Daniel Suelo, the man who quit money, said money only exists if two or more people believe it exists. Back then society didn’t have this concept of money or material things. So why did people invent currency? Was it to subjugate and enslave others and create power structures? Learn why living in a moneyless world wouldn’t work in today’s economy. Discover what it means to have ownership with your hosts, Jason Wrobel and Whitney Lauritsen. Join in the discussion about money, financial decisions, and emotional detachment. Having an expensive bag doesn’t mean you’re rich. Know why you don’t truly own anything that you buy today.
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Understanding The Value Of Money In Today’s World
“Money only exists if two or more people believe it exists.” It’s a quote from a man named Daniel Suelo, who is the subject of a book that I read probably about years ago. The book is called The Man Who Quit Money. In the year 2000, this man named Daniel Suelo left his life savings, $30 in a phone booth. Since then, he has lived without money and a newfound sense of freedom and security. This book is an examination into how he learned to live sanely and happily without earning, receiving or spending a single American cent. He doesn’t pay taxes, accept food stamps or get on welfare programs. Since the year 2000, he has lived in caves in the Utah Canyonlands and Highlands.
He has forged for wild foods. He has done what we call dumpster diving and he doesn’t have an ID. In this book, he manages to amply fulfill his basic human needs of shelter, food and warmth but also the universal desires for companionship, purpose and spiritual engagement. It’s an interesting book. I was meditating. This book and Daniel’s story came into my mind. I hadn’t thought about him since I read this book years ago. I pulled up a really interesting interview from the website BecomingMinimalist.com which is an interview with Daniel and a fascinating take on where he’s at. Daniel continues to run a blog. His last post was on February 15, 2021. His take on life is fascinating in the sense of he goes deep not only into what’s possible to live in the world without money because he’s been doing it for over decades. The caveat though, as his father passed away, he did move back into his parents’ house apparently to take care of his father and mother. This was an update from a few years back.
As a result, he needed to handle her finances and do things with money to care for his aging parents. I do not think that is an asterisk in terms of the wisdom and the perspective this incredible human being has to share from living without money. Interestingly enough, when you get into Daniel’s philosophy, it’s basically getting into the fact that people have judged him as crazy and insane by willfully choosing to live without money. One quote that comes up in this interview. The interviewer asks Daniel, “I find it interesting that many of the articles highlighting your story, work and include something similar to this line, ‘Daniel Suelo came from a good family and has been to college. He’s not mentally ill and not an addict. His decision vision to live without money appears to have been an act completely a free will by a competent adult.’ For starters, you’re clearly not a crazy man. Is that correct?”
Daniel’s reply says, “A crazy man does not think of himself as crazy. My opinion on the matter is meaningless. People will have to judge my level of sanity or insanity for themselves but it would be nice if we lived in a world that considered it crazy to cause harm to ourselves, others, animals, environment and praise those who do cause such harm. Then we’d have to say we live in a truly crazy civilization. A sane society would consider it crazy to kill sentient living things and destroy food, land and water supplies in order to amass something that nobody can eat, drink or use like gold, silver and money. It’s crazy to sacrifice reality to the idol of illusion.”Money isn't real. It's a social agreement that everyone decided has value in. Click To Tweet
It brings up an interesting concept. He stands on a lot of his work and certainly this booklet which, “That money isn’t actually real. It’s a social agreement that everyone’s decided has a value and everyone decides has meaning, but intrinsically, the paper, coin and especially the digits on a screen in our bank statements, IRAs and stock investments are only real because we’ve agreed that they have meaning and value in society but it doesn’t make them intrinsically real in the natural world. We’re the only creatures that will destroy our natural resources like the ocean, environment, rainforests, each other, animals, sentient creatures to gain this thing that only exists because we’ve agreed it has value,” to his point.
You talked about Burning Man in a previous episode. Burning Man is a fascinating social experiment and community for one of the reasons that it goes by bartering and gifting. There is no money exchanged at Burning Man. When I went to Burning Man as an aside talking about whether or not society can function without currency or money, burning Man has been going on for decades now and part of the tenants of that weekend is you cannot exchange money for anything there. When I was there, I was gifted five-course vegan dinners and vegan sushi. I gave the gift of massage, song and presence. It’s basically whatever you want. You give it freely or you trade someone for it. As a small sample size Burning Man is even though there are 50,000, 60,000 or 70,000 people that have been going there, that’s a pretty significant sample size.
