Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Keep Them for the Birds and Bees

I made my money the old-fashioned way. I was very nice to a wealthy relative right before he died. 
–Malcolm Forbes

Cheer up, the worst is yet to come.

–Mark Twain
 in a letter to his wife telling her 
that he'd declared bankruptcy

Fresh from bankruptcy court, I'm inordinately preoccupied with money these days. I find myself seeking new and different angles from which to view it. I’m fortunate -- if I may use that unfortunate word choice --  to live in a place where many, perhaps most, people are accustomed to getting by with little or no money, so there are many models for how to cope. Of course I’m wealthy compared to most people here just by virtue of getting U.S. Social Security. Turns out that’s of little comfort when it’s time to pay the rent or take the baby to the doctor.

Money can be both an answer and a question, sometimes both. In terms of power, maybe only eroticism is its equal. James Baldwin put it like so, “Money, it turned out, was exactly like sex, you thought of nothing else if you didn't have it and thought of other things if you did.” I’m always thinking of both. Just one more thing Baldwin and I don’t have in common.

My parents, both children (teens, actually) of The Great Depression, were calm, reasonable people (most of the time). But they were hysterical about money. I can identify. I have four fewer kids than they did, but a night doesn’t go by that I don’t wake up tormenting myself about what I’ll do if the baby is ill or injured and must get medical help. As for my own health, I don’t think about it.

I hold the — some would say goofy — conviction that giving away money brings it back to you with interest. This belief is based on experience. I won’t drag you through those experiences. Trust me. I say this in all seriousness (the first assertion). You get what you give. The Beatles, who had mountains of money, insisted that “The love you take is equal to the love you make.” Same goes for money. 

I believe that I’m slightly less hysterical about money than my parents were at my age  -- my mom only lived 5 years longer than the age I am now, 64, old but not elderly. Age changes your outlook on money (and most everything else). Oscar Wilde, said, “When I was young I thought that money was the most important thing in life; now that I am old I know that it is.” A few years later, Federico Fellini chimed in, “Being old is much like being young, but without the promising future.” 

I see that as very optimistic for some reason.

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