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Word Art: True Wealth

Do you want to be a rich person, or do you want to live a rich life?

The question came to me while I was doing my Three Daily Pages and it’s a phrase I try to keep in my back pocket as a perpetual reminder.  This was my effort to turn that idea into artwork.  I placed it in an 8 x 10 frame that previously had a picture with Terry Bozzio’s autograph on it.  (Long story, that.)

I tinkered with fonts in GIMP until I came up with one that gave the dollar sign and exclamation point a certain pop art sensibility to me.  I printed out the results and traced it on a light table, then got out the compass and straight edges to sketch out a no symbol on top of it.  Then I got out the green and red pens and went at it.

True Wealth

True Wealth

Do you want to be a rich person, or do you want to live a rich life?

“Both!” is the obvious one to choose.

And yet far too many people strive for both and end up with neither, because they do it in the wrong order.

They buy into the popular but pernicious notion that one must become a rich person before one can live a rich life.

But living a rich life is not dependent on the amount of money in your bank account the way being a rich person is.

You can live a rich life and never become a rich person.

You can even become a rich person and fail to live a rich life.

And it is a far worse poverty, I feel, to never live a rich life.

After all, a rich life can be lived at any moment, right here, right now, no matter how little you may seem to have by material standards.

Be present.

Your life is in this moment and you deprive yourself when you allow the moment to pass unregarded.

How many pleasures do we let slip on past our senses because we are too preoccupied with things we should have said or done?

How many sunsets unseen, how many songs unlistened to, how many caresses unfelt on our skins from the air, or the clothes we wear?

How much we gain from even how little we have if all we do is to pay attention to it.

What falls under your gaze does not need to be owned by you to be savored by you.

The sun is owned by no one and it will warm your face with the same intensity it will warm the face of anyone who turns to face it.

All you need to do is stand where it falls, show your skin to it and feel.

Be grateful.

The riches that you have become amplified when you take the time to celebrate their very existence.

Even the pains and agonies can become beautiful when they are blessed.

Every breath of life is a gift.

Kindly do not squander it so.

And above all things, if you wish to live a rich life, you must be curious.

Each new fragment of knowledge that you gain about the world can expand your sense of self, even if it is something as tiny as a new word in some language that you are still taking lessons in.

Each new place that you explore, whether in this world or in your soul, becomes a new word in the vocabulary of living.

Paid lessons are not required to acheive [sic] fluency.

All you really need to do is pay attention to the lessons life offers to you are any and every instant of time.

Even you. Yes, you.

No matter how you may have dismissed your life as too mundane to ever be worth looking at with a penetrating gaze, Look! All the true richness of existence, all the joy and all the pain, all the roughness and all the smoothness.

It is here, it is now, it does not need conditions to be fulfilled.

I want you, yes, really, you to embrace your life and stop with the waiting for the moment to arrive when you can begin.

Even in the most grimy and tattered of circumstances, there is something to be a witness to and something to be grateful for and curious about.

From there, all can be embraced.

Your decision to live life in all its richness should not be put off until perfection arrives.

Perfection arrives when you allow things to be what they are instead of holding to a standard that can never be fulfilled.

Perfection is not even a state of being as such.

It is nothing more than a value judgment.

We declare things perfection when they precisely fit to a previously determined standard.

While this works well enough when dealing in mathematical formulas, in the world we live in things do not fit as neatly into equations.

This is further muddled by the tendency for standards of perfection to shift somewhere in the processes of striving for them.

So much of our misery seems like one is trying to shoot a target that never stands still and yet provides no meat if it is ever brought down.

Clutch your tattered paper targets and all that will happen in the end, is that a new target will be set up all over again.

(Ready?? Aim. Fire.)

You can walk away from this game at any time but not enough people know any other games that they can play.

After all, it can be quite lonely to play a game of one’s own devising with no one else to join in.

Still, when the rules you write are made challenging and are only broken when they are truly in the way, the victory resulting can be particularly sweet.

Every rule that is lived by can be called into question and more than likely should be.

Any rule that can withstand some examination and remain standing is a sensible one to follow.

But–if you can provide no better reason for a rule remaining in place than “That’s how it’s been done before” it might need a reconsideration or at the very least have an answer to the question “and what else?”

This is the one time that you have to be who you are.

No matter what you believe to lie beyond the final breath, if oblivion or afterlife or even if reincarnation this is still the only chance you have to be who you are now.

There are no ways for us to start all over again from infancy.

All we can do is take the point where we stand and move forward with what we happen to have.

And life itself is abundant in so many ways that we barely take the time to notice it.

Each and every breath taken is a gift, but to take the time to be aware of each one is a thing we reserve for the saints or those who hope for more than the material.