It begs the question, “Why do we have money in the world?” “It’s an exchange of value” So is gifting, bartering and exchanging. It makes me think about sometimes how insane our world is. In the sense that, you go to work to earn money, pay for things, take you to work to earn money, pay for things. It’s the cycle of constantly needing to work and earn to have a roof over our head, a car, food on the table and provide for things. It wasn’t always that way. If you think about the Pantheon of human history, certainly way prior to the industrial revolution, agricultural revolution and the Fertile Crescent in the Middle East. There was a time when human beings, Homo Sapiens existed in society without currency.
The question becomes, “Why did we invent currency? Was it to subjugate, enslave others and create power structures? Was it to keep track of what was owed between person to person?” That sounds plausible. Going back to Daniel Suelo, showing one individual. Burning Man as a sub-segment of society with tens of thousands of people that go every single year is showing that we don’t need money there. I don’t know if it’ll happen in our lifetimes or if it’s possible moving forward but I’m bringing this up and I wanted to bring this to the table in this episode because it’s clear that our current paradigm of capitalism is based on the subjugation and exploitation of certain social classes, races or people that have created an extraordinarily wealthy and powerful billionaire class.
To me, it’s clear that our current model of capitalism is broken and not working. Why? Because it’s destroying people’s lives and subjugating people. The classes where they have to rely on food stamps and welfare. They’re scraping by to get by on $7.25 an hour. Do you feel sometimes all of this is insane? There are days when I think, “This system is crazy when you think about it but we want TVs, tickets and cars.” Stuff is nice but think about what we’re giving up in terms of our mental health, psychic energy, the energy we spend working in our lifetimes for stuff. Sometimes it feels and sounds insane to me. Did you read this book by the way? Did we talk about this years ago? Did you know about Daniel Suelo’s story and his work prior to this?
When you brought it up, it sounds vaguely familiar. I have not read it. I’m curious either sent you a TikTok video that touched upon this or I thought about sending it to you. Which one is true?
You thought about it. You didn’t send anything.
It was this idea of how we create a lot of our own misery. You know who it might’ve been the more I think about this. I feel it was some random person and maybe there were multiple videos I saw but I definitely saw a video from Gary Vaynerchuk saying that many people will buy cars. He was specifically talking about BMW as an example. This is why I thought of you, Jason. He was onstage, somebody might’ve asked him a question. He was asking this person in the audience, “Why did you buy this car?”
The guy said, “I like the brand. I like BMW cars.” Gary said, “If that’s true, that’s likely a good reason but if you’re buying the car like the majority of people do to impress somebody else, you’re spending way more money than you need to.” He gave the example of, let’s say, $400 to $500 a month for a nice car like that versus a much less expensive car that might run for $100 a month. You’re spending 4 to 5 times the amount of money that you need to if you’re just using it for transportation to impress people. That involves that you need to work more, stress out more, hustle and get you caught up in all these cycles. I reflected on that, given that I purchased an expensive car, which is way more than $400 or $500 a month and a big financial stretch for me. I was sitting there trying to humble myself and be honest, “Why did I buy that car?”Money only exists if two or more people believe it exists. Click To Tweet
It’s interesting because there are a lot of layers and sometimes it’s hard to see. I want to believe in what my current state of belief is that I mainly, if not entirely purchased the Tesla because I believe in the company’s initiatives for environmental friendliness. I’m also somebody who likes technology for the most part as long as it doesn’t disrupt my mental health. I’m somebody who loves Apple. Since Apple doesn’t currently have an electric car, Tesla is the next best thing. It’s similar to when I purchase Apple products, “Do I purchase them to fit in and be cool?” I’ve been buying Apple products for many years because they creative function and fit the ethos that I have. Tesla is very similar to Apple in that sense where it’s something different and innovative.
