The Meaning of Money

Our world is such that the meaning of money is extremely hard to pin down. Perhaps it is elusive in the best of times, but at present it’s bewildering to the heart and mind, and stomach.

In particular, I’m thinking about kickstarter and patreon, drawn to the contemplation by my struggles as an artist. I’ve got lots of friends who are artists of one sort of another, and I believe that the line between artist and con artist is only about three letters wide… and not even solid.

So, I’m just sitting here watching the crowdfunding campaigns roll by, struck again and again by my low estimation of the art and artists seeking funding. More than that, I’m struck by the ease with which so many people adopt an air of self-confidence in asking other people to hand over money so they can pursue their art. It strikes me as so vain, and it’s exactly what I want to do.

Yet something always prevents me from asking people to fund my art, even though I genuinely believe (with what seems to me good reason) that this art is my truest purpose here on Earth. There’s a sort of modesty I can’t get by, a self-consciousness that reminds me of this famous bit from HAMLET:

Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to
you, trippingly on the tongue: but if you mouth it,
as many of your players do, I had as lief the
town-crier spoke my lines. Nor do not saw the air
too much with your hand, thus, but use all gently;
for in the very torrent, tempest, and, as I may say,
the whirlwind of passion, you must acquire and beget
a temperance that may give it smoothness. O, it
offends me to the soul to hear a robustious
periwig-pated fellow tear a passion to tatters, to
very rags, to split the ears of the groundlings, who
for the most part are capable of nothing but
inexplicable dumbshows and noise: I would have such
a fellow whipped for o’erdoing Termagant; it
out-herods Herod: pray you, avoid it.

Acting on the world stage seems to me to require a keen sense for the nature of one’s part, and I struggle to find what exactly that is. As Dylan sang:

I got a head full of ideas
that are driving me insane.

And Jackson Browne answered:

Whatever you might hope to find
among the thoughts that crowd your mind
there won’t be many
that ever really matter

But in finding the ones that really matter, in the right way, it seems possible to redeem the meaning in money, to reconnect real value with exchange value.

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