For The Love of Money

Recently my OH has got a bee in his bonnet about bitcoin.  In my mind bitcoin is a sort of gold-coloured object like the new pound coins which you bite on to see if it’s real.  But although OH has tried several times to explain what bitcoin actually is, I have no concept of it.  Apparently it’s a thing you make yourself, though what manner of thing I don’t know.  Maybe you need a 3-D printer?

One thing I do understand – bitcoin is an alternative to money which can make money.  At the moment, anyway, until everyone gets into it.

All of this reminds me somewhat of the Leaf.  The Leaf was an alternative currency used by Leicester LETS (Local Exchange and Trading Scheme) a group who offered skills and goods without the use of LSD.  By which I mean pounds, shillings and pence (hang on, that ought to be LP now…) anyway, the idea was to use skills and to exchange goods which would otherwise not be saleable in the mainstream economy.  Hence if you were good at gardening but without qualifications or experience, you could offer your skills, get paid in Leaves and then use those Leaves to buy, say, an old bike or some window-cleaning.

In theory it was great.  What led to its eventual demise was that people got just as hung up on the value of their leaves as they did about cash.  People ended up with leaves they couldn’t spend because either they couldn’t find what they wanted or there was a gap in the economy.  It was like having vouchers for McDonalds…

But my take on it was, it ought not to matter.  The point was not the Leaf per se; the point was to do things for each other which otherwise wouldn’t have got done, and to recycle things which would otherwise have gone to landfill (though Freecycle has now taken over this role.)

LETS groups tended to work best in smaller, contained communities where people already knew each other.  In a large city such as Leicester there were sadly too many people prepared to take without giving.

But I’ve strayed from my point, which was going to be this: in the end, no matter what currency you have, whether it’s bitcoin or Leaves or pounds sterling, none of it is real.  It is merely a system which everyone has agreed to treat as if it were real.  On the back of a fiver it says (I’m working from memory here since I don’t have any actual notes to look at) ‘I promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of five pounds.’  In other words, it’s a promissory note.  It ain’t real.

And these days when we’re more likely to see figures on a screen than notes and coins, it becomes less real by the day.

It’s true – I’ve bitten it.

Which brings me  finally to the most often misquoted passage of the Bible.  It isn’t money that’s the root of all evil: it’s the love of money:

I think we can see this every day.

Kirk out




An O, an Ass, a Gnat

This seemed like a great title for a post at 6 o’clock this morning but now I can’t think of a single thing to put with it.  So… I’ll just tell you about my morning.  It was great!  Epiphany at Epiphany (ie on 6th January when it’s supposed to be) and some thoughts on how for most people Christmas is over and done with whereas religiously speaking it’s Still Going On, what with the three kings on camels etc etc; a makeshift camel and some limbo-dancing by children with the hump – and then! my Martyrs end-of-year poem, which is reproduced in the e-book.  I’ll just give you a taste:

The Trapezoid Kestrel

It’s been a year of high and low

– a game of two halves, in a sense;

as Dears return and Castles go

the one, the other’s recompense;

there’s sadness at the loss of Sarah,

we’ll miss her coloured opulence

and likewise Martin’s morning prayer

but that’s another poem, so

to sum the year up in a pair

or two of verses that I’ve hoarded

forever and a day recorded –

or till the Chancel is re-ordered.

That’s the first verse.  I’ve done it, as you will have spotted, mostly in terza rima, which was the rhyme-scheme used by Dante in his Inferno and which gives an impression of time and events going on relentlessly.  The end of each verse has a number of rhyming lines leading up to a running joke about the chancel re-ordering, which seemed to take forever.  It was well-received and I gave out loads of bookmarks and cards afterwards publicising the e-book.  I don’t need to tell you the address:

I’m trying to think of a way to link in the title.  What’s that quote about straining at a gnat?  Well!  Whaddayaknow?  It’s about camels!  The thing fits in by itself: ‘You strain at a gnat but swallow a camel.’

So here we are.  ‘O what an ass am I.  I’ve swallowed a camel.’

And that’s the thought for today…

Kirk out

Two Lumps of Dough, Please

What would you say is the greatest illusion in our culture?  God and religion?  Politics – specifically the idea that governments can change things?  Advertising?  Well, I would say it’s dough.  Wonga, spondulicks, bread, call it what you like, our culture is obsessed with it.  Something cataclysmic happens and the newsreaders say breathlessly, ‘Let’s see how the markets have responded,’ as though the markets are the fount of some higher wisdom instead of a chaotic bunch of selfish individuals.  Prices, wages, benefits, mortgages and insurance, barely a minute goes by without money in some form being discussed on the media.  At the bus stop people moan about the fares – and let’s not even go to the train station; it’s far too painful.  Anything you want to do nowadays, whether it’s getting to work or having a beer with friends, has a huge price-tag hanging over it.  And yet none of this is real.

Perhaps the most misquoted saying from the Bible is 1 Timothy 6 v 10.  People are very fond of saying ‘money is the root of all evil’ but the actual quote is ‘the love of money is the root of many kinds of evil’ (New Internationalist translation)

It’s the love of money – in other words, putting money first and foremost, before other things and above all, before people, that is the problem.  And isn’t that what we are doing as a society – what we have been doing ever since Thatcher?

Again, perhaps the most misunderstood saying about money is the one about the camel and the eye of the needle.  The explanation which makes the most sense is that there was an archway in Jerusalem known as the ‘needle’s eye’.  To get through this archway a camel had to take off all its packs – in other words, it is necessary, not to get rid of wealth, but to be prepared to ‘take it off’ – in other words not to be too attached to it – in order to pass into the Kingdom of Heaven.

However you understand that phrase.

Again, it’s not wealth in itself – it’s your relationship to it that counts: what’s number one?  That’s the question.

So..  to come back to the point about the whole thing being illusory.  Clearly the effects of having – and especially not having – money are real.  No-one knows that better than I do – we have scrimped and saved to pay bills for about 15 out of the 20 years we’ve been married; and before that I had periods of unemployment where I was forced to forage for blackberries (eaten without sugar) in order to have any lunch.  So I know about that – and it’s real; I would never presume to say otherwise.  The problem lies in the thing itself; money itself.  As I said the other day, it’s not only that we don’t see cash any more but rows of figures on a screen; it’s that cash itself isn’t real.  It ‘stands for’ something in the real world – ie gold – and we have agreed collectively to regard it as real.

So how do we get out of this?  I guess a lot of people would say, ‘I haven’t agreed to regard money as real – the powers-that-be have decided this and I have no choice in the matter.’  True.  And yet… and yet.  Even if we can’t escape from money, we can take a step back from it.  We can refuse to let it dominate our lives.  We can refuse to be defined by it as our society would have us be defined.  We can practise that detachment which allows us to see what’s real and what isn’t – and to prioritise those things that matter over those that don’t.

Happy Friday.  Today I shall be mostly… worrying about money.


Kirk out