In Money We Trust. ~ John Forrest

on Apr 25, 2013
Get Elephant's Newsletter

Dollar symbol

Money is a major obsession of our society.

People are often rated by the amount of money they make. Those who make a lot are seen as “important;” those who make little are seen as “unimportant.” We are conditioned make as much money as we can. Money is often considered more valuable than art, spirituality, creativity and intelligence—unless those qualities are used to make money.

It’s just paper!

Money was invented to serve as a medium of exchange. It was a bit difficult trying to figure out how many goats to trade for how many bushels of wheat. And what if you want something other than a few bushels of wheat, and your next door neighbor doesn’t have anything else to trade for your goats. So money was invented so you could sell your stuff or offer services, then you could take that money to buy something you really want elsewhere.

The original money was precious metals or pieces of iron. These had a certain stability and weight, and did not deteriorate as generations went on. It could be weighed, and—depending on the availability of resources—it was worth, say, a couple of goats or a couple of bushels of wheat.

Then money became a bit more than just a medium of exchange. Certain unscrupulous persons discovered they could steal it to make money with relatively little effort. Certain people saved and accumulated money. The people with a lot of those pieces of metal were considered “rich” and very important, tending to be rulers. The people with little money were considered “poor,” of little importance, and tended to be slaves to the rich people. Money became controlled by the rulers, carved in the image of the current king, and was grudgingly distributed into a primitive market, to set the economic cycle spinning its wheels.

In the late Middle Ages, the people with lots of money made a discovery: they could loan this money out to people who were forced to pay them back with interest.

They had people depositing their money in “banks” as a way to keep it from being stolen, and giving them a small amount of interest just to seal the deal. The concept of “owning” and “buying” land and property was invented. They discovered they could take land away from people who had passed it down the generations—then charge them “rent” for the privilege of living there.

Governments discovered they could make money by charging “taxes” in exchange for public services such as building roads and protecting the people with police to enforce whatever law they wanted to impose upon the people. Certain banks discovered they could loan money to the government, and even fund wars to protect certain vested interests, making money in the process.

We’ve come a long way from trading goats for bushels of wheat.

fistOfDollarsNow, money is mainly government-manufactured pieces of paper based on a certain amount of gold (called the “gold standard”). The original English “pound” was based upon one pound of gold. The idea was that you could take that piece of paper to a bank and exchange it for a pound of gold. The first paper money of the Founding Fathers was also based on the notion that one dollar would equal one pound of gold. Needless to say, the value of a dollar or a pound was worth a lot more than it does today!

The paper money we have today is a special blend of 75 percent cotton and 25 percent linen. It is imprinted with very elaborate patterns, symbols and pictures of famous presidents. It is designed as finely as possible, so making copies of it would be difficult. It is a bit more longer lasting than ordinary paper, but paper money only lasts a couple of years from exchanging many hands and being funneled through many money machines. It is eventually taken out of circulation and replaced with new paper money.

I would like to refer you to this very clearly written article by Roger Langrick. He explains the illusion of our “funny money” in layperson language. The interesting thing is a man named “John Law” invented the notion of paper money in the Eighteenth Century, calling it the “Fractional Reserve System.” At the time, there was a growing crisis with gold becoming scarcer in a growing population, so why not just print out banknotes to give the illusion of money? A hundred bucks could be loaned out based on ten bucks worth of gold—and loan it at 10 percent interest. The banks and governments got carried away with this. Now they could make themselves rich and pay for government services just by printing out money to represent non-existent gold.

Abraham Lincoln printed out over 400 million dollars to fund the Civil War.

So why couldn’t Obama print out the money needed to pay for social services and pay back the Federal Reserve? For that matter, why can’t we just print out all the money needed to create an alternative energy infrastructure, support social security and fund universal health care? Why bother having taxes?

The important thing to remember is that money is only paper; its value is purely illusory. The illusion people are caught up in is these pieces of paper are equivalent to the stuff it buys. The more money you have, the more stuff you can buy. This delusion leads to money becoming increasingly worthless, as the resources that stuff come from become increasingly scarce and the population grows and consumption increases. In some circles, people demand that we return to some “gold standard” but we’re running out of gold too. Perhaps we could use nuclear waste, industrial by-products and used oil as the new monetary standard as a solution to this dilemma.

Now we have digital “virtual” money. We hardly use paper anymore, we just stick our ATM cards in the machine. Our bank statements and income deposits are completely digital. This makes them very vulnerable to computer attack; if the system went down, all that “money” would be wiped out of existence. All information in a computer are just “1’s” and “0’s”, an electrical impulse that is either “on” or “off”. This digital information is the new media of exchange and can be done completely on the internet.

Here is a good related meditation exercise:

one dollarWhip out a one dollar bill. Sitting cross-legged or in your favorite meditation posture, hold that dollar bill in your hands and contemplate it. Consider all the hands that have held it and given it somewhere else. Even attempt to do a psychic reading of the history of that dollar bill and where it will ultimately wind up. Think about what you could buy with that dollar bill. Consider what it means.

Consider: What would your reaction be if someone snatched it away from you? What would your reaction be if that person tore your precious dollar bill into pieces or lit it up with fire? Would you be shocked or nonplussed? It’s only a piece of paper, right? A single buck isn’t worth much these days. Suppose it were a twenty dollar bill, fifty dollars, a hundred dollars?

This exercise will enable you to see how illusory the value of money is, and perhaps it can help you become more detached about money. Let us be free from the bondage of money!


John forrestJohn Forrest is a trickster mystic who likes to ask embarrassing questions.




Like elephant Work & Money on Facebook

Ed: K.Macku/Kate Bartolotta


About elephant journal

elephant journal is dedicated to "bringing together those working (and playing) to create enlightened society." We're about anything that helps us to live a good life that's also good for others, and our planet. >>> Founded as a print magazine in 2002, we went national in 2005 and then (because mainstream magazine distribution is wildly inefficient from an eco-responsible point of view) transitioned online in 2009. >>> elephant's been named to 30 top new media lists, and was voted #1 in the US on twitter's Shorty Awards for #green content...two years running. >>> Get involved: > Subscribe to our free Best of the Week e-newsletter. > Follow us on Twitter Fan us on Facebook. > Write: send article or query. > Advertise. > Pay for what you read, help indie journalism survive and thrive—and get your name/business/fave non-profit on every page of Questions? info elephantjournal com


Leave a Reply