Thursday, August 17, 2006

"rich" isn't any kind of measure...

an overcast day here in the ugly south. a warm wind blows, barely stirring the stagnant grey film that is suspended, like a body from a hangman's noose, in the thick moist air. there is the promise of storms and the whirring buzz of insects, and an uneasy feeling of weight upon the shoulders, a feeling of pressure from an unseen source. these days everything feels like a sign of trouble, even the trembling of curled brown leaves on sweating tree limbs. each conversation leads to contested definitions from flawed sources, each idea is twisted by ideology and agenda, each thought barely and rarely tested for truth. as the wind blows and the dark clouds gather every narrowing of the eyes is a call to war.

but there is still truth in the world, there do still exist honest answers, actual tangible realites that cannot be debated, cannot be altered to fit a predetermined purpose. there is the seeking nature of the human animal, desperate as long as his existence, to find meaning, to discover joy, to explore the mysteries of life and understand our purpose as concious, sentient beings on a glowing blue rock in the middle of a desolate black void. there is the desire for the bond between parent and child, the connection between man and woman, the coming together of good friends that can be called love, this selfless joining of humanity for something greater than themselves, something intangible.

throughout history, there is, and has been, much that drives us as humans. there is much that divides and seperates us as well. most of us want to "make a mark" of some kind, and if we don't, we are satisfied with merely passing thru, hopefully trying to do no real harm as we go (though there are always exceptions to anything). and we all define that "mark" differently; some of us seek a measure of enlightenment from our time here, a better understanding of ourselves and our place in a cold and uncaring universe, a greater depth of empathy and compassion with our fellow human beings and some hope for the future of all things. some of us hope to create great works of art that elucidate the complexities of the human condition, art that explores our suffering natures and our inextinguishable endurance in the face of our inevitable mortality, art that sets out into the desert with no water, confident in the inexplicable outpouring of creativity from the ether. some of us hope to raise families full of good people who contribute to society: tradesmen, craftsmen, teachers, leaders, police officers, firefighters, hard working men and women who make up the teeming legions that keep civilization functioning, who perform the necessary tasks to keep everyone safe, secure, educated and as happy as is possible.

and some of us, ridiculously, hopelessly, stupidly, desire to get rich.

now there are those out there who are going to immediately argue that getting rich is a boon to all the above activites, that money is a motivator in many many aspects of life, that we all have to make a living and pay our bills, etc. etc. endlessly. I agree with the premise that in the world as we find it, we do have to have some money, we do have to pay our bills. but getting rich as an end unto itself is a load of shit.

none of the situations above require an obscenity of wealth, and most of them require nothing in the way of vast sums of money, money that will be spent in the service of either consumerism or the generation of still more income. and what do we all want out of life anyway? happiness? safety? comfort? what? none of these can be purchased, even safety. hell, there is no avoiding death, no matter how hard we try, no matter the money we aquire, no matter the fortified walls we construct. there is nothing for it. so safety's out. comfort? sure you can buy a hundred soft couches but you can only sit on one at a time. anything else is for the benefit of other people, anything large scale is so others can envy your aquisitions, your things, your stuff. and that may satisfy in the short term, you can gloat about your "success," feel good about "making it."

but what happens when your wife dies? what happens when your kid gets leukemia? what happens when your livlihood is ripped from you by forces you can't control with any amount of money? where do you go for that comfort, that safety, that happiness? do you turn to your dollars, your investments, your property? will that bring any solace when your heart is broken? will a life spent in service to the concept of money be fulfilling if you've never experienced love? if you've ever sat in silence and marveled at the mystery and impossibity of each sunrise, vastly different from the one which preceeded it and totally unlike the new dawn to follow, how do you compare the gain of another dollar in the totality of your life to such an experience of actually living?

and for those who are unafraid of death via the religion gamble, you must be aware that money has NOTHING to do with why you are unafraid; you have a spiritual confidence in something greater than you, something that is outside the influence of men, and of human trivialities. like money. and money, throughout the history of organized religion, has been a corrupting force, not unifying, a force that makes it possible to control the message of a religion. and of course, numerous examples exist in the secular world of the leader/follower/innocent fellow just trying to get ahead being felled by greed and corruption, hell, just see ENRON for an example (if you need a link here, stop reading this and go away).

so what have I expended this much space to say? just this: there are measures of a life well lived, a life spent fully alive in service to the very mystery of our humanity, a life aware of the fragility of our perch here spinning around a ball of fire in the darkness. there are ways to recline on our death beds and be assured of that good life lived, and none of them include being "rich;" no one will think, "boy I wish I could have got one more dollar" or "I'm glad I spent every moment at my job" and you can bet if that is how they think, they lost a lot more than they gained. the old saw "you can't take it with you" is a cliche for a reason. but what you can take with you are the experiences, the memories, the loves that burned, the pain of loss, that hand you hold as you pass away from the material into the real unknown. these intangibles will be more real than any house, any yacht, any limo, more real than anything made and sold by men.

