CURRENTS

THE END OF MONEY

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Are you one of the many millions of Americans who are having trouble sleeping, waking up exhausted, and thinking of nothing but MONEY from the first minute of consciousness to the last one before you fall into unconsciousness?

Well, I think I'm one of them. I never wanted to be this way. I never expected it.

I worked really hard, all of my life. I made 69 CDs and LPs in my 61 years. I've practiced daily. I've performed in the best venues all over the world: The Kennedy Center, The Royal Exchange, The Holleywell Music Room (where Mozart played), The Opera House in Tokyo, and a lot of really cool concerts and even some great "club venues" like the Triple Door and Yoshi's and Jazz Alley and Blues Alley.

I never thought money would be a problem for me.

Now I realize that, if I don't become a millionaire soon, I could wind up with no piano and no roof, living in a tent city.

And I talk to people, like the owner of a once-thriving business, or a retired airline pilot, or a serious and dedicated school teacher... all people who have played by the rules... and they say the same thing. "If I don't figure out a way to get at LEAST a paltry million bucks together soon, I have no idea how I'll survive."

There's a certain relief in confession, particularly when one is in the company of so many similarly "well-positioned" people, with tons of professional and real life experience. These are people that have given to their communities and contributed to their culture. Millions of people just like you and I.

A friend told me the other day that she had been trained to think of money, nothing but money, for every minute of her life. (She refused to bend to the training, and became a bright and shining human being, and my best friend.) And her story reminded me of this:

I was in second grade, and wow could I play the piano, even as a youngster. And I'd play themes from TV shows and comedies, and I'd play the themes from The Three Stooges, and Laurel and Hardy, and Howdy Doody, and Looney Tunes and Tom and Jerry and Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse and the Mouseketeers.

I was failed in music because the teacher was envious of my ability to hear something once and play it, and also because I was never quiet or shy about it. And she didn't like how I looked at her. She was in competition with a seven year old!

I'd pull that blond piano away from the wall and pop it open and start playing, and all the kids in the hallway would dance and sing!

One day, the plague educators put locks on all of the pianos. I assumed that this was just for me.

They stole my joy at school and they stole my friends' joy. The teacher (her name was Mrs Dunwoody, a shrunken, dried prune of a woman) sneered at me with an evil little grin as I tried to pry off the locks with my little girl fingers.

She was a Succubus.

When I was in 7th grade, I wanted to join the school band. Mr Schlee took me aside and told me that I could play in the band, but not the piano. He said I was too good.

But he was a good and gentle man, and suggested I play string bass. So he gave me one to take home, a plywood Kay with real gut strings and a crack in the neck. We had the boys in wood shop put glue in the crack and clamp it for a few days. When it healed, it had a big, deep, beautifully rich tone. I learned to play along with Miles and Coltrane records. I studied the Bob Haggart book and the F. Simandl book. I learned half-position and first position and developed my own fingering system and held that school band up all by myself.

When the year ended, I asked Mr Schlee when I should return the bass I had at home, and he simply said "what bass?" while giving me a loving, conspiratorial smile.

Mr Schlee!

That was my kind of people, my kind of world, where money meant nothing. Talent and spirit and exuberance meant everything. And all through my life, I avoided materialists and materialism and the worship of the dollar. But the point is, many of them tried to STOP me. Why? And who is "them"?

They were and are the "little men", the educators who had had their own true talents stripped from them as children. For the girls: "Play music? You'll starve. Get married!" And for the boys: "Play music? You'll starve. Get a JOB!"

Well, here we sit, with billions and trillions and quadrillions of pieces of paper, simple paper, making priceless human lives continue or end or expand or contract, determining futures of whole nations, and killing millions of those "not like us."

We are totally enslaved by MONEY. Even the richest among us are slaves. Many have bathrooms that cost what a small office building might cost. They never drive but are always driven. They never fly but are flown, in multi-million dollar jets of their own. They flaunt their wealth, via the media, to the "unwashed masses" (Bob Dole's assessment of us, the commoners) and they star in TV series with names like "Wanna be a Billionaire?"

I see a man whose hairstyle looks like a gravity-defying surrealist nightmare, with petulant lips that are genetically mutated by some mysterious process of evolution to say several words only: "you're fired." And "buy real estate!"

Then there is a very fat, unpleasant, egocentric radio talk-show host who is paid 400 million dollars a year to bellow "I am NOT a racist" while playing a song called "Barack the Magic N----" to millions of listeners. And I am horrified, mortified, and ashamed.

Meanwhile, I read the New York Times online and see a slide show about Darfur. A mother holds her 11 year old son, who looks about 5, and he's dying of diarrhea and dehydration, because there is no water, because the UN Peacekeepers were forced to leave the country by the blood-thirsty militia (which was propped up and armed by a multi-billion dollar black-ops deal sponsored by the CIA) because we have geopolitical interests in that region, because we are filled with greed, because we are bereft of our humanity and unable to cry or feel the pain and death of our brothers and sisters, because we were stripped of our spiritual identities as children, because children crippled by greed and fearful of TRUTH are easy to control if and when they become adults.

I propose, here and now, the END OF MONEY.

We don't need it anymore.

There's more than enough food and clothing and shelter for every single one of us 6 billion brothers and sisters. I propose that we encourage our children to dream and play music and make art and learn to dance, learn to be children again.

I suggest that us adults become children again, too. A healthy child will cry if he or she sees an innocent animal being hurt. So will a healthy adult. It's time for REAL change. It's time for the end of this evil and ubiquitous cancer that keeps us in emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and physical chains: MONEY.

I have no remedy. I have no replacements for money except love, truth, generosity, and charity. I have no answers that Kramer or Kudlow will accept. I only have a faith. I know money doesn't work, except for those who are swimming in it.

Imagine swimming in love.

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