The Power of Money as a Symbol

“If only I had more money, I would…”

We can find an infinite variety of ways to complete that sentence. Take a trip.  Buy clothing. Have a nicer home.  Help the poor.  Continue our education.  The list flows on and on, as endless as the needs and dreams of human beings.

When we fantasize about what more money would bring us, we rarely distance ourselves so that we can see the fantasy as distinct from the money that would be needed to realize the fantasy.  But which is more important: the money or the fantasy?  The fantasy is within us, the money outside us.  Because of this, the fantasy tells us what we desire.  The money is neutral, silent as to who we are or what we desire.

An examination of money fantasies reveals our minds to us, the inmost workings of ourselves.  For example, a man of thirty‑five yearns to leave his work and go to live on a tropical island.  If only he had the money, he would go.  If he forgets about the absence of money and welcomes the opportunity to explore his own thoughts, he may discover any number of truths: He fears the duties that he will have to perform if he is promoted; he is worried about his marriage but feels unable to confront his spouse; or even the banal possibility that he needs a vacation.

If the man stalls this self-examination by saying that he doesn’t have enough money, he loses the opportunity to see into himself.  He goes through his days dreaming of another life, an unlived life filled with equatorial passions and spent on the sandy shores of exotic islands.  He does not recognize that this other life, this island life, is illusory, a flight from his reality.  He sees money as an adversary and chooses to live with his feelings of deprivation.  However, his deprivation is not of money, but of self‑exploration.

We seldom think of the power that we mentally give to money.  We are aware that we feel limited by the absence of money, or that we feel strengthened by possessing it.  Yet money is truly powerless until we vivify it through the power of our minds.  Money itself has never built a building, manufactured a product, performed an operation to save a life, or given sound investment advice.  Especially in today’s world, money is valueless paper, valueless except for the consensual value that we give it.

Chinese Pu money made of bronze in the Wang Mang period of Han dynasty. Photo taken (on 28 Jan 2006) by Roger McLassus (owner). CC License

P.E.N. American Center

Post 6 in my Professional Authors Associations Series. Click here to read post 1.

P.E.N. American Center:

Visit PEN America at

P.E.N. American Center is an international community of writers, editors, translators, and others interested in the field of literature who work to defend free expression worldwide, support persecuted writers, and promote and encourage the recognition and reading of contemporary literature. Its 3,400 Professional Members include published writers, translators, and editors. The organization also includes Associate Members who come from other parts of the literary community—booksellers, librarians, students, and “passionate readers.” P.E.N. advocates for the free expression rights of writers and readers. It has member committees and groups focusing on translation, children’s/young adult authors, and a women’s literary workshop. Benefits include a journal, discounts to P.E.N.’s prominent public programs, such as its World Voices Festival of International Literature, health insurance at group rates in certain states, and a discounted subscription to its online database of Grants and Awards available to American Writers.

This information has been adapted from the 4th edition of The Writer’s Legal Guide by Kay Murray and myself.

When an Artist Needs a Lawyer, Where Do You Find One?

The search for a lawyer is often time-consuming and disheartening. Not only are fees high, but many lawyers are not knowledgeable about the issues encountered by artists. Standard techniques for finding a lawyer include asking a friend who consulted a lawyer for a similar problem, calling a local bar association’s referral service, or going to a legal clinic. All of these approaches have merits, but today the artist may be able to locate a knowledgeable lawyer with far greater precision.

The very definition of an area of the law as “art law” is an encouraging sign for the expertise lawyers will bring to the artist’s problems. The literature and educational programs for lawyers have vastly increased. Many law schools now offer art-law courses and bar associations are paying greater attention to art and the artist. The Selected Bibliography shows how many art-law books are now available for lawyers.

Equally encouraging are the lawyers across the country volunteering to help needy artists. Both volunteer lawyers’ groups and artists’ groups, several of which maintain rosters of attorneys who will help members at a reduced fee, are good resources to use when seeking a lawyer with art-law expertise. Such referrals may result in finding lawyers who either do not charge or work at more affordable rates. Up-to-date information on the volunteers closest to a specific location can be obtained from one of the following established groups:

California Lawyers for the Arts (

Fort Mason Center
Building C, Room 255
San Francisco, CA 94123
(415) 775-7200


1641 18th Street
Santa Monica, CA 90404
(310) 998-5590

Lawyers for the Creative Arts (

213 West Institute Place, Suite 411
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 649-4111

Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts (

1 East 53rd Street
New York, NY 10022
(212) 319-2787

The National Writers Union

Post 5 in my Professional Authors Associations Series. Click here to read post 1.

The National Writers Union:

Visit NWU at

The National Writers Union is a trade union of freelance writers in all genres, formats, and media who work for American publishers or employers. A local of the United Auto Workers, it bills itself as an activist organization committed to improving the economic and working conditions of freelance writers through the collective strength of 1,500 members in 15 local chapters throughout the country. It offers grievance assistance, industry campaigns, contract advice, a jobs hotline, health and professional liability insurance plans, member education, and networking. The NWU aims to challenge corporate media against unfair treatment of writers, lobbies Congress to pass legislation that protects the rights of writers, creates viable solutions to provide publishers fair alternatives to unfair practices, and educates and empowers its members.

This information has been adapted from the 4th edition of The Writer’s Legal Guide by Kay Murray and myself.