Inspired by Michelle Johnson-Brown, From the Cigar Lounge Wisdom series
It was a mid-July evening and, as I have for many an evening, I sat at the local cigar bar and enjoyed the company of some friends. One young lady and I had previously enjoyed a contemplative conversation about the human spirit and everything that goes on with it. Last night we had a very brief but impactful conversation about what is of true value. Of course, “money” (I’ll explain the quotes in a minute) came up and, as a side effect of that, time.
The observation was made that currency only has the value assigned to it, not any intrinsic value, and we use it simply as a tool of barter. The term “money” can be applied to ANY tool we choose to assign value to and use as a barter item to receive the consumables we want or need. In today’s world paper and coin currency are used in every nation. Here in America, the paper dollars and all coins that represent fractions of the dollar, have the value assigned by the Treasury. How strong that dollar is – in other words, what it’s really worth – is determined by the world markets and the currency of nations is compared to that of other nations and an exchange rate is determined.
Naturally, when discussing “real value” of currency, someone will inevitably mention how American currency used to have real value back when we were on the gold standard. The gold standard (very basically) was used to determine how much each dollar was worth in the equivalent weight of gold. The United States could only print so much paper money because every dollar had to be backed by its equal value in gold. The U.S. abandoned the gold standard in 1971 and ever since then, when you think about it, the currency we use only has any value because we take it from each other in exchange for goods or services. We have no other tool available for such exchanges unless we are truly bartering OUR goods or services for the goods and services of another.
Then, of course, someone will say that’s why it’s a good idea to actually buy or collect gold and silver because they are hold intrinsic value. Um… why? When you think about it, gold and silver only hold value because we choose to assign value to them; like diamonds, gems, rubies, pearls… whatever. If I choose to live off the grid and have zero use for any of those items, then why would they be of any value? Food, water, ammo, a knife, rope, axe… those would be things of real value. I would need them day to day to stay alive. Five pounds of gold or silver? The only value that would hold would be whatever I could sell it for to buy the things I need and even then it’s only worth what someone will give me for it.
Agreeing on that, what then has real value? Someone said, “Time is money,” and implied that time has true value. Does it? Certainly the moments we live can never be replaced and we shouldn’t waste the time we’re allotted in this existence, but does time have material value? Only insomuch that we assign it a dollar value. “Time is money” is a statement / theory that means we can be making or losing money (currency) based on how the time spent is constructively used or wasted. For the sake of our discussion, it was pointed out that one of the employees working cost the business money and that money was wasted UNLESS the employee produced a value in service or sales that was more than what the employee cost the business. That’s a basic business reality that many don’t think about. But outside of the business realm and the cost of time for employees or services, what is the value of time?
Someone once said that time is a fiction. The past is a memory; it no longer exists. The future is an imagination; it doesn’t exist yet. Only the moment we’re in is REAL and time, therefore, measures only memories and imaginations. Is that true? To some extent it is, yes. Time – a creation of man – is a tool used to measure the passing of Earth’s rotations and orbits around the Sun as we experience them. So time, as we commonly talk about it only has material value as we assign it.
Now, having reduced the value of currency to whatever is arbitrarily assigned by the governments that print/mint it, and time to some value related to that measure of currency value, the question is begged again: what is of true value? What holds value for you moment to moment, day to day, week to week and so on?
I submit to you that experience and the wisdom you gain by it is the only thing of true value that you can carry with you. We certainly value our loved ones. We appreciate our material possessions. Some of us actually like and enjoy our professions. But in the end, when you’re put in your casket and lowered into the ground, what will you take with you? Not a damned thing. Not a single one of us can take material possessions into the next realm. In fact, even our spirit – which is as unique and precious as each of us is – is generally believed to leave our corporeal being upon death, so we don’t take that with us into the grave either.
It begs the question: What in your life holds true value? Again, I submit to you that life’s experience – good, bad, fantastic, ugly, whatever, ALL OF IT – life’s experience is the only thing of value that can’t be taken from you. That said, it’s also one of the greatest things you can give away. It costs you nothing; you don’t lose it in the giving; and you may increase its value depending on how the person you give it to uses it. What am I talking about?
Using myself as the example, as I type this, I’ve lived just over 54 years. I’ve had my share of life’s experiences, good decisions, bad decisions, good jobs, bad jobs, good relationships, bad relationships… you get the idea. I’ve lived a life and tried to learn from the bad things to help me improve the good things. That knowledge combined with the experience is generally called wisdom. While wisdom is of value to us, we can increase its value by sharing it. If wisdom is shared with another and they grow it and improve upon it, then it increases in its value. If wisdom is shared with another and they do absolutely nothing with it, the wisdom you hold has not decreased in value in any way.
Throughout the annals of time, man has valued a wide variety of items and used them as currency: copper, silver, gold, shells, beads, bone, skin and so many more. Today we largely use paper and mixed metals. For the sake of convenience, most of us use electronic data that represent the paper and mixed metals and we don’t even think about it. At the end of any given day your material value may have increased or decreased but the true measure of the value of that day is whether or not you’ve grown in wisdom based on the experience(s) you had and, further, whether or not you’ve shared that wisdom with anyone else.