Sunday, January 10, 2010

Money is a system of belief

I said, I'm not in it for the money. And most of the time it's true: I enjoy my work for itself, the fact that doing it brings me pleasure, that it feels good to contribute to a book's success and work with intelligent and cultured people, to derive a sense of myself as a literary person when, in fact, I'm just a salesperson with a love of books. Work holds many meanings. On my best days, I can even say, I am what I do. This work I do, it defines who I am.

But it is not enough to enjoy what you do, nor to feel good about it. You've got to make money. That's the stark reality. And it can't just be a little money jingling in your pocket. No. That they call
chump change. You need a significant amount of money. At least enough to cover your living expenses, the mortgage, the electricity, the insurances, the propane gas so you don't freeze your arse off, the food, the commute, something for clothes and shoes -- you can't go to work looking like a beggar -- the garbage collection and water, what about the phone and internet hook-up, all of it, every week, every month, every quarter, every year. Plus the taxes. A toll on living, where does it all go? Sometimes my money runs out before the end of the month and I look at my credit card bills and wonder how it happened. Was it me who spent that money, or my double? And what did I get for it? Sometimes I think maybe I should sell my books, but that's stupid -- I wouldn't make enough money from them to keep me going for even a few weeks. There's no effin money in books.

When I got laid off, I said to myself, be good and put an austerity budget into effect, but the effin bills kept coming every month just the same. It was scary. It's less scary now that I've got a job again -- at least I don't have to worry about medical coverage and getting kicked out of the house. But the fat days are long gone, along with that mythical thing economists call discretionary income. I brood on it from time to time, when the fear of falling further grips me like an effin disease, bringing me a fever and the runs. Even though I know it's wrong to give a rat's arse about money -- I mean it doesn't buy happiness, or wisdom, or really anything permanent -- and I've read all the great religious thinkers who praise the virtues of poverty to high heaven, I gotta tell you, it doesn't give me any comfort when I'm opening those envelopes at the end of the month, staring at the effin check-book.

Sometimes I'm ashamed to be in the book business, when I think of all the stupid and deceptive books that have been published by snake-oil salesmen promising riches to the naive and downtrodden.
Think and Grow Rich. Do What You Love and the Money Will Follow. The Power of Positive Thinking. The Road to Wealth. These kinds of books are only good for burning, to keep you warm when the wood runs out. When con men boast, "There's a sucker born every minute," they're describing themselves, those effin bloodsuckers.

I don't believe in money, but I do fear its power. If I let it, it will dominate me and haunt my days. Money wants to force me into spiritual poverty, my mind ruptured on the illusion that more of it will ease the burden of figuring out who I am, and where I'm bound. I've had more money. It didn't do me any good. Unlike honest work, which brings me to my senses and defines who I am.

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