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The Meaning of Money
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Our Friday night discussion group talked about "Money" last week. What its meaning is, what relationship you have with it.

The division between the men's point of view and the women's perspective was interesting. The men all talked about money giving them the freedom to do things. The women stressed that money meant security first.

Some pointed out that money was just a medium of exchange. If I give you food, I have limited your possibilities: you can eat it or trade it for other goods. If I give you money, you can spend it any way you choose.

Another person objected to that free and easy last statement, saying that you couldn't spend it any way you chose; that life circumstances and previous choices constrained your spending to certain determined areas. "Free" money is a luxury.

Clearly there was a high emotional level associated with money; no one was indifferent to it, at least not in our group.

What none of us could understand was the accumulation of money for its own sake, a phenomenon observed but not comprehended. Money is for use; not, like the dragon's hoard, for perching upon.

Another divison then revealed itself, not going along gender lines: the person/money relationship varied, depending on the situation. If the situation was a social one, the acknowledgement of money was related to trust and cooperation, the good of the group. In cases where the situation was business or contractual, the norms revolved around competition and maximization of individual benefit (profit).

This is probably the source of the advice not to mix business with pleasure, and why people have learned to their sorrow not to do business with friends and family. Personal relationships are often at odds with market norms.

The trick is to find a balanced relationship with money, we decided. Money has power, both as a social resource as well as an economic necessity. But we need to watch out for confusing money with happiness. Not very profound, certainly not original, but interesting to talk about.

One interesting side note: It was hard to get this discussion topic started. People seem to be more willing to talk about religion or politics or sex than about money.

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