The following is a chapter from my book ‘Parables For The New Conversation.’ One chapter will be published every Sunday for 36 weeks here on Collective Evolution. (I would recommend you start with Chapter 1 if you haven’t already read it.) I hope my words are a source of enjoyment and inspiration for you, the reader. If perchance you would like to purchase a signed paperback copy of the book, you can do so on my production company website Pandora’s Box Office.
From the back cover: “Imagine a conversation that centers around possibility—the possibility that we can be more accepting of our own judgments, that we can find unity through our diversity, that we can shed the light of our love on the things we fear most. Imagine a conversation where our greatest polarities are coming together, a meeting place of East and West, of spirituality and materialism, of religion and science, where the stage is being set for a collective leap in consciousness more magnificent than any we have known in our history.
Now imagine that this conversation honors your uniqueness and frees you to speak from your heart, helping you to navigate your way more deliberately along your distinct path. Imagine that this conversation puts you squarely into the seat of creator—of your fortunes, your relationships, your life—thereby putting the fulfillment of your deepest personal desires well within your grasp.
‘Parables for the New Conversation’ is a spellbinding odyssey through metaphor and prose, personal sagas and historic events, where together author and reader explore the proposal that at its most profound level, life is about learning to consciously manifest the experiences we desire–and thus having fun. The conversation touches on many diverse themes but always circles back to who we are and how our purposes are intertwined, for it is only when we see that our personal desires are perfectly aligned with the destiny of humanity as a whole that we will give ourselves full permission to enjoy the most exquisite experiences life has to offer.”
9. The Beach
One day the jeweler was relaxing under the sun on the sands of the East Beach on the island of Allandon when the banker walked slowly by, joints creaking and breathing heavily. He stopped right in front of the jeweler and looked out onto the ocean. Then he unrolled his large towel and placed it beside the jeweler, who was surprised since there was so much room elsewhere on the beach, and the banker was a man who usually kept to himself.
“Don’t mind me,” said the banker as he bent down gingerly to sit on his large towel. “It’s just that this was my favorite spot when I was a boy.”
“Really? I came here when I was a boy as well,” said the jeweler.
The banker stretched contentedly on his towel and said, “Oh, it’s been so long, I’d forgotten the feeling. Is there anything better than sitting by the ocean on a sunny day?”
“Nothing better,” agreed the jeweler emphatically.
“It must be almost fifty years since I laid on this spot,” said the banker. “But we all have to go out and make our fortunes, don’t we?”
“I suppose we do,” replied the jeweler.
“And then one day we can do whatever we want,” the banker said proudly as he stretched out on his towel.
The jeweler did not respond, and for a while only the sounds of the seagulls and the rolling waves could be heard as the two men blissfully soaked in the sun’s rays. Later, when the ocean breeze got cooler, the jeweler got up and prepared to leave. While he was brushing off sand and folding his towel the banker looked over and asked, “So, when did you start coming again to the beach, anyway?”
“I never stopped,” replied the jeweler as he walked away.
My parents both believed that money was scarce, and our family’s frugal lifestyle was built on the idea of saving for the future to gain a feeling of security. Yet the most poignant lessons I learned about money from my parents ran smack in the face of this idea, as a result of unfortunate events.
My father was the breadwinner, and my mother handled the household budget. By the time my brother, sister and I were in University, my parents had almost paid off their mortgage and had accumulated a nice nest egg. However my father’s stress and dissatisfaction at work caused him to quit his job. Both he and my mother soon began to feel a new stress – that of no money coming in. After a short time my father started seeking the same kind of job he had just left, including trying to go back to his old job, but he didn’t have any success.
Over the next year, my father’s stress about money surfaced daily and was growing into desperation. His nest egg had been reduced by about ten percent, and he was in a panic about the thought of it all slipping away. He felt he had to do something, and so he made the decision to invest all his money in a business. He became the owner of a stereo shop, and I agreed to be the salesperson.
Business did not go well. I made a big sale the first day, but gave the customer too much of a bargain. My father lambasted me for it because the profit margin was too low. I became scared to offer any kind of deal to customers. My father, on the other hand, was just scared of customers, period. As the days went by, the business only amplified his fear of losing money. We didn’t take any of the risks that might have helped us to become profitable. As we attracted fewer and fewer customers, our stock quickly became outdated. After ten months of pure struggle, we had to give up and close the business. Besides losing his nest egg, my father incurred a huge debt. He had to take out a sizeable second mortgage on his home to pay off all his creditors.
It would be logical to suppose that after the dust had settled, my father would be even more anxious and desperate, or worse, that he would fall into a deep depression. But what actually happened was quite amazing. My father experienced a calm about money that I had never seen before. Perhaps it is because he had gone through his worst-case scenario and had come out the other end alive. He had survived. He had been forced to surrender, to give up his fear-based plans for security, and just confront the fears themselves. The ease of his newly-relaxed disposition was remarkable. He could now stand tall in the face of these fears, and experience, possibly for the first time since he was young, what it felt like to live day by day.
I will never forget the change—the look on his face and the calm in his voice whenever we reflected back on and actually shared some laughs about the ordeal. It struck me in those moments how people who had a lot of money were so much more likely to be paralyzed by the fear of poverty than those who had none.
My mother was born into a poor family. Her mother died when she was young, and they lived on her father’s meager barber’s income. There were times, she would tell me, that they weren’t sure if they would have any food to eat the next day. In her marriage my mother’s fear of not having money was even deeper than my father’s. She lived her adult life as though saving money for the future was unquestionably the most important thing, more important than learning, fulfillment, perhaps even love. As a consequence she focused on developing certain skills: she was expert at putting great inexpensive meals together, she became very good with budgets, and knew how to shop and negotiate for bargains. This all seemed prudent and reasonable, but later in her life, when her material conditions improved, her fear—and consequently her habits—remained. As she neared retirement, much of her daily conversation still related to worries about money and thoughts about saving.
