On The Money
Financial Advice for the Working-Class
Marilyn Monroe once said, to someone looking for a suggestion as to what to get her for her birthday, said something to the effect of “Whatever you do, don’t get me A BOOK. I already have A BOOK.”
Bookish intellectuals scoff at such talk. They’ve read hundreds, if not thousands of books, and spent countless hours browsing the stacks at dozens of libraries. Why?
I doubt Marilyn Monroe ever stepped inside a library, but I’ll bet she knew more about men than most intellectuals, because she spent her life surrounded by them. On the other hand, too many people seek refuge from life in books, living vicariously through the thoughts of others. This is neither healthy nor enlightening.
Still others consider the stack of books they’ve read a hard earned achievement, looking down at the rest of us from a high plateau of bound paper. They didn’t seek refuge from life in books, no they sacrificed their lives to acquire this knowledge, and to scale that plateau. So, they deserve to look down on the rest of us from that high place.
Those folks live on shaky ground, and deep down, they’re nervous about it. All written knowledge begins to crumble almost as soon as its written, but one revolutionary new idea can bring the whole intellectual construct crashing down into a heap of quaint, arcane rubble. Even though it has happened dozens of times in our history, that still doesn’t stop people from wasting their time studying these quaint arcane writings.
That’s because we’re really not that bright as a species. We’re pretty good with our hands. We’re quite persistent, and we can tell a good story, but we really have no more of an idea how the world works than say a baboon or even a chipmunk.
We’d like to believe we know how the world works, and some of those plateau-standers might convince other people that they know more than a chipmunk, but they’re just full of bunk, and the people who believe them are simply more gullible than your average rodent. Lots of creatures know how to bamboozle their own kind, nothing unique there.
Some people even believe that we stand at the verge of a great moment of human evolution. That we are evolving into god-like creatures capable of engineering a better world for all of us. They believe that “civilized” humans will, very shortly, through the accelerating scientific, technological, and communication revolution, achieve world peace, a sustainable way of life, equality and justice for all.
It sounds pretty stupid when you put it that way, doesn’t it? Maybe not as stupid as believing in some “Saviour” who’s supposed to come down from the heavens to rescue us from ourselves, but almost as stupid. If you buy into either of those stories, I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you.
The fact that either of these stories attract so many believers is living proof that, as I said before, we are not that bright, as a species. A little brighter than chimps, sure, but probably not as bright as dolphins, who are at least smart enough to know better than to try to engineer a better ocean. Only fools and lunatics dream of a better world. The rest of us couldn’t possibly imagine such a place.
Unfortunately, the lunatics have been running the show, for quite some time now. So, we all have plenty of craziness to take refuge from, and stacks and stacks of lunacy to lose themselves in. That still doesn’t make it a good idea. Nor does it mean we are getting smarter as a species.
Quite the contrary, I fear. The more time we spend in the grossly oversimplified world of other people’s ideas, the less time we spend in the incomprehensibly rich, real world, from which all true knowledge flows. So, we increasingly inhabit a simplified, engineered world full of artificial constructs that dull, rather than stimulate the mind. After all, if the real world is what you want to know about, the real world is what you should study. The world is its own teacher.