Of everything I’ve been blogging about this week, this is maybe the most important. Dance, don’t goosestep. Don’t make your life all about the money. The Four of Pentacles in the Tarot is sometimes called the card of “poverty consciousness.” In the Robin Wood Tarot (my working deck) the image is of a wealthy man, sitting in a tower. Under his feet and in his hands are gold coins. His robe is trimmed with fur and purple. He has a golden hat. Clearly, he has all the money he needs. But there he sits, in his tower, surrounded by the walls designed to protect him and his wealth–the walls that are imprisoning him now. Poverty consciousness can strike any of us. All it takes is fear that we might lose the things we have. We’ve all heard of the recluse who lives in squalor and ultimately starves to death surrounded by piles of money. That’s poverty consciousness–but so is stressing so hard over finances that we can no longer enjoy watching our children have a water fight on the lawn.
It’s refusing help to a friend in need because we don’t know what our future will bring. It’s accepting bailouts funded by millions of Americans, and then refusing to use that money to help rebuild a better, stronger nation for all of us. Lacking money doesn’t make you poor. Poverty consciousness makes you poor. And nationally, we have fallen into the trap of poverty consciousness. Why not spend money on needed infrastructure repairs? Why not welcome those seeking to better themselves into our nation? Why not offer the wealthiest among us an opportunity to make meaningful contributions to the resources that benefit us all? Why do we tolerate vast sums of money sitting unused when they could be invested in ways that enrich everyone?
For those of you who have a religious background think back to the Parable of the Talents. For the rest of you, here’s the story: A rich guy has some money and decides he wants more. He calls in three guys who work for him, and he gives them each some money. To one he gives ten gold pieces. To the second he gives five. To the third he gives one. And then he leaves town.
The first guy takes the money and invests it in, oh, say a park. He rents the park out for concerts and weddings, and builds a play area for the kids, and even installs a small zoo.
The second guy takes his money and also invests it–it’s not as much, but he invests carefully.
The third guy takes his one piece of gold and buries it out in the back yard.
A few years later the rich guy comes back and calls in his three employees. “Okay,” he says, “What did you earn for me?”
The first guy says, “Well, I invested your money in the Rich Guy Memorial Park, and then I rented it out for concerts and took a cut from the balloon sellers and what with one thing and another I’ve been able to double your money.”
“Cool,” says the rich guy. “What about you, Number 2?”
“Well, I did pretty well, too,” says Number 2. “I didn’t have enough to invest in a park, but I did put together a nice line in hot dog stands and balloon sellers and I managed to double your money, too.”
“Uber cool,” says the rich guy. “And what about you, Number 3?”
Number 3 hands over a dirty jar. “Hey, I know you,” he tells his boss. “I know that you’re a bad dude, always out for the main chance, always wanting something for nothing, always out for the main chance. I knew you’d be really, really pissed if I lost your money, so I took good care of it.”
And his boss is Not Pleased. I believe Outer Darkness and Weeping and Gnashing of Teeth come into the story at that point.
So why was the boss so angry? He got his money back. It took me a long time to really understand the moral. Money and talents are meant to be used. Hoarding benefits no one. By investing, the first two servants not only doubled their employer’s wealth, they also created opportunities for others to enjoy prosperity, too. The third guy didn’t. By hoarding the money he not only deprived his employer of the opportunity to create more wealth, he also short-circuited all of the prosperity that could have resulted from that coin being invested, and reinvested, and reinvested, all down the line. By operating in a state of poverty consciousness, he actually brought it to pass not only for himself and his boss, but for everyone around them.
Poverty consciousness is a prison, and there’s only one way to break out of it–give things away. Invest what you have–time, money, talents, space, whatever–wherever you can. When I gave music lessons at a day camp this summer I was reminding myself that no matter what’s happening at the bank, I am not poor. I have things to give. When I give away some of the tomatoes from my garden I am fostering abundance in my own life, as well as giving my friends some pretty darned good eatin’. When I turn off the computer at night to go and sit with my son, play games, watch television, or just plain hang out, I am reminding both of us that our true wealth is our family, and that while earning money is important, it’s only important in that it helps us to stay together.
There are those who can and should deal with the larger issues facing our nation. I will continue to do my part by voting, and by fostering the sort of world in which I want to live however I can. But I’ve learned that I simply cannot cope with the crazies. I don’t know how to fix our big problems. I don’t know how to promote ethics, mutual respect, teamwork, and integrity in our nation’s leaders–heck, I struggle promoting them in myself. I don’t know how to coerce our banks and financial institutions into some semblance of morality. And if I keep fretting about it I will destroy the life I have, as well as the lives I touch. I will become the thing that is destroying me. And so think of me, small town, small time, helping those around me achieve their dreams in small ways, seducing my town into building a community where we dance, and life is sweet.