“No road is long with good company.”
We can learn a lot from animals. Take elephants, for example. The Italian educator Maria Montessori noted that when a baby elephant is brought by its mother into the herd, the adults slow their pace to accommodate that of the new arrival. “When the little one is tired and stops, all stop.” This seems a far cry from our modern human society, at least in the United States, where children are often hurried through their days and, in fact, through their childhoods. Three-year-olds rush off to their morning commute to preschool; seven- and eight-year-olds gulp down lunch so they can be on time for their next class; teenagers dash to and from extracurricular activities so they can beef up their résumés for college. Recently, actor Paul Newman, now 80 years old, was asked what he would want others to know about life. He answered that when the pace of life is so accelerated, “it’s very hard not to be dysfunctional. I think we have to slow things down somehow.”
Putting a somewhat different spin on the idea that individual dysfunction may be tied to broader social conditions, Dr. Peter C. Whybrow, author of American Mania: When More Is Not Enough, suggests that we have become addicted to a society in which the demand for economic growth is eroding the “intimate social bonds that are the hallmark of our humanity and the keys to health and personal happiness.” New York Times reviewer Irene Lacher summarized the central point of Whybrow’s book this way: “…in the age of globalization, Americans are addictively driven by the brain’s pleasure centers to live turbocharged lives in pursuit of status and possessions at the expense of the only things that can truly make us happy: relationships with other people.” The question arises: Amidst the mania of our economically-driven society and our seeming compulsion to perpetuate it, how do we restore meaningful relationships to our lives?
If we turn again to observing other animals, it’s worth noting that when animals are made to live in conditions unnatural to their species, they adopt aberrant behaviors. However, when they live in conditions more harmonious to their nature, they exhibit what appears to be much more evolved, intelligent, and emotionally complex behavior—and, importantly, an often astounding capacity for relationship.1
If this is true of other animals, might it be true of humans as well? And, if so, what changes might we want to make in ourselves, our families, and our communities to help bring out the best in all of us—remembering that, unlike other animals, we have unprecedented control of both our own internal choices and the external conditions we create?
This issue of More Than Money brings that question to the area of money and relationships. On the following pages people address such questions as How can focusing on values help resolve money conflicts in relationships? What allows a marriage between partners with very different financial asset levels to thrive? What can be learned from sibling struggles over finances when a parent develops Alzheimer’s disease? How does paying family members for chores affect the family unit? How can local business and real estate development be used to foster positive community relationships?
At More Than Money we can ask these kinds of questions because we have companions —good company—who will talk with us, think with us, and perhaps even act with us along the way. We are a network of good company, filled with people who want to create a society that makes it easier for all of us to be our natural best.
How do we create such a society? Relationship consultant Gay Hendricks has found that one of the keys to creating what we want—whether it is better relationships, personal change, or happier lives—is to commit to a process that will get us there.
The people on these pages are committed to a process. It’s a process of thinking together about the impact of money on their lives, of examining external conditions and internal beliefs and values—and understanding how the two interact, and of taking action to enhance their own and others’ lives. Whether their stories inspire you, trouble you, call you to action, or give you food for your own reflection, I think you’ll find these individuals to be authentic and sincere in their quest for a meaningful life that is about more than money. If no road is long with good company, then our road here is short indeed.
Editorial Policy: The views expressed in More Than Money magazine are not necessarily those of More Than Money. We encourage and support respectful dialogue among people of diverse viewpoints. In each issue, we provide a range of perspectives on a topic to stimulate reflection, conversation, and inspired action.
Pamela Gerloff, Ed.D., is the editor of More Than Money magazine. Her professional experience includes working as an editor for Highlights for Children magazine and as a consultant for organizational change through Cap Gemini/Ernst & Young. She is founder and president of Compelling Vision, a business that helps people find and live their dreams. She holds a doctorate in human development from Harvard University and may be reached at .
1 The Pig Who Sang to the Moon: The Emotional World of Farm Animals by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson (Random House, 2003)
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