They’re usually amongst the first to do it. I love companies like that. It’s a luxury car but I have never owned a luxury car before. I’ve never been attracted to luxury cars aside from admiring them. I want to believe that I purchased the car because it fits my personality and my outlook on the world. It fits into my desire to make purchases that are better or going in the right direction for the environment. We’re not going to go off on a tangent because electric cars are not perfect. I’m aware of this. There are environmental impacts for sure.
I also had to examine thinking about how for sure there’s something that feels nice about having a nice car. I’ve talked about this throughout episodes of you do feel like not better than other people but you feel a sense of specialness. Brands like Tesla and Apple do have this kind of more elite vibe to them like, “Look at the headphones I’m wearing. I’m only going to be wearing these headphones if I have enough money to buy these headphones.” I’m literally pointing to my headphones, which are Apple’s expensive AirPod Max. That’s not why I bought them. I didn’t buy them to look cool and brag. I do know that if people see these headphones, they know that they’re expensive. I won’t lie and say that there isn’t some of that element there.
I know that when people see my car, they may think something about me and my ability to acquire that asset. Going back to the headphones. I was thinking about the standard earbuds, like the AirPods. I remember when the original AirPods came out, the little ones that fit into your ear, that was like a big deal. If you had AirPods, people knew that you had some extra money to spend. This is bringing up a lot for me. I’m flowing with this idea. I saw a video on TikTok of a girl sharing an experience she had while she was working at Starbucks. She was training a new employee.
The employee noticed that this girl had a $1,000 Gucci bag. She was like, “How much was that?” The girl is like, “It was about $1,000.” The new hire said, “Who are you to buy a $1,000 bag? Is that financially responsible for you? You work at Starbucks.” The girl said, “I could work at McDonald’s if I wanted to because I know how to save my money. I’ve been saving up for this bag for a long time. It’s a big treat for myself. Just because I have a nice bag doesn’t mean that I’m irresponsible. It also doesn’t necessarily mean that I have a ton of money.”
That’s basically how I feel. That’s the standpoint I’m at in my life. People do make assumptions sometimes about things like my car. They think that I have more money. I’m not trying to trick anyone. I’m completely transparent. I’m not personally extremely comfortable sharing exactly how much money I make or have but it’s probably not as much as others think because I’m structuring my life to make that work. I have the privilege to create that structure and have low expenses but that doesn’t mean that I have all this extra money and I’m just throwing that money around. There are different levels to all of this. Money is complicated. It’s not always what it seems. We’re motivated by multiple things at different levels when we make our purchases.
To your point about perception, I can think of three separate instances where acquaintances of ours, not friends found out that you had bought a Tesla. Their reaction to me was a mixture of shock and envy like, “How did Whitney get a Tesla? Whitney got a Tesla.” I can think of three specific instances where people reacted in a similar fashion to my face. I was like, “What do you mean she bought it? Anybody else buys anything.” I didn’t even know how to respond to that because I’m not privy to your financial world or what you leverage. It’s funny how people would ask me how you did it.
I’m like, “Ask her. Why are you asking me? It’s not my life.” The emotional reaction to it is the interesting part. The look on the face, tone of their voice and the way they replied to it indicated to me that you were somehow more successful, financially prosperous or higher up on the social strata than they had surmised previously about you. By you buying that one thing in your life, not looking at your watch, headphones or clothing, just the car like, “How did Whitney do that?” It’s fascinating people’s reactions and judgments around the material things we have and what they perceive that means about us financially.If you're buying something to impress somebody else, you're spending way more money than you need to. Click To Tweet
It brings up a lot of different things because this has come up. It’s an ongoing thing that I’ve experienced with having that car. It’s fascinating to me on a number of levels because three years after I bought it, there are a lot of people that have that same car, like you predicted Jason. The Model 3 is more common, especially in cities like Los Angeles, not around the country when I’ve traveled. It’s rare when I’m driving around to see it but there are a ton and I see it growing but still, it’s fascinating to me how people do have that reaction. It feels like this old reaction. I also know based on how much I pay for that car, how much people pay for other cars and how people that I know for a fact make money than I do still feel like buying a Tesla would be a big stretch for them.
