This time of year, the veil between worlds is thin—I think in part because this time of year, nature bombards us with the exquisite beauty of decay. This time of year, I often think of those who are no longer in this world, on this plane of existence, in this realm.
This year, however, I have been pondering other kinds of veils. The ones that prevent connection, that foster separation and fragmentation. Ones that reduce gratitude or wonder, that perpetuate scarcity, insecurity, and fear. Ones that perpetuate the illusion that we are not enough.
Those illusions, constantly wafting, are always near. And the one I find most disruptive is that which convinces people that excessive wealth provides happiness, security, and satisfaction.
Our culture has a ubiquitous obsession with the posh lives of the 1%. So much chatter and drivel and blather and prattle about clothes and homes and cars and makeup and vacations. And the even posher lives of the 0.01%! The yachts and jets and parties and private islands.
I am not immune to the fascination characteristic of outside observers. It’s fancy over there—curiosity, at least for me, is inevitable. Not to mention that I would love to have that scale of financial capital. I fantasize being so free financially that I could undertake whatever risk I wanted, without the pressure of needing a business to succeed or a job to grant a certain salary.
But then I consider the people, rather than simply entertain curiosity at the circumstances. I think about all those reality shows like Keeping Up with the What’s Their Name and The Simple Life. I have never wanted to watch them—they seem insufferably boring. (Not that I know, since I have never watched an episode.) All the generic partying, the constant preoccupation with appearances. That existence is so contrived and predictable; I have never understood the appeal.
The celebrity social routine is usually considered glamorous, whereas it seems excessively generic and dull to me. I cannot understand the allure of that lifestyle. How does nauseating ostentation make life better?
I suppose it does if I concede that those super-posh single-digit or decimal percenters live better. But I know that they don’t. No way. They still feel desperate loneliness. They still get sick. Just like the rest of humanity, they experience bliss, joy, anger, frustration, disappointment, disillusionment.
Most ironically, many of them still worry about money—a fact so ridiculous it should be an article on The Onion. Even with millions, people still have insecurity, still have such strong attachment to material, tangible things. Unbelievably, they still have scarcity consciousness.
Not to be arrogant, but my life is so much better than that. I find my daily existence to be dynamic, loving, righteous. I hang out with brilliantly creative beings—we make art together. Play music. Cook home-grown food. Howl in the woods and sing to the stars.
I don’t need a private jet to bring me to a private island. I don’t even need a luxury resort. I don’t need a $10,000 clothing budget in order to enjoy my appearance. Even if handed the opportunity to swap with that supposedly privileged population of people, I wouldn’t. I’m not trading. Paris Hilton and all the rest, you can’t have my life. (Of course, anyone can create one like it if inclined to do so.)
In recent years, I have watched economic inequality widen with utter disgust. For example, 1% of the world’s population owns nearly half the world’s wealth—US$110 trillion. Also, the richest 85 people in the world have the same wealth as the bottom half of the world’s population. And since 2009, the wealthiest 1% in the US gained 95% of financial growth.
All this wealth gap is doing is teaching most of us how to live more and more removed from money. At at time when people “should” be earning more and more money as they advance in their careers, I am at my lowest income as an adult.
Naturally, I spend less than I ever have. And though I would certainly have some reduction in stress if I had more money, there is a wonderful life outside the supposedly requisite financial existence. I know that my lack of finances has also contributed to the most happiness I have ever had. As I have watched myself and others in my community struggle financially, I see all of us connect more deeply as we find alternatives to money. We swap. We barter. We trade. We create our own. And we still are willing to gift as well.
Years back, I had a time when I believed that money was inherently evil and all economic transactions were dirty. But in my own lack of money and my reduction of commercial consumption, I have found that money can represent a sacred exchange. I feel completely justified in what I earn for my work, feel grateful for those willing to contribute to my livelihood. I am even more grateful that I do not crave money insatiably.
In years past I’ve written about seeing, witnessing beyond the veil—the beliefs that underscore traditions like Samhain and el Día de los Muertos. This time of year inspires me, in a similar vein, to go beyond the illusory veils in this world. This time of year, as nature displays the the sublime course of dying, we too can surrender to all this transition, and even contribute. Not by our own deaths, but by allowing illusions to die.
SK © 2014