Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Money taboos

Malcolm and Aidan were playing, and Malcolm kept pretending that he was going to eat the nickel he was holding. Aidan, partially out of brotherly concern, but mostly out of desire to push him around, took the nickel away and threw it in the trash.

Janet and I (who were trying to finish our supper) were scandalized. "NO! You don't throw money away!" Aidan, quite reasonably, asked, "Why?"

"Because . . . it's against the law," I respond, immediately realizing how lame that sounded. And I started thinking about it. After all, from his point of view, nickels are not highly valued, are plentiful and replaceable. And it's not like the world was going to end because a nickel went in the trash can.

But Malcolm still wanted his nickel. "I can't find it," Aidan says, and I find myself clawing through trash up to my elbows to find the damn nickel. And I'm thinking, "What a powerful compulsion . . . I don't rationally care about the value of this nickel, but something in my psyche is revulsed by the idea of money going in the trash."

I remembered that some charitable causes will actually include a nickel in their mail pieces, clearly visible through the address window. They figure (rightly) that most people will find it impossible to throw away the piece unopened with a nickel inside . . . and once they open the letter and take out the nickel, they will feel morally obliged to give something back to the charity.

How did this happen? What does it mean about our society (or, my psyche, at least) that currency is treated with a reverence normally reserved for holy objects?


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