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

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