The Seven Stones Blog

Possibilities for Wealth

By Shea Adelson

The Caveat: In a world where building wealth is a holy act, and “the wealthy” are exalted, it would be unfair to say wealth provides nothing of value. Of course it does. Having resources allows us to take better care of ourselves, buy the best education, experiences, comforts. There are many examples of the rich giving back in many forms and in many categories, both publicly and anonymously.

But, by and large, wealth, as it is accumulated today, has what I’ll call a disconnecting effect. We see this in the form of gated communities, VIP status, exclusive clubs. And we also see it in ordinary people’s lives. In my own. If I can afford everything I need then I never need to ask for help from anyone. I can buy babysitting, all my clothes, my transportation, my second home, my education. I never need to engage in relationship to create an exchange, to barter, or to share. In our Western/American society, independence is a value, hard won from taxing dictators. No wonder we value independence so! But this conclusion is not meant to transferred throughout the land into all parts of our society and psyche, as we humans are intrinsically and massively social animals. We need to be needed, we need to be loved, we need to need.

The truth is we are interdependent beings. We see this reality all the time in how the financial markets inter-relate, how we are affected when someone in our community is hurt or dies, how we share moods about weather and current events, how an illness will sweep through a school, how glad we are when people show up to our parent’s funeral. We share the sun and the stars, microbes and political leaders. We are actually in it together, whether we like it or not.

If we have wealth we can easily ignore this truth, we can gate ourselves off. We need not be accountable for our actions. No one is there to challenge us, to celebrate us, to reassure us or reflect to us another perspective. We become one-diminentional. And with wealth, we are likely to move towards excess.

There is nothing wrong with wealth. My family had a house big enough that we could all have our own rooms. But my parent’s would not allow us to have our own phones or TVs. We had to share those in a common space. Later on in life, they wished the house had been smaller, so we had to negotiate and share more of everything, even private time. In a big house we could get lost, we could escape. Enough space is important, but too much can disconnect a family. The structure of our house contributed to our disconnection.

Wealth brings many possibilities with it. It is difficult to live in accordance with the truth of our interdependence, our need to be needed, our social biology, while living embedded in a culture of scarcity that worships self-sufficiency. We can, however, make moves with our wealth that allow us to be connected. Some ideas include:

  • Live below our means
  • Allocate 10-50%, or more, our resources into the community
  • Align our purchases with our values
  • Put our resource of time and intelligence towards policy change and large-scale change projects

What other moves can we make that allow us to be comfortable with the resources we have and stay connected to others?

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