Then one day my mother was diagnosed with cancer. During her long and difficult ordeal, the importance of money, and the fear of not having enough, slowly melted away. My mother was put in a situation where she could not help but see the stark truth that she had always been running away from something she was afraid of rather than towards something she wanted. I had the privilege of many intimate conversations with my mother during her last six months, and besides witnessing the tremendous courage she exhibited in many ways, I felt that I got to know her true self, unfettered by worldly concerns. We found ourselves roaring with laughter when we poked fun together at her penny-pinching ways: the folly of clipping coupons that saved her nickels and the trips to far-away stores to save dimes, the different savings accounts and credit card promotions that she took for the free gifts or reduced fees. All these things seemed to come with the promise that they would help her get to the day when she would have enough abundance to relax. That day never came, at least not the way she had envisioned it. For it was only faced with her own mortality that she realized where true security lies: in living life in the present.
What I learned from my parents is that while the fear of not having enough money might motivate us to work hard or to save, working hard and saving does nothing to alleviate the fear. In the end, this fear denies us the possibility of having a real feeling of abundance in our lives. What we are all seeking in life is the experience of the moment—the moment where we feel joy, we feel we have all we need, that everything is all right in our world. Experiences that point us back to the moment, to the now, help us see how to reconnect with that feeling of joy and the freedom it brings.
I don’t think money itself helps us to be free. The more that accumulating money is used as a cure for our insecurity, the more we become dependent on it. And true freedom cannot be dependent on any thing or circumstance. It is really an internal state of mind. My mother realized this from her hospital bed, during those times of clarity when the contradictions of her lifestyle presented themselves to her. She never got the chance to see what it would feel like to live within her sought-after level of security, but I believe her conclusion would nonetheless have been the same: if one waits for security before one is willing and able to truly live, the window of opportunity closes quickly on an already short and fleeting life. Helen Keller may have explained it best:
Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.
It is only fear that stops us from taking risks that are sometimes necessary to truly live out our dream in the present. When we have a dream and we know what it is we want to do or become, the question is: why are we not actively chasing that dream in the present? When I get out of school, we will say. After I’m married. When we get a house, or when the renovations are done. When the kids are out of diapers. When the kids are out of high school. When the kids are out of the house. When I get my promotion. When I retire. These are the echoes of our fear, which keeps pushing the experience of the moment mercilessly out of our grasp.
For many of us the real desire, the Dream with a capital ‘D’, gets pushed so far back as we get on in life that we may even get cynical about dreaming altogether. And then we get turned off when someone tries to suggest that we are all capable of experiencing our greatest desires in life. My mother would have liked to travel more in her life. But this or any other dream she had tended to take a back seat to paying off the mortgage or increasing her retirement savings. Her fear would not allow her to imagine what life would be like beyond the most practical considerations.
Our society as a whole is in no rush to help alleviate our insecurity. Rather it thrives on it, because it insures that we maintain a constant need to work hard and keep our consumer economy going. It’s why we play dog-eat-dog to get the promotion. It’s why we need to surround ourselves with proof of our abundance, the latest gadgets, the better car, the bigger house. It’s a simple plan, but it keeps our society going. And for the most part it keeps us going too, striving for some fabled glory when we can say we have finally made it. But if and when we do actually ‘arrive’ at the fulfillment of our material goals, do we then live out our lives in perpetual ecstasy? Not likely, not if we are honest with ourselves. We would be more prone to simply sit in the comfort of our luxury recliners nagged by questions like, “Is this it? Is this all there is to life?”
I am not saying that I am against abundance. There is nothing wrong with having money and owning comfortable chairs, big-screen TVs, a country cottage or even a personal jet. Not at all. These objects are neither good nor bad in themselves. The trouble begins when we try to bank on our material abundance to make us happy to be alive. I have many friends around me who have tremendous abundance. Some of them are generally happy, others are constantly plagued by money worries. The happy ones tend to be the same people who, if they were suddenly to lose everything, would be confident that they could carry on and set about rebuilding without much fuss. They have already been able to make the choice to look beyond their abundance when it comes to what is truly important in their lives.
I am grateful for the lessons I learned from my parents, because they helped me see that we often use money to insulate ourselves from our fears, and in the process we get insulated from a real sense of well-being. Had I not come to confront my insecurities, I would probably still be doing something that I didn’t really like just for the money. Today I am clear that real security is not something that can be bought, and we can only feel free when we learn to live in the moment. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. If I would have delayed trying to write a book until it was prudent and safe, I honestly believe that time would never have come. In the eyes of many people around me it certainly hasn’t been the most practical thing to do, and some probably even consider it wildly irresponsible, given that the savings I had carefully built up over the years have quickly evaporated. But I wouldn’t change where I’ve gotten today for a truckload of money. I’m having an experience beyond what money could buy. Every day I get a little closer to fulfilling my long-time dream of getting a book published. This is my marathon, my Mount Everest, my sacred quest, the fulfillment of the highest desire inside me that I know of.
While it might be nice to reach the loftiest financial quotas of our retirement plan, are we compromising a major chunk of our vital lives for it? If indeed money is a means to an end, and that end is happiness and fulfillment in what we are doing in our lives, would it not make more sense just to go straight to the source? Our Ego Self will be quick to dissuade this kind of thinking, and urge us to continue along with prudence and caution. It lives only in the past and in the future, and it would have us believe that our fulfillment will arrive at a later time. But it cannot. When it comes to fulfillment, we can experience it nowhere but in the present.