That’s part of the fascination and lesson here is that money is a complicated thing. It’s not just about how much you make. It’s also about how much you spend and how good you are at making decisions about your money or saving your money. There are many factors financially. I remember before I got the car, I’m trying to figure out the Math in my head like, “How could I make this work? I wanted the car.” It was something that I was determined to figure out. It wasn’t like this knee-jerk reaction.
I remember specifically in January 2018, having a conversation with somebody and figuring out the Math and I was like, “That’s a lot of money.” I’ll also disclose. At that time, I was in a state of a little bit more abundance than usual, which was perfect timing because doing the down payment, first few payments, getting into the flow of that car and expense was more accessible than normal. Enough people will have an experience in their life where unexpected money comes in, whether it’s a new job that pays better, a raise that they weren’t expecting, a bonus, an inheritance or winning the lottery. There are a lot of things like that can shift in our lives. That’s the other element of finances that are part of this conversation is, as I grow up and get older, I recognize that money is not nearly as stable as I thought it might be. I don’t know if that’s a generational thing.
I’m fascinated by money and there’s much to learn when it comes to money too. I do think part of it is purposefully confusing because money is tied into power. Unless you spend a lot of time focused on understanding money, it is likely that you will be confused. I was going through my transaction. It’s something that I try to do a few times a week. I use the tool Mint.com. It’s owned by Intuit and I’ve been using them for a long time. I love them. I love how organizing it. It makes everything very simple. If the reader is looking for a tool, it’s free. You get ads on there.
I’m sure they’re collecting data as well, which you have to figure out if you’re okay with that but I enjoy it. It makes it easy for me to keep track of my income and spending. It also allows me to create goals for myself. I’m on a mission to pay off my credit card debt by the end of the year. I go on there, check my credit score, my progress and plan out my transactions. I’m very intentional. It makes me feel safe when I can project. I know approximately what I’ll be spending and how much I’ll be making for the next months. I’m doing that to help support myself with the goal of paying off my credit card debt.
I was on there and one thing I noticed is I had accrued some credit card points on one of my cards that I’m trying to pay off. I got stuck in this moment of ignorance. Wondering, “Would it be better for me to redeem that for cash or save up the points for some future redemption?” I sat there for a moment thinking, “What are my current goals?” My big goal is to pay off my debt. My goals are not to buy new things and go traveling. We talked about this in the episode with Owen Beiny. It’s a great one. If you’re curious about credit cards and points. He was helpful but I still feel ignorant.
There was this moment of me, sitting there thinking, “This is confusing. Is this purposefully confusing to the credit card to know how to manipulate us to be confused? Is it malicious? Is it part of the system or power? Is it like, ‘If we make things a little harder to understand, we can keep more of our money.’” I’m guessing that’s the way it works. I become passionate about understanding money. We’ve talked lately about how you and I are both passionate about our credit scores. I want to learn more but it’s taking many years. We both have read Tony Robbins’ book about money and it’s thick. I forgot most of the information that I learned in that.
I feel I need to go back and it’s overwhelming. That’s how I felt. Not only was it a lot to read but it was overwhelmingly understanding investments. As a side note, I’ve been on a mission to not only educate myself but others. If the reader is curious, I’ll give a teaser that I’ve been developing a group support system to not give advice but to share resources that are educational and answer each other’s questions about things like paying off debt and building your credit. We have to be careful not to become financial advisors. It’s a teaser because that’s something I’ll talk about in a future episode. Jason, my point being is money is confusing but it’s not always what it seems.People make assumptions about who you are based on the things you buy. Click To Tweet
For something like the Tesla to someone else, they might have this idea of what it means to have a car like that. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not reflective of me having money or being as successful as they may think. This conversation is all relative. I might not feel super successful, financially savvy or financially well off but it’s all relative to whoever I’m with and they need to know too. This is another thing that I’m passionate about, is because I drive that car doesn’t mean I have it all figured out. It’s not that simple because I’ve made sacrifices in my life to make financial room for that. I’m also living minimally versus somebody else with a lot of debt. It might be their priority unless they could not prioritize a purchase like that.
