Friday, December 15, 2006

My New Hero

A while back an acquaintance mentioned in passing that she regularly attends seminars and workshops designed to help people create wealth. Because I know this woman as a highly spiritual person -- not religious, but spiritual -- my knee-jerk reaction was to ask her, "Why would you want to create wealth?" That goal didn't square with what I knew of her. I didn't ask the question out loud. It probably would have sounded judgmental, but it wasn't. I was genuinely curious about why she would want to focus so much time, attention, and money on "creating wealth" -- a phrase that sounds so, I don't know, stark or chilling, in contrast to "making a living" or "earning money."

Over the following days I wondered if once again I'm the only one who thinks this way. And then yesterday I stumbled on a story on that warmed the very cockles of my heart and gave me reason to hope for the human race once again. "Craigslist Meets the Capitalists" reported that CEO Jim Buckmaster had a devil of a time explaining to a group of hardcore capitalists why Craigslist isn't all that interested in "monetizing" its company. One observer called it a "culture clash of near-epic proportions." I would think so. One analyst said of the meeting: "I think a lot of people are catching their breath right now." I'm one of them, but not because I don't get it. It's because I do get it -- and because now I have a new hero, or group of heroes, the people behind Craigslist.

Craigslist has the distinction of being one of the first websites I ever visited, way back in the mid 1990s. It posts job openings and apartment listings and the like in a number of metro areas. The site charges a modest fee for listings but refuses to accept advertising; it's more interested in serving its clientele than "maximizing profits."

I'm not against maximizing profits, or at least I don't think I am; I wouldn't mind maximizing a few of my own. That's not my point. And I'm not criticizing my acquaintance for wanting to create wealth. I just have this whole other way of looking at the relationship between life and money. My perspective is much closer to the Craigslist philosophy. Buckmaster told the group that maximizing profits simply was not a part of the company's goal; creating wealth is not one of my goals either.

If wealth happens, it happens, but neither Craigslist nor I will go chasing after it. A near-epic culture clash indeed.


Margaret Feinberg said...

great post!

KenWriter said...

Only writers and other artists who are more in love with their craft than a paycheck can grasp the wisdom of your words. When our daughter died suddenly in January of 2005, I realized that 10 wheelbarrows full of cash couldn't replace what we had just lost. Money can never hug you, encourage you, console you, ask you for help or enrich your life. Sure, it's nice to have the bills paid, but beyond that -- why is Bill Gates giving away his billions if the stuff is so darn valuable?

Valerie said...

Great post, Marcia. And I agree with kenwriter and would like to piggyback off his comments, please.

Money is needed to put clothing on our backs, food in our belly's, a roof over our head and unfortunately, to keep us moving day after day. Money does not ever equate to loving and being loved.

To use Tony Campolo's terminology, 'democratic capitalism' has destroyed the pure essence of who we are and who we were created to be. My belief includes love for humanity. In loving, we create safe, welcoming spaces in our souls for all people. Money is secondary to love. Money can enable us to survive and thrive and assist those less fortunate in doing the same. When we sell our souls out for money, we've lost who we are at our core and have given ourselves and all of humanity over to the gutters, once again

John Michael De Marco said...

Thank you, Marcia, for helping me not to feel so alone in my lack of desire (at least on most days) to keep up with the wealth chase. My two years at Morgan Stanley confirmed for me which passions are hard-wired within me, and which simply do not resonate with any authenticity for me.