My dog loves to go outside, but because I’m afraid that he will run away I always put him in a little harness with a leash before we go outside. At this point he associates the leash with going outside. Once we go outside I lead the way, we go where I want to go and if he tries to go his own way the leash keeps him going the way I want him to. Inside our house he has the freedom to go anywhere he likes and we seldom stop him from going anywhere, outside he his forced to go where I want to go and for as long as I want to go there, he is outside but it seems to me that he has much less freedom. In his tiny dog mind the leash equals a kind of freedom, but in reality it is literally something denying true freedom.
Now lets talk about money.
We might laugh at poor Eddie because he doesn’t realize how bound he really is, but is he any less aware than the rest of us? So many of us look at money and we believe that if we have it (or enough of it) that we will achieve freedom as well. Freedom from fear, or want, or just the freedom to do “whatever we want”. But that kind of freedom is really an illusion, just like my dog if we want that sort of freedom then we have to wear the collar and the leash. We allow ourselves to be led where the money wants us to go.
Now, I understand that money is necessary in this world where we no longer barter chickens for fresh butter and such, and I’m not naive enough to think that we can somehow do away with a system which allows us to place value on our work and products, but I do come from a place of having once been so poor and so scared of what that would lead to that I looked at money as the answer to all the problems in my life. Lots of people do this and when that happens, well, that is when people get hurt, or killed. When you value something (anything really) more than a life (yours or another) and when you are so wrapped up in the belief in the sort of “freedom” that money offers then sooner or later you will do something that causes harm, suffering, or even death. People will risk a lot of the promise of freedom that money seems to offer, some will even idolize the vicious, sociopathic behavior that many “rich” people exhibit in order to get or remain wealthy. Let me say again, I am not declaring that money is evil or that wanting it is evil or that we should all live in grass huts trading sticks for twigs, but there is another way to live with money than most of us do.
The fact is that in this society we need money to stay clothed, housed, and fed and yet we can do so without looking at money as our goal. It may be a cruel generalization but I must tell you that in my experience the people who are so greedy and focused on money are also some of the stupidest. I know because I was one of them. The more one time one spends on really living in this moment, in self-reflection, and in a real curiosity about the world the less they seem to be focused on “stuff”, it is the caveman part of us that wants MORE NOW and its the civilised part of us (you know, the one that makes art, science, and love possible) that uses money as a tool and not a savior. The bare fact is that when a desire for something (anything, not just money) get to the point where it is the only thing that drives you then everything , in my view, becomes tainted. Even if you get what you want at that point it has become so poisonous that you can’t even really enjoy the “freedom” you thought it would bring.
Before becoming a buddhist (and a lot of meditation and learning) I thought that money would fix all the things I thought were wrong with my life, I thought that true freedom from suffering would come if only I had enough loot. It didn’t occur to me at the time that I had spent 30+ years with that same idea and the only thing it had accomplished was to make happiness seem like something outside of me. Once stopped trying to get more and instead began fixing the million little things I was doing to sabotage myself a funny thing happened; I started to make more money! not the amount I once thought I “needed”, and certainly not enough for anyone in this wealthy part of the world to call “rich” but enough. I cant really say that I have taken off the leash since I’m still “on the grid” and using money, but unlike my little pal Eddie I have learned to stop mistaking the collar for freedom.