Tuesday, August 24, 2010

money - the passport of the intellect?

"There are two things: a search for a road and a search for freedom. It's so very hard to get freedom. You know all those things in life keep crawling over you all the time, so it's very hard to feel free." - Alice Neel

What is the path to freedom?

First a definition - I like how Albert Camus summed it up, "Freedom is nothing else but a chance to be better."

I'll say "being better" is increasing health, creativity and peace. None of those things can be bought, but it's painfully obvious when lack of funds stands in their way.

If you look around right now you might start to believe the path to freedom is paved with yoga retreats, sabbaticals and hobby farms, but what if you need to find peace and nurture creativity right in the midst of it all? What if your second work day starts at 10:00 PM? What if you need to provide nutritious meals for your family without increasing the budget? This perspective is missing from most of the books and articles regarding adventurous self discovery and improved health. Going green, mainstream appreciation of eastern philosophy and foodie mania have done a lot to make people aware of alternatives, but their attachment to marketing produces the same patterns of polarization we already see in our class system....I would venture to say that in some ways they have made them worse.

This divide is illustrated in many ways; sometimes it shows up as anti-intellectualism, but I think some of what we're calling anti-intellectualism is simply exhaustion and well founded loss of hope (both of which breed fear and anger). After a lifetime of working for slave wages would you encourage your child to pursue a degree in fine arts? Would you have time to read after needing to work 80 hrs a week to make rent? I know you would hesitate to take a chance when there's no safety net.

I'm interested in people who have their feet in both worlds. the ones that found freedom despite the odds. There are many voices that have been ghettoized, they're occasionally given a platform, but it's not much more than a side show. We'll know we're collectively on the path to freedom when we hear these voices, not just on patronizing cultural appreciation days, but at a level of acknowledgement educated white males have enjoyed for centuries.

So how do we accomplish this? I believe this evolution begins with a living wage. The dignity of receiving a decent exchange for ones work will be the first step to reducing the stress that cripples the mind and body. This breathing room will allow for the time and funds needed to nurture health and creativity; it will change family structures and education opportunities. Only when we understand how these inequities have shackled us will we begin to live in the land of the free.

I recently enjoyed reading this post at cheapbohemian on the subject of creativity and money. I encourage you to take a look... you might find yourself saying, "Virginia Woolf is my homegirl"


  1. As a young college student myself I find myself trying to pursue my own freedom to be happy (with a great chance of not making much money with this pursuit of happiness). My mom has always been behind me 100% with any life choice that I have made for myself. I believe she finds it fun to refer to me as her "radical daughter". When I'm amongst my peers (fellow feminists and activists) I don't find myself to be radical at all.

    My dad's side of the family as well as a select few of my friends and accquaintences, on the otherhand, would rather see me pursue a career path that is more practical and safe. I tell people that I want to get into non-profit work and become a sex educator. They seem to look past those titles and only see "non-profit" and "sex". Because of these two words I'm either viewed as a "sex-crazed maniac" or becoming a "volunteer".

    I've always considered myself to be the black sheep among my siblings. I have never been nor wanted to be a part of the status quo. I never once said while growing up that I wanted to be rich. I just want to be happy. I've come to terms that I'll never be the $50,000 a year salary-earner like my brother and I'm completely fine with that. To me my freedom doesn't come in the form of dollar signs but in the form of being well-educated and doing what I love. If that means working with women and/or girls, LGBT rights, or sex education then color me the most free woman out there.

  2. Doing meaningful work is essential. We get into a cycle of needing more work because we spend money to escape and release from the work we hate doing. It sounds like you've found something that's meaningful to you.

    I've been thinking about our country’s lack of vacations, maternity leave and a living wage and how self improvement seems like a luxury for so many, when really, that's why we're here...to grow, create and have meaningful connections. All these people - always busy, always guilty, always wanting. They’re set up to try to buy their freedom, when it should be their birth right.

  3. Rosemary, this is so nicely written! You've given words to feelings I've held for a long time. "self immprovement seems like a luxury for so many..." Sometimes I don't know who I can have these types of conversations with to express myself and gain better understanding of myself and the world. Thank you!



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