How to Be Rich Without Money

Dr. Purushothaman
September 6, 2013

How often do you define your wealth by the amount of money you have in your bank account?

It’s time to liberate yourself from that social myth.

Money may be the biggest example of how we are shaped by cultural constructs that are passed down to us, usually without question. (Yes, I’m talking like an anthropologist here but hey, I am one!)

And for those of us who live within a corporate capitalism economic system, we are subject to all kinds of subliminal conditioning around money and how it relates to our capacity to survive (much less thrive).

Here are a few beliefs I would wager most of us are living with, usually unconsciously:

Growth is good… more is better.
There’s not enough for everyone.
If someone else gets something, it’s at my expense.

This post is not going to be a well-articulated exposition on the impact of capitalism on our society and psyche. There are lots of places you can go to learn more about that. (Here’s a good place to start.)

But what I do want to suggest is the liberating truth that you can be rich without a lot of money. Without any money, in fact.

You can be rich in family, friends, and the people who really know you and deeply love you.

You can be rich in creativity and ideas that can rock the world and make someone smile.

You can be rich in time, time to spend with your sick child, time to spend with an aging parent, time to spend with a friend in need.

You can be rich in the gifts of nature abundant all around us, whether it’s found in an old oak tree of a city park or in the verdant meadows of a rural area.

You can be rich in good health, in the capacity to nourish your body.

None of those are dependent on the number in your checking account.

(You might say that without money for health insurance, that last one is at jeopardy. That’s true, of course, to some extent… but let’s also remember the agency that each of us has to take care of our bodies, with or without our pretty screwed up medical system.)

And I want to suggest to you that together, we can create the kind of world where money plays a much different role than it does now.

I am not the first to suggest this, by any means. If you want to truly be inspired, spend some time with Charles Eisenstein, a provocative modern-day philosopher who does a beautiful job of telling a new story about our society.

Charles is a proponent of the “gift economy.” Here’s how he explains this concept:

Community is woven from gifts. Unlike today’s market system, whose built-in scarcity compels competition in which more for me is less for you, in a gift economy the opposite holds. Because people in gift culture pass on their surplus rather than accumulating it, your good fortune is my good fortune: more for you is more for me. Wealth circulates, gravitating toward the greatest need. In a gift community, people know that their gifts will eventually come back to them, albeit often in a new form. Such a community might be called a “circle of the gift.”

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