I found this book the other day, titled The Richest Man in Babylon… and dug in. The style of the prose really tickled me. Inside the cover, is written, first published in 1926. The writer, George S. Clason sets the context in Babylon and writes in a way that reminded me of Shakespeare… thees and thys aplenty. Reading has always been a love of mine, but studying his plays? No… This, though, was an entertaining, lovely and insightful peek into understanding money, wealth, labour and capitalism… from a fresh perspective… but only a couple thousand years old, and the thees and thys… the archaic prose, made it rather endearing. It was like being tickled with amusement, wondering if I was finally compensating for my younger self’s lack of interest in Shakespeare.
I wish my parents had given me this book to read when they were trying to impart financial wisdom. My approach to money has always run counter-parental. Not deliberately, because I tried to follow their advice… but I suppose, some part of me, couldn’t see why saving was more important than enjoying life. My whole idea about money was that money existed to serve the living. Ha. And of course, we inherit all sorts of subconscious beliefs from the people that raised us… around a multitude of things – money being one of them. As it turns out, enjoying life, regardless of income, and spending liberally, relative to income, aren’t always the same thing.
(Tangent: I sort of took a 6 month hiatus out of my life this year, put study and work on hold… because I despaired at where I was going, felt lost, like I was suffocating with no way out and I didn’t feel good about my work – I signed up for a program and spent some months trying to teach English in a village halfway around the world and you know, it was the best choice I’ve made in my life. If I ever reach 80, I’ll look back and say this was the turning point… but it was everything else, that led to that point. Everything that happens to you, happens to bring you to this point. Sciency people would call it hindsight bias. But the phenomena is the same: No effort is ever wasted because whilst you might not see it now, or at the time, it’s creating and has created the present and the future, where you have your aha moment and things fall into place. Or you learn. There’s a silver lining in everything and that’s the beauty of it – that no experience is wasted.
Felt like it was important to go into that tangent. )
Anyway, prior to finding this book, I literally, found myself wondering, what are my beliefs and blocks around money? And the answer that came, was so damn simple… I want more money/income but if I was passionate about making money… the way I’ve been passionate about other things… the story would look different. The reality would look different.
And that hit me. Suddenly, it really hit me. Oh. Oh my god. The idealist in me, never had any interest in the pursuit of making money.
The realist in me, acknowledges that I have a student debt, that I’m in love with travelling, that there are so many things I want to do, learn, try, that yes I want a place of my own, with a view. Not someday, but visionable, actionable and foreseeable. That yes, freedom and independence are so important to me… and whilst the freedom and independence that comes from learning how to think for yourself is beautiful, it is one part of the whole equation.
So… I’m realising, as I write, that wow, I fought for my ideals but there’s no right or wrong anymore. I’m glad… I made choices that could look like mistakes in another light, because standing here, with the forest behind me, I still learned to be a realist. More than a realist, I learned to see how privileged I am. I still learned to see the trees, along with the stars and the moon. And I still am, an idealist at heart. That when push came to shove, I did not abandon this part of me.
I’ve never been broke in this way, and yet, I’ve also never felt this free. I’ve had money in the bank and felt more burdened and stressed and lost. Occasionally, I realise, wow, that is some shift. Something in me laughs. The difference was never the amount I had in my bank, the difference was, is and will always be, perspective.
The Richest Man in Babylon. It’s a gem of wisdom on the practical side of things and the stories will warm your heart.
Wealth grows wherever men exert energy. If a rich man builds him a new palace, is the gold he pays out gone? No, the brickmaker has part of it and the laborer has part of it, and the artist has part of it. And everyone who labors upon the house has part of it. Yet when the palace is completed, is it not worth all it cost? And is the ground upon which it stands not worth more because it is there? And is the ground that adjoins it not worth more because it is there? Wealth grows in magic ways. No man can prophesy the limit of it. Have not the Phoenicians built great cities on barren coasts with the wealth that comes from their ships of commerce on the seas? – pg. 15
This particular paragraph, struck me. I had never considered wealth that way before. I am reminded of three things. A metaphor I recently came across… that a boy in America sees a mountain and a boy in Peru sees a mountain. One sees the money he can make for himself by mining the rocks and the other sees Pachamama.
The pie/pizza analogy. That this picture of wealth overlies an abundance mindset and so this analogy doesn’t apply, in a good way. Abundance vs. scarcity.
According to communism, a bourgeoisie is someone who owns the means of production. The communist thinks the distribution of wealth as unfair. But one of the stories tell of how the richest man, became the richest man, how, exactly, he started – the same as everyone else. Readily, it points to mindset. But yes, from another angle, the communist is also right.
On the other hand, climate change is also happening. Mass converting Earth’s resources into wealth has consequences… like the compounding accumulation of investing wealth… climate change starts as a trickle and becomes a rushing river. When oceans are filled with the unintended consequence, of humans, creating wealth by selling convenience… without realising that when this convenient plastic doesn’t degrade… opps? The long run is already here… and this particular saying is echoing in my head, if you’re not a part of the solution, you’re a part of the problem.
Food for thought, perhaps. Everytime I use plastic, no matter how convenient it is at the time, I am being a part of the problem.
On that ending note… something I’ve learned, that is precious to me, because in understanding it, my world has expanded and there is a deeper understanding and knowing of freedom:
I am privileged and that privilege is a gift.
Then there are the attending questions of how to receive it, how to use it… and how to offer it.
For this post, I had intended to write about a book I recently read, it veered into being about perspective, but without privilege, I would have never gained perspective.