I prioritize getting that car. I could have absolutely paid off my debt a hell of a lot faster had I not had that car right now. For every big purchase and financial decision, generally speaking, there are some compromises you make. Whether it’s your time or other purchases, that’s an important part of this conversation. When you talk about a moneyless world, most people are in their own relationship with money and money lists are going to create some shift. We’re not at a time like in Burning Man where you can live that style with trade and bartering all the time. That’s not how we’re set up. If you want to be moneyless, the compromise is that you will probably not be able to participate in the way the world is currently functioning. Like any big change, I don’t know in our lifetime If we would see a shift like that unless something drastic change and there was some seismic shift in which we were all operating.
What’s the association that we have? It’s not the numbers on the screens or the pieces of paper in our wallets or purses. I go back to what it represents. What is your house or zip code represent? What is the Gucci bag represent for you? You talked about that woman who said, “I did it to treat myself,” or why we choose a certain car or item over another? This comes back to the idea of self-identification and, “What this means about me? What do I think this thing, bank statement, investment means about me?” There’s security, survival, power, dominance. There’s a lot of other emotional factors but what it comes down to, money is a reflection and a teacher of how we perceive ourselves in the world and society.
Sometimes when I get existential, I think about the idea of ownership. The way that we use language to describe, “That’s my house. That’s my car. That’s my clothes. That’s my guitar. That’s my boyfriend. That’s my cat,” my perspective on all this is that language is a bit misleading because it implies ownership, possession and, “This thing is mine. Therefore, because I have it, it says something about me.” The reality is we know we’re going to die unless by the end of our lifetime, we upload our consciousness into 500 Terabyte drive and we become avatars. What does that mean? House, car, your kids and investments are going with you.
We can talk about generational wealth. I understand the idea that some people want to build enough wealth to share with their children, grandchildren or however many generations. The reality is, rather than owners of things, I believe we are temporary caretakers. That’s more accurate language. We’re not going to probably use that because it sounds clunky, “Is that your car?” “I’m the temporary caretaker of this Tesla.” It doesn’t sound colloquial but I do believe that language is more accurate in terms of our existence. We don’t own anything. Even if you own your house and it has paid off. You live in an urban or suburban environment. You don’t own the land it’s on. The city or township owns the land.
“It’s my house.” Not really, because the municipality owns the land you’re on, unless your way in a rural area, purchase that land and put up a tiny house or a shack. For all intents and purposes, you don’t own that thing as much as you think you do. When you have a car, you may “own” the car but the privilege of operating it on the road in the state you’re given, what do you do? You pay a registration fee, driver’s license and insurance. It goes back to my philosophy, which is, “We don’t fully own anything.” We are the temporary caretakers and stewards of said thing until we sell it, it’s destroyed or we die. The idea of owning things, animals, people, houses, cars is fallacious from a language perspective.
I don’t think it’s accurate. When I think about being the temporary caretaker of something, materially speaking, it takes a lot of the pressure off. When I think about, “I have died to own this thing,” it doesn’t mean we don’t want to be conscientious about caring for the things in our life. This is probably how I was raised. I’m personally a big fan of, “The better care you take of your material things, the longer they last.
You don’t have to constantly buy them, putting yourself in perpetual debt and having to work your ass off for new shit all the time.” This is coming from a guy in my twenties who would flip cars every year. I had many cars in my twenties. I wish I hadn’t done that in some ways because I would have saved a lot of money by not constantly flipping cars. My point is ownership is a fallacious concept. The language that we use around this goes back to the ego in the way that we look at ourselves, “That’s my Mercedes. It’s my Tesla. It’s my Bugatti.” You have it for a period of time. Who knows how long that’s going to be but is it actually yours? I would debate people on that. How do you feel about that language of ownership? I feel like it is sticky with me and I don’t feel it’s fully accurate. How do you feel about using that terminology when you say, “That’s mine. I own that thing?”If you're moneyless, you won't be able to participate in the way the world is currently functioning. Click To Tweet
I’m in alignment with you. When I’m intentional about those words, they don’t sit because I associate that with dominance and there’s a lot of unpleasant associations with ownership. Energetically, if it’s our responsibility to care for something, that word caretaker is nice. It’s all about the context. It’s very relative because to your point, I don’t need to position myself as the conscious language queen all the time. I’m okay with occasionally using the word pet even though I prefer companion animal, which we talked about in an episode to Lindsay Rubin, who used to work at V-dog. That’s a lovely episode in which we talk about the ethics of animals in terms of pets and companions. We’ve conditioned ourselves as a society to use certain terms. When we look at the roots of a lot of them, they may not be what we would like them. The meaning might be different than what we intend but unless we’re intentional and aware then we may throw it out there. I’m not perfect in my speech.
