Money is therefore a promise in search of wisdom. (PASCAL BRUCKNER)

Money is therefore a promise in search of wisdom. (PASCAL BRUCKNER)

Money is one of those things that seem obvious but aren’t. It is truly the commoner of life, as crude as it is burdensome. It seems to go without saying but remains a mystery in broad daylight. The French word for money (“argent”) is marvelously ambiguous: it also stands for the silver long used to make coins. Nothing can be said about money without asserting the contrary: that it is vulgar and noble, fiction and reality. It separates and connects people; it frightens us when there is a lot of it and frightens us when there is a lack of it. It’s a good that does evil, an evil that does good. The first coins, historians tell us, date from the third millennium BCE in Ur, and were struck with the image of Ishtar, the goddess of fertility and death, a curious duality. Money is the universal pidgin par excellence, comprehensible everywhere; anyone can manipulate it, no matter what his language or religion; everyone can convert it instantaneously, in the depths of the desert as well as in the most remote islands.

Money offers the only truly precious value in this world: time, its inexhaustible abundance. In this respect it is liberating. When money is lacking, life is reduced to an eternal present that incarcerates us. I have always distinguished between my job and the reasons for existing. The two have sometimes coincided, but for all that without relieving me of the necessity of earning a living.

Money is therefore a promise in search of wisdom. This should be understood in two senses: it is wise to have money, and wise to reflect critically on it. Money forces us constantly to arbitrate between our desires, our assets, and our debts. It makes everyone a philosopher in spite of himself: thinking well is also learning to spend well, for oneself and for others. Money is revealing: it exposes the tightwad and the profligate, the miserly and the envious, all betrayed by how they reach into their pockets. No one is at ease with money. Those who believe they detest it secretly worship it. Those who worship it overestimate it. Those who pretend to despise it are lying to themselves. A problematic passion, an impossible condemnation. That is the difficulty. But if wisdom does not consist in attacking the very thing we all recognize as the height of folly, what good is philosophy?

 

 

 

 

The Wisdom Of Money

Pascal Bruckner



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