I know that money can do good in the world, just as it can be bent to the will of the savage. it's a tool that reflects its holder. that's not the point. the point is, being rich isn't any kind of measure of a life well lived. it's no "goal" to have. your goals may include family, happiness, safety, peace, long life, and so forth but again, money cannot be what defines your time here. we do what we must to pay our bills and keep ourselves alive, but is the pursuit of large sums of such a meaningless concept as money (I mean, under the right circumstances, wouldn't the barter of goods and services among dedicated craftspeople with specialties the others lack be just as effective for maintaining a community or a society? wouldn't you be able to eat and clothe yourself and your family, build a shelter, etc.? the necessities?) a worthwhile goal?

money is easy. ask any poker player. they'll tell you that money is just a stack of colored clay chips worth nothing. it is the life away from the table that is hard. and the most rewarding.

more later...


Blogger Luis said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:18 PM  
Blogger Luis said...

Chris, another thoughtful post.
Another cliche, "money is the root of all evil." In my job I've seen sons put their mothers out in the street to steal their life's savings. Money makes people do harmful things to others, to themselves. I only want enough to live a decent life, take care of my family, make sure they have enough to eat, a place to sleep, and enough to go out now and then to a show or out to eat. If it were just me, I'd like enough to buy some stamps, envelope, ink, to send out letters, poems, and stories. I don't want to be rich like Mr. Tycoon, and have wealth identify me. Hey, look, there goes the rich man? Fuck that shit. There are greater goals in life than the pursuit of a dollar.

10:22 PM  
Blogger j.b said...

i am rich.

i have my wife. this is worth all the gold in the world, all the diamonds in Africa and all the money in all the politician's wallets.

oh, i am rich, indeed. very rich.

10:28 PM  
Blogger j.b said...

oh, and very nice post, bro.

well said.

fuck this money bullshit. i make enough to survive. this is all i need.

wealth is not measured by how much you've accumulated (whether it be money or goods) but by how many lives you've affected.

by this definition tycoon will be (is) poor, and most of the rest on this blog are wealthy motherfuckers.

great job, Chris!

10:29 PM  
Blogger christopher cunningham said...

thanks j.b and luis.

lcb: I tell you man, I don't know how you deal with the things you face everyday in your line of work. it seems truly overwhelming and it is people like you who are willing to do the SOCIAL WORK our society REQUIRES for its citizens that make our country truly great.

not the greedy corporatists who seek total control of our government for their own coffers and ideologies, not the selfish loyalists who refuse to accept their own lot in life and blindly pledge allegiance to a corrupt cadre of evil men, not those who abuse the system of assistance set up as a safety net for those in real need, not liars and bastards, not anyone who doesn't see our shared humanity and the necessity of compassion (which, if you break the word down, means "suffering with"/"com - passion...").

the key is always recognizing ourselves in another, and money is almost always a divisive force that keeps us from seeing our own potential tragedy in a fellow human.

and j.b I completely agree: my wife is my riches, a good life well lived in service to art is my wealth, the next poem and the next are worth more than any dollar, easily gained.

11:31 PM  
Blogger Democrat said...

Monumental decision today out of Detroit... A Federal judge struck down Bush's NSA program... Deemed it UNCONSTITUTIONAL!!! Who knows whether it will stick or not, but it is a step in the right direction...

Full Article

BTW, fantastic writing. I write alot myself... Blue Collar Review is taking three of my poems, and the Paris Review is still pending for a short story... Anyway, very articulate.


11:48 PM  
Blogger christopher cunningham said...


yep, good stuff on the ruling, saw that earlier and am happy, but wary of too much joy in the face of an admin. that is all too willing to ignore laws, rulings, previous precedents, etc. hell, look at the signing statements, et al.

and good on BCR, that mag is a great one. I've had a few poems in there myself. and PARIS REVIEW, good shit indeed. I'm not a short story writer, generally, more of a poet/letter writer.

anyway, good show and thanks for the kind words on the post.

and to plug a variety of projects you may or may not have checked out yet go:

here for my latest book and here and here for our Guerilla Poetics Project movement. (and if anyone should join, my new friend, you should; you got the right attitude)

12:03 AM  
Blogger christopher cunningham said...

and on a similar note to the NSA ruling, I've had a visit to my blog from the Dept. of State today, trolling thru the blogosphere from blog to blog. they visited for ten seconds.

and I don't think it was my personal NSA agent, Tommy this time...

12:06 AM  
Blogger Democrat said...

Hey, thanks for the links, I will definitely check out your book. The GPP link worked fine, however the website seems to be acting up. I tried registering but it wouldn't go through. I'll try again later.


