March 4 – For What Are We Saving? – Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

If the love I have isn’t working, what good is money?

So often we put externals first. Out of worry, out of fear, out of obligation, we think we’re being good Puritans by saying no to what stirs us.

In the 60’s, the well known psychologist Abraham Maslow conceived of a hierarchy of needs, in which he established that human beings must provide for basic physical needs, such as food and shelter, before they can attend to inner needs, such as self-esteem and right relationship.

While this is in part true, I believe there is a dimension of the inner life that is an imperative and equivalent as food and shelter. Without the fulfillment of these basic inner needs, we are just fed and sheltered bodies void of life.  Without love, truth, and compassion, all the comforts of modern life don’t matter, because we are simply reduced to biological machines, not even as present as animals.

Without this understanding, we often defer the risk to love: I need to establish myself before I can get involved. I need nice clothes first. I’ll become physically desirable first. I’ll eliminate all my problems first.  We also defer love once it is before us, under the guise of safeguarding our future; I won’t call long distance now, because I’ll need the money when I retire. I won’t meet them at this concert now, because I’ll need money for a new car in six years.  I can’t afford to enter counselling with my partner because we need storm windows. Certainly, we have to balance and make choices, but with no love in the house, there is no need for storm windows.

When I was ill, I faced the very real possibility of dying, and suddenly the little money I’d saved, however prudent I was, didn’t matter. It was all worthless. It became immediately clear that the only true purpose of money was to help make love work. When ill, I didn’t hesitate to make all those long-distance calls I always put off. I met friends at concerts and bought albums and sent flowers instead of waiting for the perfect occasion. I bought plane tickets to the Caribbean for my wife and my dearest friends – and we went !

Once well, I couldn’t go back to deferring my life under the guise of saving. I still save some, but now I feel compelled to use whatever money I can afford to make love work, to bring truth into being, to allow generosity and compassion to flourish. This is more than altruistic. It is necessary to be fully alive.  It’s part of the wood that keeps the inner fire burning.

I am now forced to ask, beyond rent and health insurance, for what are you saving? If the love we have is not brought to life out here in the world, we risk saving for a future that may never come or that, in fact, may find us just ghosts of spirit, unable to live it because we’ve squandered our chances to love along the way.

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