Watch guest Scott Merrall of Waldorf education on Season 1 Episode 7 of Conscious Business Leaders TV, as he speaks on “Purpose and Meaning of Money.”
Find out more about Scott’s work at: http://www.singingstones.org/
Excerpt from The Purpose & Meaning of Money
Indigo: It’s really great to get to talk to you. You and I have had private conversations previously on this topic, but let’s talk about it as if we have no idea what the other one thinks. For the purposes of those listening who have no idea what either of us thinks, I’m gonna probably ask you some questions and you’ll be like, “Well Indigo, you know I told you that before.” This has been a running conversation, because it’s a personal passion of both of us to understand how money can function effectively in a society. So, Scott, maybe we can start off… Could you give me a little bit of what you see as the genesis of money? Where did money come from?
Scott: Okay. That’s a big question. And when I was teaching economics in the beginning, there’s a whole… many people have written many books about where money comes from, but I found that unsatisfactory, so I took a different approach. And I think that money is transformed capacities of human beings. So whatever gifts or talents that you have when you go out into the world and you are working, you are giving of yourself into this economic lifeblood. And if you are employed or self-employed, you are also gonna receive in today’s world money back for those things that you are giving… those services that you are giving or those goods that you’re creating. And so for me, I make the big leap from the concrete material thing… good for service and I look behind and see those things as the capacities… invisible capacities. You might say either inborn or developed capacities inside of people that then manifest externally as money.
So, like Charles Eisenstein has this great title, “Sacred Economics.” Money has come to be seen as profane in some circles, whereas Charles Eisenstein is saying, well, it’s actually sacred because there’s this connection to people’s deep inner lives and as it manifests externally it can become, and can enter into the flow and the currency of the world, as money. But it’s really disguised, or masked, spiritual capacities.
Indigo: So you are saying, regardless of when the word was first used and what was meant by it then, the thing is that today what it can be, what it can come to mean, is our ability to give service to one another and how that is measured. Is money the measurement of what we’re giving?
Scott: Well. The first part of what you said made sense to me, but I think that there is a perceptual shift that each person can make. I can enter into transactions and just say, “I value my life at this many dollars per hour or at this salary per year. And then, there’s an external negotiation that happens in the marketplace and that’s what values it or what gives a… that’s what transforms it into a negotiation. But what I’m saying is also that you can… no matter what field of work you’re in, if your perceptional shift is that you’re just gonna extend your gifts out into the world, then that can be done whether or not the world acknowledges that you’re working in service. That make sense?
Indigo: It does. And yet, for it to be money… And this is the part that I’m trying to understand: what makes it be money not service? Because service is service. Right? I have gifts, I give them. I expect nothing in return. We don’t need to put a value on it. Nobody needs to agree. They just need to either accept it or not. What makes it money, if there isn’t an agreement on value?
Scott: Yeah. That’s a tough question. What do you think?
Indigo: No, it’s really a question. I mean I tend to think… I’m trying to understand it. I think of money in a transactional sense, because I think of it as… you know, I think you’ve heard me give the metaphor of this kind of village where people are… I develop my skills and resources; you develop your skills and resources, and we could trade apples for pears. But what if I want pears and you don’t want apples. Right? And so, it takes out the running around trying to find someone who agrees on value with you. We both trade everything for currency and then we both accept currency. And then when I want to buy pears, I buy pears. When you don’t want apples and that’s all I make, but I can still get pears, because I’ve trade it with somebody who did want apples.
And so, I see money as being that transactional kind of just making trading easier. But I like the different direction that you are going where you are saying, it’s not as much about the transaction, as it is about the value and the capacity that even makes the transaction possible. The building up of your capacity to grow apples, for example. Right? Before I can have apples to get your pears, I have to have apple seeds, I have to have land to grow it on, and I have to have the knowledge of how to cultivate it. I have to have water. I have to make sure it’s in the spot that has the right environment for apples. And there are probably more things about apple care that I quite frankly don’t know that I need to know if I’m gonna do it at the scale of supporting myself with it. So, do we think of the purpose of money as being building our capacities to give things that other people will value?
Scott: I don’t think so… I think we just do what we love to do. At least in an ideal world… through education, through our parents, through our interaction with our whole social environment, we discover gradually what we love to do. In some cases, we do what we need to do. Then you just go out and do those things in life, whether it’s being a carpenter or a farmer or a teacher or a banker or any other activity. And then as you said, to simplify those transactions, we have this beautiful, wonderful thing called money, this currency that enables us to do that.
Now, there’s also… just so the folks aren’t confused, and this is a difficult subject for me too: Is, how did money come to be a commodity in and of itself that someone can hoard or gather a whole bunch of, and then loan out at interest, and speculate with. And then, how does the government create fiat money and all that. That’s kind of another topic where then you’re getting into, what are these green dollars, or whether it’s bitcoin or any other form of currency. I’m not going in that direction, so my view’s a little reductive at first. Because I see it as a bit of a corrective to being stuck on this externalization and fixation on the material money.
Indigo: What do people do if their concern is paying the rent? If they’re in a system where they can’t keep a roof over their head and food on their table without participating and the agreed… in some kind of agreed system of money, even if people don’t really understand what they’re agreeing to. How do people relate to money while participating in a system that says, “If you’re gonna stay alive, you probably need to trade these dollars.” What’s a healthy way you see people relating to that?
Scott: Yeah. That’s a good question. What happens when someone is unemployed is they can either just sit back and do nothing. And, maybe there’s some form of money that comes in for them. But I know a lot of people who go through periods of time when they’re trying to figure out how they’re gonna get some more money to pay a rent. And they have to go within and become really creative.
Indigo: But in what sense? To do what? Do they say, “Okay, I’m gonna play the game?”
Indigo: How do they internally make the shift, if they… You talked earlier about people who feel that money is profane and trying to address that. So if they have that kind of a belief that money is a part of that system of fiat currency where people are manipulating. People are… I can’t phrase it as specifically as you did, but that whole system…. That’s what they think about it. And yet, they have to pay the rent.
How do they orient that in themselves, so that they don’t feel like, “I’m just a sellout? I say one thing, but I’m a hypocrite, because these are my beliefs, but when it comes down to it, I’m just gonna stay alive.”
Scott: Well. I think that you can do that perceptional shift by loving money. Not making it… we tend to… especially people in the nonprofit world… they become… there’s some kind of a hostile relationship to money. They want more of it. We need more of it to live, to pay our rent and live a decent life. But, most of us in the nonprofit world… many of us are struggling to get by, because we’re not manipulating the system to get more wealthy. So, there’s a kind of an almost adversarial relationship between our activity… at least our inner activity…. our wishes and wills and desires to serve… versus how we’re getting remunerated for that.
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