Money, quite simply, is freedom. To be without it in our society is to be always limited. It is also a catalyst and does not give to its possessor any quality, positive or negative, which was not there already. It only serves to emphasize — to magnify and expand the possibilities.

Therefore, money should not be made an end in itself. It has no life of its own and is only as good or as evil as the uses to which it is put.

India Montrose Dick

Money is a visible symbol of the abyss we have created between ourselves and nature. In the beginning, we directed physical and mental energy into the environment. That same energy came echoing back to us in the form of sustenance, clothing, shelter, and so on. If we looked for food, we ate. If we built a hut, we stayed dry. Today, the same fundamental relationship remains, but it is stretched so thinly over so many intermediate steps as to be almost unrecognizable. I once supported myself for two months by cruising slowly through the Durham suburbs counting houses. The government, needless to say, was paying me. Day after day, street after street, one, two, three, four, five . . . My partner in the enterprise was a philosophical fellow, one with a nose for absurdity and a healthy irreverence for any form of authority. At first we enjoyed a series of two and three hour businessman’s lunches in various downtown bars, drinking pitchers of beer, collecting our $2.75 an hour, laughing at the supremely ridiculous guise in which our “fat job” good fortune had come to us. Gradually, though, the rosy haze began to wear off. Neither of us was to articulate it to the other, but somehow the utter irrelevance of our money-gaining activities to the real process of our lives began to take its toll. It dawned on us: Here we were, two animals, two biological creatures, keeping ourselves fat and sassy by counting down the endless identical rows of houses in the twilight zone suburbs of Durham, a city founded on the sale of a poisonous herb. In a world without money, such a totally surreal situation could never have arisen. Neither could I have drifted so far from that cornerstone of my sanity: my sense of humility before the lessons of nature. Since then, I haven’t set myself up as a farmer (I don’t have the money!), but I have become very suspicious of alienating jobs, however lucrative. Like almost everyone, I need an income. From now on, though, I hope to produce it by offering real services to real people. My psyche can be at peace with participation in that kind of simple “village economy.” Should the link between my actions and my food ever become any more tenuous than that, I hope I’ve got sense enough to see it and close the gap.