Monthly Archives: August 2013

Money and the Meaning of Life – Jacob Needleman


“God gently reassures him [Man] that the deepest contradictions of human life are not to be solved but to be lived in full consciousness of their contradictoriness.”

— Jacob Needleman writing in “Money and the Meaning of Life” (226) quoting Isma’il Al-Faruqi, “On the Ethics of the Brethren of Purity” – Muslim World, July, 1960

Needleman continues “What is most necessary for man and what is given to him in abundance are experiences, especially experiences of the forces within him. This is his most essential food, his most essential wealth. If man consciously receives all of this abundance, the universe will pour into him what is called life in Judaism, spirit in Christianity, light in Islam, power in Taoism.”

To me, the key word here is “consciously” — to “consciously receive” does not mean to hungrily seek and acquire (or to visualize material wealth) — but rather to accept what IS with gratitude and awe. In Needleman’s terms this is the true meaning of conscience, to maintain attention in both the outer and inner worlds—in deference to the struggle between them.

This level of consciousness may serve to reconcile the contradictions — but Life is to be trusted, certainly beyond the intellect and what Life offers is beyond the judgment of the human mind—and if one looks at the heavens at night—beyond its capacity to comprehend.

Needleman: “I would say that one needs money to live and survive in the outer world, to fulfill one’s obligations to the community and to nature, but that above and beyond this, the role of money is to serve as the instrument for getting understanding. We come to the bottom of civilization if instead of understanding we are going after ‘information.’ Information is the plastic version of understanding. Just as bank cards stand to gold, as easy and deadly credit stands to honest need, obligation and giving…”

Money and the Meaning of Life (excerpt)

An Awakened Moment

When I opened my eyes from meditation this morning my cat Eva was sitting silently by my left foot.

As I looked down at her in wonder I realized that in her stillness she was in perfect harmony with the natural world, her ears attentively taking in frequencies I could only imagine, and in her own way probably meditating as well. In that space she was also attuned to Life itself and I was grateful for how she had shown me to accept what is instead of what I thought should be – and the wisdom that I had accumulated in the three years we’ve been together…

And then she yawned – and I realized that once again my mind had tricked me into believing a bunch of crap.

I laughed out loud, and in that moment, I was free.