12:43 AM  
Blogger H. said...

My question to the world is this: How much is enough? We don't really have an accurate yardstick by which to measure anymore. We here pornographic numbers in terms of wealth for rock-gods & star athletes & MTV rappers...but how much could we live on & never worry? Is $1million in the bank enough? $10million? $25million? If you had $25million could you yank off your tie, scream "Finally!" as you slam it to the ground?

One of the MANY reasons this planet has gone ass over tea-kettle is the fact that money has usurped KNOWLEDGE, has excommunicated even religions in terms of what the ignorant human animal covets. American society, in particular, insists that we all be comfortably & accurately defined by our possessions. American society tells us that nothing is beyond us if we have wealth, that the world is our oyster, that everything has its price; so, like lab rats, we punch timeclocks like feeder bars, impatient, lusty for our next payday fix. We let them jam us into jail-cell sized cubicles, give them endless hours, forget our friends & families while we "step up to the plate" & "put in our time," desperate for any meager increase to our paltry wage...anything to drive us in our platnium, bullet-proof Hummers into that velvet-lined supermodel pussy, the one that that spurts diamonds & Cristal & rains Tahatian black pearls...

"Let's see, in 2 years I've managed to earn a 65cent/hour raise at my pretty decent in 20 years I'll be making $6.50 more than I do now...& in 40 years, I'll be making $13 more per hour, & in 300 years I might finally make what Brtiney Spears will make for the 1 whole hour she goes topless for if I can just stay alive for 300 years & not get fired..."

Here's the real reason it makes no sense for me to be rich. All the things I want, I mean REALLY REALLY WANT, cannot be bought. Despite what Bud commercials preach from their Monday Night Football things, the best things simply aren't for sale...

Goodgoddamn man, cc, that is one fine post...

12:51 AM  
Blogger christopher cunningham said...

dem, shoot me an email and I'll get you signed up, or you can send an email to:

1:22 AM  
Blogger christopher cunningham said...

thanks hosh. some of the comments on the last post got me thinking about motivation, etc...

thanks for the great comment too..

1:27 AM  
Blogger Democrat said...

I sent an e-mail to the GPP address.


2:58 AM  
Blogger Luis said...


this county I work is so great (sarcasm), I was just told my claim was denied on being rear-ended on the job. After visiting two clients last month, I decided to go to lunch, and then return to work. most of the people that work here, usually see two clients and go home, they don't return to the office. stupid me. well, the county says since I was heading to lunch when the accident occurred, I was not on county time, and their letter had a bullshit code for me to refer to. what's even worse, was that this county worker that sent me this letter was the one I spoke to after the accident. she asked me what happened and I told her, I was visiting clients and then was going to lunch, but my car was struck by another car into another car at a red light. the county worker told me she'd be in touch with me. and then I get this letter stating lunch is not county time. I guess we're expected to work, but not eat. this county worker already knew what she was going to do, send me this denial letter. why didn't she just tell me when I was on the phone with her that lunch is not county time. I'm telling you, these people are idiots, have no compassion, and oh' yes, there is a code they follow, but it's a stupid code. if one of the board of supervisors would have been hit, you think they would have received one of these letters, I think not. anyway I feel rich, because I'm ok, my car's not totalled, I can come home to my family, take my nephew to his soccer practice, and yes, I can go back to work and visit more clients. but next time, I just won't tell them I was heading to lunch, because eating is not part of the job.

9:36 AM  
Anonymous MOM C said...

I read the previous comments from tycoon and the others and I was amazed at the ludicrousness(?)of tycoon and the intelligence of the others. Your wonderful post this morning brought out the HUMAN condition which I think the other comments to tycoon were trying to bring out but unfortunately fell on deft ears. Your post was a brilliant poetic piece about what is truly important in life and I would like to have a hard copy to keep as my mantra on how life should be lived. I am very proud of you, your work, and how you choose to live your life.

10:54 AM  
Blogger j.b said...

we can learn as much from tycoon's comments as we can from Chris's post.

just as we can learn as much from Bush's presidency as we can from Abraham Lincoln's.

why is it that WE all know what the score is, yet those in charge just don't fucking get it?

and, Luis, you're a saint among savages. the ultimate question of "why?" will never be answered except with: "because we are human".

11:23 AM  
Blogger Partisanpoet said...

Great comment Chris, really gets to the heart of it. Money is a vile poison that corrupts the soul. It brings out and nourishes the vilest parts of our nature and it feeds on itself. Money as power, Mammon, the destroyer of worlds.

Of course we all struggle for enough to get by and are enslaved by it but, not our minds. Not our souls. More need to see it for what it is.

7:22 AM  
Blogger Democrat said...

Money is a vile poison that corrupts the soul.

Absolutely. Just look at the anti-Christ, I mean George Bush.


7:33 AM  

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