money or your own army. Since most of us prefer money, do we ever say "Thank you" for our relatively tranquil lives? Or are we too mesmerized, like fish contemplating the water in which they swim? Fish could not live without water, but they are hardly students of it. Similarly, most of us show no gratitude to money. We just assume it will have continued potency. Then we complain about its demands and challenges.
But consider modern life without the things money allows us. Most of us rely on it for our literal survival. Strangers grow our food. Others transport it. Still others run the grocery stores. And that's just our food. How about shelter? Others construct it. Other people also build our modes of transportation and create our built environment. Produce the cloth for our clothes, weave it, cut it, design it and sew it to keep us warm and attractive. Why? You know why. Because money was exchanged.
For all the emotions money seems to generate, perhaps the most surprising is how we tend to take it for granted. How about if we take a minute to think about its positives and its benefits, then simply say, "Thanks, Money, glad you are here. We really cannot imagine life without you."
We cannot get out from under money's defects without thoroughly understanding it, warts, beauties and all, and then acting knowledgeably. (Isn't helping folks understand their money within our job description?)
Money, after all, does give us plenty to complain about. It fosters complex emotions and triggers unpleasant thoughts.
Sometimes money can even seem like the enemy. We have to acknowledge that it does not always commensurately reward our mental and physical capacities. Nor does it always bring out the best in us emotionally. To earn money frequently means meeting rigorous daily and weekly demands with little or no room for illness, fun, family trauma, personal fulfillment or mental fatigue. Is that money's fault?
Some people are frightened they'll run out of it. Others don't recognize when enough is enough and live their lives driven by the stuff. Still others don't think much past Friday and are quietly confident that someone will always provide for their survival. For most of us, those old standbys, "fear" and "greed," make up about 98% of our thinking on the subject.
The naysayers insist our culture places excessive emphasis on money, causing us to forget what is important in life. "It just isn't fair," they say. "If only money worked as well for everybody as it does for some of us, i.e., that heartless 1%."
What is the gist of these views? Taken as a whole, money is bad stuff, not good for children or other living things. It makes people act stupidly, selfishly, materialistically and feloniously. When it comes to money, you can't trust anybody. No way. No how. Never.
Let me suggest an alternative narrative-that money is quite literally humanity's greatest single creation. In fact, nothing else even comes close. Money, in this view, is in the middle of all other human creations. All in all, pretty amazing stuff. Humanity as a whole has done itself proud to evolve in such a way that money has the power it does.
When there is also a rule of law and a fundamental respect for contracts, personal freedom and property rights, then money lets us live lives worth living in manners that aren't conceivable in its absence. It allows folks not only to eat but have access to life's finer aspects.