In these moments where I pause to think about it, absolutely, it reminds me of I’m looking at my desk and around, the things that I “own” and possess. One thing that my eyes landed on was my water bottle. This is called the Hydrate. We talked about this and this cool technology that we use in another episode with Sid. I look at this water bottle and I think, “Do I own this? Technically, it was gifted to me. Somebody energetically purchased it. Sent it to me for a holiday gift and I’m using it.”
It’s inevitable that one day I will not have this, it’ll break one day and I’ll find another bottle that I prefer over it. One day I may decide to gift it to somebody else. Perhaps multiple things are true at the same time and I’ll move on. I bring this up because one thing I’m challenged with and I know a lot of people are challenged with especially when this ties into money too is it can be so hard to let go of things and we can get caught up. I get caught up on both sides and purchases. Before we started the show, Jason and I were talking about these dog ramps from a company called Alpha Paw. They help dogs, especially elderly dogs with physical sensitivities or challenges.
They help them get onto couches and beds. Jason already made the decision to get the ramp for himself. I’m still thinking about it because I have a hard time making purchases. I usually hesitate. I bought a new pair of yoga pants that I’ve been eyeing for weeks and I still hesitated. I still have this moment of, “Did I make the right decision?” It’s scary for me. Speaking of finances, funny enough and this is an important point. Paying for my car every month is a huge expense but I do it easily because I’m used to it. Whenever I buy something that I’m not used to buying, I will pause and feel uncomfortable.
I will consider the value of it in my life. I think that’s very important. Going back to the bottle and the reason I brought this up, I also hesitate to get rid of things. It’s tough for me sometimes to recycle, donate, sell, pass on things that I currently “own” or possess because I wonder in my head, “Am I ready to let go of it? Am I ready to pass it on? Am I done with it? What if I needed again?” I am afraid in both instances. I’m afraid of having too much sometimes and not having enough.
That’s an important element of this. That for me comes down to self-trust. I’ve noticed, the more that I get in the habit of the flow, it becomes easier like my Tesla became easier to pay for. I got in the flow of it. I’m used to it. I value it. It’s an easier decision but oddly enough, sometimes making a $100 or $50 purchase can be challenging for me. Sometimes giving away something that might seem simple to someone else like a water bottle could be tough or breaking it. I’m terrified. When this thing fell to the ground I was like, “I can’t break it because what if I have to buy another one? I don’t want to do that.” That’s part of this whole conversation.
Our relationships to material things are fascinating because we go back to we are emotional creatures. We’d love to believe we’re rational. At the core, if you look at why we purchase things, we tend to justify buying a lot of things with logic and rationale. If we’re honest, emotions play a bigger role than logic and rationality in most of our purchasing decisions. That being said, talking about material things because you sparked up a couple of interesting things. There’s a chunk that I want to read going back to Daniel Suelo The Man Who Quit Money talking about language and where the language around money and finances comes from? Before I get to that, I gave away a knife. I pride myself because people are assessing this. No one’s assessing my knife collection.
No one’s gone in my kitchen. That’s a pretty stellar knife collection of Wrobel. However, I do like nice knives. It makes cooking easier, prepping easier. I like the craftsmanship of certain knives. There was a knife that I had in my drawer that I was gifted Whitney when I did the Pebble Beach Food & Wine Festival. I was the first vegan chef ever to do it in 2013. It was a huge honor in many ways. One of the gifts that I received from the festival was this beautiful Cleaver. Gorgeous, beautiful Pakka wood handle knife.Money is a reflection of how you perceive yourself in society. Click To Tweet
From 2013, I never used that Cleaver once. It’s sitting in my drawer. I’m looking at it and I’m like, “Why am I keeping this knife? I know why I’m keeping this knife because it’s some sort of physical evidence of the success of the past.” I’ve got this embossed, engraved Cleaver from Pebble Beach Food & Wine because I was the first vegan chef ever. I’m worthy of love. I did something no one else did. I never used the knife. Do you know what I did? I acknowledged that I was keeping it for a go back reasons for somehow like, “Look what I’ve done,” and I gave it away. It felt good to give it away because I gave it to my girlfriend’s mother, who’s a great chef and cook.
