Is There Life Without Money?

Recently, as I may have mentioned, I’ve been reading Henry David Thoreau’s Walden; an account of his time living deliberately in a cabin in the woods.  I used to have a cabin in the woods and although I wasn’t legally permitted to live there, I did stay there quite deliberately.  My days in the woods were times of living slowly; of contemplating, thinking, writing and walking.  It taught me a lot about what I take for granted; about what I can and can’t do without.  Above all it taught me to value water: when all you have is a five-gallon container which needs to be filled from a tap a hundred yards away, you learn to treasure every drop of the stuff.

Thoreau includes meticulous accounts in Walden, of how much it cost him to raise his barn and plant his crops; how much it cost him to live there once he’d settled in.  It’s a little different in rural Leicestershire where my cabin was already ‘raised’ so I had to buy it as well as paying ground rent twice a year for services such as water and use of the toilet block.  There were no shops nearby, which also taught me to value what I had, especially during those times when I was up there without a car.

But the one thing I couldn’t live without was money.  And there’s the rub: plenty of people have tried, but those who succeeded the best were either able to survive at a very basic level, or those who started off with a great deal of land in the first place.  I did once know some rather hippyish people who maintained that money comes to those who believe; and that if you have faith you can simply reach out and pluck money from the air.


I have to report that for a while one of these people ended up living in a horse box in a field…

Since deciding to write full-time I have had basically no income.  Fortunately I am married, so I share my partner’s income.  Unfortunately it isn’t very big.  Fortunately we have generous friends and relatives (some of them) who help us.  Unfortunately we can’t rely on that happening.  And there are times when you find yourself at the bottom of a very dry pit.

But I chose this life.  I could have stayed a teacher; I could have carried on running teacher training courses.  Sure, I’d be miserable – but I’d have an income.  The ones I feel sorry for are those who don’t have that choice: the homeless, the unemployed – or, these days, the slightly-employed: cleaners who have to get up at four to clean offices and get home before the children go to school.  The disregarded.  The despised.  Because my life has two huge compensations: one, I’m happy doing what I’m doing – and two, there’s every chance that it will get better.

So do one thing this Christmas to help.  Donate to a food bank.  Buy the Big Issue.  Offer a sandwich to a homeless person.  Help out at a shelter.  Or just smile at someone and wish them a happy Christmas.

Kirk out

2 thoughts on “Is There Life Without Money?

  1. Oh, I have a lot to add on this one!

    A friend used to tell me, “Money is the white man’s curse.” I’m not sure it’s only hippyish people that believe that such things as money can manifest themselves with the right intention; the Bible talks a fair bit about how God provides for his children.

    I like the idea of living in a cabin in the woods; I contemplated such things while I saved up for a house and grovelled with banks which refused to give me a mortgage. Now that I have a house I still try to live simply; I’m not interested in working a “regular 9-5” just for the money.

    While I was cycle-touring round Scotland last year I enjoyed “wild camping”, which essentially meant sleeping rough wherever I could find a hidden spot to pitch my very small tent. I imagined someone finding me and assuming I was homeless, and me being all smug knowing I actually did own a house. Of course I was fortunate; these were the summer months and I could afford food and hot shower. I had the choice.

    Back at home I too have been mindful of the luxury of having water on tap, particularly when I didn’t after a rat chewed through the plastic mains water pipe in the night and I had to manage for a few days until I could locate a plumber.

    1. You’re right about the bible and I do actually believe that God (or the universe) provides. I guess the issue I had with the hippies was that they didn’t seem to think they needed to do anything at all, just sit around and things would happen. I do think you have to work for what you want – not in the ‘work ethic’ sense, but that you have to put effort in to making things happen.

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