(Excerpted from the book How to Survive Your Childhood Now That You’re an Adult: A Path to Authenticity and Awakening)
Shortly after America was attacked on 9/11, President George W. Bush told Americans to “go shopping.” I study consciousness and so I have looked at the way money and banking affect how we think and what we think about. In “Money Changes Everything: How Finance Made Civilization Possible,” William N. Goetzmann writes, “Finance has increasingly made us creatures of time.”
The past no longer exists and the future does not yet exist, so how is it that our attention is so frequently directed at potential future scenarios that may or may not arise into existence? What does it say about our beliefs about the future when the average individual credit card debt is $4,078 according to www.TheBalance.com? What does it say about us that the national average for a mortgage is $222,261, according to www.LendingTree.com? Are there many other societies where people can walk into a bank and walk out a few hours later owing $222,261 to be paid over the next thirty years? In a lecture I attended, Ken Dychtwald stated that the vast majority of human beings who existed on planet Earth never lived to be forty years old; so what is in the minds of the 11–26 million Americans who apply for thirty-year mortgages every year?
Currently, our government has borrowed $19.8 trillion, and we are the beneficiaries of this debt as distributed to us via banks in the form of mortgages, credit cards, and student loans. What if, 250 years ago, someone knocked on our doors and said, “We think it would be good for our community to build schools, hospitals, roads, libraries, a police force, a fire brigade, and an army. . . and the total bill comes to $10,000. Your share will be $333 a year in taxes. How does that sound?” Most of us would be in favor of what we consider to be indicators of civilization — schools, hospitals, libraries, roads, police, and so on.
So why has our government had to borrow $19.8 trillion to pay for what we consider to be basic amenities???
Most Americans agree that assuming some debt to buy a home or car or pay for college is not terrible. Debt — or betting that the future will be more abundant than the present — has been as profitable to our country as slavery and war have been. Banking as a métier has been ridiculously prosperous for so many of my University of Pennsylvania classmates. In terms of consciousness, we think in terms of “investments,” and investments are like trees that take time to bloom and bear fruit. If Americans thought only about the present, and were able to pay attention to the present moment, then there would be no need for what Time magazine called the “Mindful Revolution.” Alas, we apparently spend such a great portion of our mental lives cogitating over and rehearsing imagined future situations that we actually need a billion-dollar mindfulness industry to teach us how to be present, to help us relearn how to be here now.