She was overjoyed. I gave her this gorgeous Cleaver. I never used it. It was totally one of those things I didn’t need. It was hanging around, taking up space. It was not a useful material object in my life other than egoic reasons. The other thing I wanted to mention and you talked about keeping things in and being in this limbo state between being afraid of having too much and having not enough. My grandfather Walter was what you would consider respectfully a pack rat. In the basement of my grandparents’ house, you could go down and find things that would blow your mind.
Grandpa was the kind of guy that if you needed a set of lug nuts for like a 79 Chrysler, he would be like, “I got those in the basement.” It’s like, “How do you have that grandpa?” He would keep everything. Part of that is the fact that when he was a young man, he went through the great depression. A certain trauma has a way for us humans of creating behavioral patterns to keep ourselves safe and protected. I would be willing to venture. I can’t ask him because he passed. That part of my grandfather’s motivation for keeping everything was having lived, struggled through and survived the depression. I was like, “I will never allow that to happen again. I’m going to keep everything, make sure my family safe and I’m safe.”
Everything’s going in the garage and basement. When we’re talking about materialism, whether that’s minimalism or the opposite of minimalism, which would be hoarding, ultra-maximalism, that is our motivation for doing these things coming from a place of trauma. I can say for me, if we want to go a layer deeper, that my desire to have stuff at times has been going back to the BMW conversation with Gary Vee like, “I want to show everyone I’m worthy of love, praise and adoration. Look at my stuff, everyone. That’s coming from trauma. That’s coming from a childhood of, ‘You’re not good enough.’ I’m going to show everyone I’m good enough because I’m going to buy the Ferrari, big house and Rolex.”
I’m not saying that purchasing these things are bad but we have to ask ourselves, “Is my desire to have this stuff coming from trauma to keep myself safe, to feel worthy and loved?” In a lot of cases, if people were honest and aware, the answer would be yes. The other side of it is minimalism. One of the reasons I want to live a simpler life, get out of Los Angeles and lower my expenses is because I feel trauma around being burnt out. Hustling constantly to afford living in Los Angeles because it’s expensive to live here. Some people might not feel it like, “It’s not that expensive.” For where I’m at in my life, it feels to live here. I don’t want it anymore. If I were to be honest, part of my desire to leave is the trauma around feeling burnt out being here and not wanting to work as hard. I don’t want to work. I don’t like working. I’m going to say it publicly.
When I think about things that I’m willing to do for no money, it’s because I deeply love them. I love working on music, caring for my animals, spending time with my friends, writing and reading. I’ve done those things sometimes for money but mostly not. I want to work less and not be grinding so hard just to survive and provide these, “I love work.” I’m not a workaholic. I’m going to go on record and say, “I want to work less.” Living in a place that has a much lower cost of living will allow me to work less.
It’s important to examine our motivations of why we want money, what money means to us, what things mean to us and is there trauma involved? It’s a critically important question of how are our wounds influencing these decisions. I wanted to say one thing because I mentioned going back to Daniel Suelo and the etymology of some of these words that we use around money that we don’t even know about. This is absolutely fascinating. He had this post where he talks about the conception of money and the etymology of our words.
