To think about money, we think in money
Understanding what Money does to our Thinking
Money as a way of thinking? – What is that? In brief, it is the key to understanding what money does to us – and what it does to the world. Money has had its crises – yes, disasters – that drive entire countries into misery. And even in the most crisis-proof countries, let’s be frank, it still causes a lot of problems. But these crises come down to cold calculations, to the quantifiable, to amounts and vast sums, to pluses and minuses. They relate, so it seems, to objectively measurable things – not to thinking or something like a way of thinking, whatever that might mean. But the fact that we expose ourselves at all to such calculable disasters, or are exposed to them, certainly has something to do with how money forms our thinking. That’s why we talk here, under the broad title “Money as a way of thinking.”
We think about money – and thus, instinctively, we’re thinking in terms of money, in ways that money decrees to us, yes, even demands of us. And this mode, this way of thinking, reaches into our innermost being, far deeper than we might expect. It reaches – to put it bluntly – as far our thinking extends. And that, as we know, is very far indeed.
Money preoccupies our Thinking
Let’s make it clear at the beginning just what a mode of thinking is – as something that money imposes, in a way, whereby money itself shapes how we think about it. Money and thinking – Of course, it’s clear. It goes without saying: Money occupies our thoughts, we think a lot about it, and we have to think a lot about money. After all, we live from our money. We all need money to live and we have to think about it a lot, our whole life long.
Now, when we think about something that only means that we’ve turned this thing, this something, into the object of our thoughts. To recognize money as a way of thinking we have to take a different approach: not just that we think about money but that our thinking is formed in terms of money itself. And with money the one way of thinking is already the other: thinking about is thinking in money.
Money forms our Thinking
Let’s be very clear what a remarkable thing money is, unlike anything else. Let’s consider how it is, for example, if we don’t think about money, but rather about something else, a piece of cake, a dog, grandma? We see them before our eyes. We imagine that cake, dog or grandmother somehow standing before us. That is not the case with money. When we say someone is thinking about money, it usually doesn’t mean that his mind is full of images of handsome bank notes or such. Naturally, that could be the case. But when we say, even more emphatically, “He always thinks only about money,” then we obviously mean he only thinks in terms of the money he might gain or might have to pay. Normally this observation is stated in a moralizing tone: Anyone who’s always thinking about money smiles at us falsely because he thinks we’re potential clients. He looks after his mother and asks himself who’s paying for his time. He avoids getting involved in anything that he knows will not pay. He thinks about money – not in the sense that makes it an object, not that he reflects on money (as we’re doing right now), but in a way that orients his thoughts, and then actually forms his thoughts. Thinking about money in this way means aligning everything in our lives to fit with our interests, namely with the fact that we have to have money. Let’s state plainly what these interests are: to gain as much money as possible or to give out as little as possible. With this way of thinking we regard everything we deal with in our lives in terms of what it brings us or what it costs. That’s what we mean when we say we’re thinking about money – it is inevitably thinking in money, in the form of money.
In the form also means when we think in this fashion it must no longer refer to a specific amount of money. Because if we are thinking about something in terms of what we might gain or what it might yield, then we do not have to think literally of money, of a specific sum won or lost. Rather – accustomed as we are to thinking about money in this form – we think generally in the connection that something could yield us something. Thinking about money means thinking in this mode. It is not quantifiable, not a sum, no plus or minus; it is a way of thinking “money.” So we see that in our thoughts money doesn’t simulate an object; rather it sets out something like guidelines and in this way money plainly forms our thoughts.
So much for the beginning. There’s a lot more to discover about at this way of thinking.