Lately I’m constantly catching myself thinking of money, not realizing or able to remember how long I’ve been at it, as if I’ve walked into the middle of a rambling conversation with no idea how it started or where it will end.
For all I know about the generally accepted measure of a man (and I feel I know my fair share) I know that, fairly or unfairly, more often than not he’s measured by what he has, and what he is capable of having. Within the context of our culture the word ‘provider’ doesn’t mean what you can offer in love, or intellect, or experience, it means what you bring to the table…literally. There’s a reason that so many euphemisms for money are manifested as some form of food: Bread, dough, cheddar, the bacon, cabbage, green, chicken feed, beans.
What did you get for the $46,000 you spent? A cool car? Great. A one-bedroom condo? That’s awesome. An MFA? Well, how does one measure the value of your education? Easily…by the job (and salary) it provides you.
I hate math. Always have. (And I’ve no doubt that’s a failure on my part.) It’s way too linear, there’s no room for interpretation, no creativity (I’m sure mathematicians would beg to differ). Maybe it’s simply the nature of numbers, the inherent capacity they have to quantify (for how else are things measured if not by being counted?) – 12 cars, eight houses, a yacht, $1,000, $40 billion. Numbers even go into the negative, quantifying what you don’t have, what you owe, your debt. Maybe it’s simply the fact that I’ve never had much (money, stuff) that makes the whole thing feel like such a mystery. It could all just be sour grapes on my part.
I had a professor once who was teaching us Thoreau. She said she always felt so motivated when she read him, she wanted to chuck everything she had an just live a simple life in the woods. She wanted to sell her house, her car, burn her clothes, chuck her toaster. But then she realized…and she paused and I said, “You realized you wanted to make toast.” Yes. And really, is it that much to ask that we can make toast without having to feel like our entire lives are dedicated to having the greatest toaster in the world?