He says, “The word pecuniary, fee, feudal and fiefdom, all come from the same root, which is pecu, which means cattle. Also, the word capitalism comes from cattle. Capital means head, kaput. Cattle from that same root, kaput. You count heads of cattle and capitalism means the principal for interest. You even look at the words for stock like stock market, stock broker. This comes from livestock, also going back to cattle. It’s also interesting to look at the Spanish word for cattle. That’s Ganado. It means wages for something gained and the etymology of the word Ganado means to earn wages. It gets fascinating when we go back to deeper cultures and the word for money in Greek, the ancient Greek language.”The better care you take of your material things, the longer they last. Click To Tweet
“The Greek word for money is nomisma. The root of nomisma is nomos. Nomos means law, as in the law of Moses or the law of the land. In the root of Nomos is nemo, which means in Greek, ‘To parcel out,’ specifically food or grazing to animals. Here we see at the root of money are words that have the etymology in agriculture, cattle, ownership of animals, grazing in agriculture. You can see the evolution of money came from this idea of counting cattle, raising animals in Indo-European languages but in English, you can also see it in some medic languages like Hebrew.”
“If you look at the word for cattle in Hebrew, it’s mikneh and the root word of mikneh is qana. It means to purchase or to own. The Hebrew words for jealousy, own and possession come from qana. Mikneh means both cattle and possessions. Mikneh means both money and cattle simultaneously.” He’s talking about this because we’re talking about the beginnings of organized human civilizations and why money, civilization, agriculture and ownership are inextricably linked because they’re based on the same principle and same roots of language. This is the principle of money. It’s a concept of ownership, power and having things. The organized civilization we know is about owning living beings, whether that’s humans or animals, enslaving things. We call it domestication.
Domestication is a euphemism for slavery and ownership. They mean the same thing. You own another creature, another being. You exploit another creature and another being. You use that being to earn you money, status and power. That’s where the word usury comes from. It comes from using, exploiting others. That goes deep. It’s to the deepest roots of our language. If you do think about how civilization was built, it was built on the backs of humans, animals, ownership, exploitation and slavery. When we go to the rallying cries against Richard Branson, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, “How can you go to space when there are billions of people starving?”
They much like the feudal lords before them, built their empires on exploitation, regardless of what you think about them as people, we need to be honest about it. Regardless of the good they’re doing, which they are doing some good, they built it on exploiting others. I will venture to say that the only way to get to that level of wealth and power is through the exploitation and owners of others. If you want to learn more, this article is incredible and it’s deep. It goes into community, capitalism, profit and resources.
He says in conclusion at the end of this blog post, “We believe that we can trade nothings for something. Money creates the illusion that there are unlimited resources because money itself is an unlimited so-called resource, but it’s nothing. The goods and services that we trade for money are limited resources. That’s what’s insidious about money. The very idea, concept and agreement of money separate the producer from the consumer so that we are wholly unaware of the labor, pain and effort of how our goods and services are produced and get to us. The goods that we use are produced in overseas’ sweatshops and exploited child labor. They’re produced by environmental destruction. Let’s say in the Congo by Congolese children digging up minerals day in and day out in slave labor so that we can have our computers, televisions and cell phones.”
This is the hard thing because if we choose to live in society and have our computers, cell phones, electric cars, even our food supply, we know that there’s a certain amount of suffering that’s baked into those things. I know you feel this way, as much as I try to support conscious businesses and companies, I still know that there might be less suffering but there’s still suffering in the system the way that we have it. That to me is one of the hardest things that I struggle with all the time in trying to make the best decisions. When I say best, I mean most conscious, most compassionate decisions. Even in a lot of those conscious or compassionate decisions, I know that there is still suffering involved and it breaks my heart.
This is an extremely complicated issue. I know we are grazing the surface and other cattle reference there. If we will exist in a framework of society that is bartering and trading in our lifetime. If we have complete societal collapse and climate change decimates a large portion of the world, we will go back to it. I don’t think people want to give up their power, money and things. Although, we have a more equitable, balanced, fair and loving world if we did. It’s up for debate.
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*We use affiliate links in our show notes. This means we receive a small sales commission if you purchase an item based on our recommendation.
- The Man Who Quit Money
- The Man Who Quit Money: An Interview with Daniel Suelo
- Life-Changing Advice on Credit Cards, Celebrity, and Coffee with Owen Beiny – Previous episode
- Treating Our Animal Companions Right: Responsible Pet Parenthood with Lindsay Rubin – Previous episode
- Why You Should Never Be Sorry About Living Life The Way You Want with Sid Garza-Hillman – Previous episode
- The Evolution of the Trinity of Agriculture, Money & Usury
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