Knowing how to do something is not the same as understanding it; expanding know-how, our power to control, exponentially, without any concomitant advance in wisdom, is dangerous.
The phrase ‘way of being in the world’ may seem a bit mannered, but I can’t think of a good substitute. It isn’t just about thinking differently, or feeling differently, or behaving differently, though each of those is an important part (and each is bound up with the others). It involves a difference in the type of attention paid to the world. It is about having a whole different take on the world, a different disposition towards the world, in which certain features stand forward and others inevitably recede.
Many readers who share my deep alarm at the world we are creating asked the obvious question: ‘So, what’s the solution?’ Some may have hoped for a five-point plan, but of course there isn’t one. We need to address the problem at a much more fundamental level. We need to look at the roots of the malaise. We need to do nothing less than reconceive our world, our reality in a way that, far from subordinating the right hemisphere, acknowledges that it alone has access to the world beyond us, ‘out there’. We need to learn again to look, to see. That’s to say, we need to redirect our attention to what-out-there-is-not-us in a way that rebalances the contributions of the two hemispheres so as to bring a world into being that is truer, richer and within which we can live less harmfully, more peacefully and with much greater fulfilment.
The journey towards financial enlightenment begins with philosophy. You can sort your finances ‘perfectly’, but without getting your philosophy sorted first, you may be less f-cked up, but you’ll be far from flourishing.
Fertilising our neural soil with philosophy allows us to nurture an all-weather wisdom that transforms how we think, feel, and act with money, that strengthens us from the inside out, and that makes the right call the effortless one, forever more.
This is wisdom in the sense described by historian Will Durant: ‘an application of experience to present problems, a view of the part in the light of the whole, a perspective of the moment in the vista of years past and years to come.’
A philosophic outlook is the very foundation of thought and of life. The sort of ideas we attend to, and the sort of ideas which we push into the negligible background, govern our hopes, our fears, out control of our behaviour. As we think, we live.
Philosophy is not, then, purely a matter of impersonal reason, but living: bound up in the temperament, character and history of the person who expounds it.
The trouble with philosophy for a lot of people is that despite its highly practical aims, there exists a chasm between abstract thought and its real-life expression. Some people’s minds are fluid enough to think themselves into better living with an obsessive openness to experience and a few rounds of reflecting on the helpfulness or otherwise of an action. Others… can’t. Money is the best bridge across the chasm.
Western philosophy speaks of the importance of living an examined life. What better way to do this than with the unequivocal accounting record of your life choices that your credit-card statements provide? Eastern philosophy centres on a meditative process of overcoming self-deception. As we’ll see on just about every page of this book, nothing keeps the fires of our self-deceptions burning like money.