It’s been a unique week this week, one where I’ve had the opportunity to put into action in my life the lessons of the week. An Acton guide, Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, reiterated the vision the Acton Institute promulgates: to view our lives as a heroic journey.
This is a point of view, an idea that we have to develop within ourselves, a paradigm from which to view our actions and to derive our motivation. They’ve modeled their book that we’ve been reading, the Hero’s Journey, along the line of this philosophy.
This week, I’ve had an opportunity to see some of my actions in this light, and it has helped me to persevere in work and take, if not pride, at least a sense of value and purpose in what I had to do.
Friends of mine went out of town for Thanksgiving and left their cat in my care. The cat was sick when they left, and when we checked on it one day, we found it dead. I called the owner and we discussed our course of action. I suggested he counsel with his wife, and they asked me to put the cat’s corpse on ice until they returned later in the week.
This was a morbid task, but I wrapped the cat’s body in plastic, placed it in a cooler, and covered it with ice. Every morning, I went over and checked to ensure there was still ice and that the corpse had not begun to putrefy.
Now, this was a morbid task, and I was struck by the ridiculousness of the effort. It’s not the kind of thing you expect to do over your Thanksgiving holiday and I felt bad about the whole affair. But as ridiculous as it sounds, after reading about the idea of a Hero’s Journey, I began to see this in a different light.
I began to see this as something of a heroic task. For this family, I was holding vigil for this cat, watching after its remains until the family could return. I compared my trivial effort to a story I have read many times, Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, and a vigil the main character holds when his employer dies, and I saw this as a similar effort. I saw the little trials that arose along the way as little challenges on my quest, and each little obstacle was part of a larger story of conflicts that I had to overcome.
The Hero on his journey doesn’t often recognize it as a heroic quest. The obstacles and inconveniences may be challenging, annoying, frustrating, or deadly. His aim may seem necessary, trivial, or common. It’s only when we step back and look at the whole that we recognize the thread that ties all of the struggles and accomplishments together into a heroic effort, and then we appreciate the meaning of the struggle.
The value of seeing our own daily efforts as part of a heroic journey is that we can see the meaning in our work today. And from that meaning we can derive courage to persevere and appreciation for the struggle itself. Little injustices and inconvenience become more than grievances; they become opportunities to show our determination to succeed and the honor of who we are. We see them as the building blocks of a grand quest, and we see the whole of our effort as a chance to make a difference in someone else’s life.
I’m grateful this Thanksgiving week to have had the opportunity to live a Hero’s Journey.
Comments on “Attitude on Money”
In addition to my normal post, this week I’m asked to address some questions related to the article Attitude on Money.
What is your attitude toward money?
I see money as a tool that provides power to accomplish tasks and satisfy my needs and wants in this world. Money is a form of capital; capital is an asset from which value accrues; value varies based on the person. There are other forms of capital, work being the most basic capital I possess, but money is the form that is most liquid. Today, I acquire money mostly by selling my labor, my effort over time. I feel keenly the loss of time in my life.
I want to be able to have sufficient money that I no longer need to labor to acquire more money, so that I can spend my time on things that matter more to me, such as service to others. Of course, I can serve others today, but I would like to be able to make it a primary focus of my days. I would like to have enough money, too, so that I can donate more to good causes and leave some money behind for my family when I am gone.
I see money as a tool that – if I can master it – can give me sufficient security and freedom to do all that I want to do to serve others in this life.
How can your view of money affect the way you live?
If you see money as an end goal, then your pursuit of it will never end and you will subject more important things to the cause of gaining more lucre. If you see money as a tool, a means to an end, then money will become the subject of that end, and you will place it in its proper priority.
For me, viewing money as a means to free up the time to serve helps me look for opportunities to serve today. It also means that I will look for opportunities to acquire money that do not require only my labor, such as entrepreneurship and investment.
What rules are recommended for prospering?
It’s unclear to me if this question refers to specific rules in the article, or more general rules. That said, here are the 6 rules the article recommends:
Rule 1. Seek the Lord and have hope in him
Rule 2. Keep the commandments, that includes the temporal ones, tithing, and fast offerings.
Rule 3. Think about money and plan how you can become self-reliant.
Rule 4. Take advantage of chances for learning so you will not be ignorant of these matters. Education, as President Hinckley has taught us, is the Key to Opportunity.
Rule 5. Learn the laws upon which the blessings of wealth are predicated.
Rule 6. Do not send away the naked, the hungry, the thirsty or the sick or those who are held captive.
The essential message here is that of Jacob 2:18-19: seek first the kingdom of God, and then you will find riches if you seek them because you will seek them for the right purpose.