If we can let something miraculous like that go unnoticed, then if we took the time to pay attention to each little miracle (for it is not rarity that makes a thing miraculous, it is what makes our soul stand in awe of it) then behold, life becomes limitless in treasures.

And, yes, indeed the urge to seek and find and to expand is important to us, and it serves an important purpose.

But just as the signal to nourish body can be perverted into what we call gluttony (one of the seven deadly sins, one could add but it is a sin that has lost much of whatever glamor that it might have had) so can the signal to nourish our souls end up twisted into a thing we don’t quite have a name for.

“Greed” does not fully work as that is confined to material wealth and very often our cravings are for intangibles, not just a car but the right kind of car, not just a house but a house in the ‘best’ neighborhood so we chase after these things and postpone living our lives until we can say that we have the things we crave.

When we get them (if) we digest the having of them for just a little while and then hunger, as it always does, comes back and we are back where we started with our lives on hold until the next craving is satisfied.

A hunger for food does not need elaborate satisfaction.

A craving that one has for sensual experiences, if it be sight, touch or sound, does not need the greatest possible of expenses to be satiated.

All we really need to do in our minds is to look at what is and to find it good.

All things turn into blessings of the greatest order when we realize this.

Even the pain. Especially the pain.

Richness of living can not be made of the moments without flaw.

It includes and embraces all pain as well as it embraces all pleasures.

It takes in the rough as well as the smooth, the stammering moments along with eloquence.

We have no interest in reading novels or watching films where all things happen easily and without any disruption.

Why would any of us seek to live lifes [sic] that would be dreary if written?

There isn’t any need, I should add, to stir up drama just to make your life interesting enough to be worth retelling.

Just pay attention to the details to all the textures and colors that present themselves to your eyes, to the details of life the moments of small grace.

You might notice that there is nothing stopping you from doing this that has anything to do with your income, your assets or your bank balance.

All that is truly required is the willingness to accept life as it is and to pass from acceptance to celebration to revalation [sic] to maybe even all the way to revolution.

Not the sort of thing that leaves people dead, mind you, but the kind that quietly topples hierarchies not by replacing the top, but instead by quietly removing oneself from below.

We no longer believe in the divine right of kings, why should we believe in the divine right of corporations?

They are useful enough legal constructs (indeed I have a few such entities among my friends and relations) but we are free to ignore them as we can ignore any other random stranger.

If we find ourselves in a position of subservience to such an entity, there are many ways to renegotiate whatever contract we may be bound by.

But this is a digression, since life in all its confounding beauty and trouble precedes the concepts that gave birth to this thing we call the corporation by more ages than we can count.

The pursuit of material wealth above any other consideration is indeed nothing new and the sages (and even the fools) have had much to say against the tendency.

The fact that so much as been said for so long is a signal that we should consider what has really changed in the end.

The many and various reassurances from those who preach the gospels of what they call ‘prosperity’ that there is no shame in wealth should really make one wonder why they felt the need to bring it up if it wasn’t a problem.

But I am, honestly, not in opposition to money itself. It is still handy stuff to have.

My objection is to the placement of money above all other matters of consideration.

Honor without wealth is greater than wealth without honor.

Beauty without wealth will always surpass wealth without beauty.

Having money in the bank does not make your life inherently more precious or more valuable than any other person’s life.  A life is a life is a life.

You should measure your life by what you have done, not by what you happen to have.

Material goods can be taken or destroyed.

Even the wealth we keep in the bank can vanish with the stroke of a pen or the tap of a keyboard.

What what [sic] you have done, who you have loved, what you have seen and experienced, those can never be truly taken away.

And the purity and quality of those acts, those loves, of what you have seen and known and let flow through you, these cannot be measured in market forces or even truly quantified.

And thus is it wealth beyond counting.

And the best part is this–once you stop worrying so much about how to become a rich person and focus on living a rich life, it becomes easier to decline the drains on money that we allow in the hopes of filling in the hollow spaces.

When we stop spending money on things that don’t matter we have more money for the things that do and thus a rich life leads to wealth in both realms of it.

Therefore, life richly–be present, be grateful, be curious and you will find that all else will follow.

Strip your expectations down to the minimum and you will discover that you are already surrounded by ridiculous abundance.

Learn, love, live, savor and life will gladly open itself to you if all you do is notice what a gift it truly is.

2,103 words, in case you wondered.  It took me over an hour to transcribe the results.  Somewhere halfway through, I decided to sketch in lines to guide the text instead of using the edge of a piece of paper, as I’d been doing previously, and found the going a good deal smoother.

Because I took to pricing my art at five dollars per square inch, it is with some amusement that I note that it was the most expensive piece on my table at the Upper West Side Folk Art Market.

Prints of this work are available here.

The original is not for sale.

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