Money – What’s It Worth To You?-Part 2

In the 1948 classic film, THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE, about gold and greed and what it does to men, directed by John Huston and starring Humphrey Bogart and the director’s father Walter Huston, this question is asked: Why is gold worth whatever it is an ounce?

Howard, played by Walter Huston, explains: “A thousand men, say, go searching for gold. After six months, one of ’em is lucky – one out of the thousand. His find represents not only his own labor but that of nine hundred and ninety-nine others to boot. That’s uh, six thousand months or five hundred years scrabbling over mountains, going hungry and thirsty. An ounce of gold, mister, is worth what it is because of the human labor that went into the finding and the getting of it. . . . Gold itself ain’t good for nothin’ except makin’ jewelry with and gold teeth.”

Gold is “good for nothin’ ” but Gold in those days WAS money. All paper currency used to be backed by a precious metal, usually gold or silver, and was printed only under the conditions that the metal be on hand physically in a vault somewhere in the country. The currency had printed on it GOLD or SILVER CERTIFICATE and was able to be exchanged for the equivalent amount of metal at any bank. This lasted until President Roosevelt closed the “gold window”. Much later President Nixon took the dollar off the gold standard. It’s open to debate which was the bigger crime.

But I don’t mean to dwell on the economics or the politics of the situation. I wish to remain on the symbology and metaphysics of money, using this bit of film dialogue to illustrate this point:

Gold has been money for thousands of years and its value has always been determined by its scarcity which translates into the amount of human energy (labor) expended into its discovery, recovery and the physical work done to or on it.

Money is a symbol for human work-energy-life. It doesn’t take much of a stretch to understand that one’s attitude towards life in general is pretty equivalent to one’s attitude towards money. And vice versa.

More next time.

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