Why You Need to Learn to Love Money

Tahel Frosh.
Tahel Frosh
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An illustration by Roei Regev about money.
Illustration by Roei Regev.Credit: Illustration
Tahel Frosh.
Tahel Frosh

1. I have a scandalous, culturally incompatible attitude toward money. I don’t want it, don’t pay attention to it, don’t want to think about it, treat it like a disorder and basically think the love of money is the root of all evil. I also have an intrinsic problem with money, because someone who allows himself to have this sort of attitude in our day and age had better have stacks of gold and cash – and I, most regrettably, have neither. As a result, I suffer from a certain epistemological glitch.

Often I wonder whether this approach is a congenital defect, whether I lack the “money organ” or if it can be implanted. Should the money organ be in the brain? Maybe at a nexus where electric sparks zap and create gilded bursts of desire in the thalamus that shoot into the hypothalamus and generate a neurological mechanism for obtaining money.

In any event, the problem with my relationship to money is also connected to the fact that I am far from ascetic. On the contrary: I adore life’s trappings, and possess a terrifying sense of entitlement when it comes to basic pleasures such as a fine home, good food and cultural consumption.

It’s a miserable trap. Hedonism without money is like a bicycle without wheels, a tin can without an opener, a tap without water to run through it, a stage without actors, etc.

2. One day, I was summoned to the bank for a talk about my financial situation. The affable clerk asked me what was happening with my lousy savings account. I looked at her, minimum-wage earner that she was, attired in a candy-pink blouse, compelled to talk to me about money.

I assured her that I have a future. I didn’t mention that I write poetry and am writing a book, but spoke about a more substantial profession: I told her I had completed my studies in clinical psychology and was about to begin an internship. Her eyes lit up. That was my impression, anyway – that her eyes glowed with approval. Very good, she said. An atmosphere of warm and momentary satisfaction enveloped us. She typed something into her computer – and then the evil inclination seized me.

Listen, I told her. I won’t make much money from the internship. In fact, my situation will be worse. I told her about the wretched salary that interns get paid for part-time employment, which in practice is three-quarters employment. She nodded her head as a sign of sorrow and pity. It turned out she has a nephew who wanted to study psychology but dropped the idea precisely because of the money.

What should I do, I asked her. How can I rehabilitate my bank account with such a gloomy future? She looked at me a minute and said, “You need to marry a rich man.” I laughed. She laughed back. But that was actually the most honest banking advice I could have received. It exposed the porno side of the banking system – a violent system of desires and exploitation. Afterward, it occurred to me that, in this spirit, maybe there should be a banking program to make matches between oligarchs and poor poets.

3. Money is a symbolic entity that covers the endless range of the imagination and, horrifyingly, takes on substance in reality and forces itself brutally on one’s way of life. Herein, perhaps, lies the peculiar power of money – the only object that shapes people and is not shaped at all by us. The New Testament mentions the demon Mammon, who bears the traits of gluttonous greed. That demon, who was reviled more or less until the 17th century, can be said to have become the redeeming angel of humanity.

I know a guy who did spiritual work on money. You could say he summoned to his aid the demons and angels that guard the treasury. Spiritual work of this sort is widespread in New Age beliefs and goes by all manner of names – like invoking abundance and releasing the blockage of the flow of resources. From modern coaches to Buddhist practices, everyone is coming together to tell us we can have a bundle of money.

The fellow that performed the spiritual work came from a poor home, and it’s clear he grasped that in order to be spared a melancholy fate materially, he would do well to love money. But what happens to those who refuse to fall in love with money, or at least make friends with it? I am afraid this is one of the most rigid obligations of our society. It is incumbent upon us to undergo a money apprenticeship, an adaptation to its capricious face, cultural manifestations and control over us. The most successful members of our society are those who can love money devotedly, uninhibitedly, uncritically, naively.

4. I came across a piece of paper on a table in a café that someone left there unintentionally, like a page from a secret diary. It contained mantras to be repeated day and night, like a prayer: My life is so easy / My life is so beautiful / A lot of money comes to me easily and simply and healthily / I live happily with lots of love and lots of money.

The word money in the last line was emphasized: The woman who wrote it went over it numberless times with a pen and thickened it with perfect intention.