So, for the last month, I’ve been writing a weekly guest post on Gail Vaz-Oxlade’s “Other Voices” personal finance blog. I’ve been enjoying the opportunity to write about a specific topic — as, obviously, the ones on here are a bit all-over-the-place. They’re similar inasmuch as I write pretty well the same style and similar topics, just focussed towards such financial life lessons as I’ve so far learned. I’ve been enjoying having people comment on those posts, too,
Today’s post over there was on virtue being a mean, following Aristotle. Nobody has commented on it so far (possibly because it is about virtue, following Aristotle!), but then again, not too many people comment on here, but that doesn’t mean no one’s reading. And people I know in person occasionally tell me that they’ve enjoyed one post more than another, or the similar, which means the world to me. It’s terrifying to write in public, even as intermittently as I have been doing, partly because of how fearful I am about being treated indifferently. Disinterest is a good thing in a judge, less so in other areas of life.
Anyhow, I’ve been thinking about personal finance. It’s one of those areas I’m probably a lot more willing to talk about than some, I suppose because it’s a fairly recent enthusiasm. I always used to feel ‘above’ such practical concerns — which, however, has completely the opposite effect. The philosophy I’ve studied anchors this, that we are not really free unless we know the laws that bind us, the ones we make and the ones that are made for us.
I keep thinking about the arts in this respect, how true freedom has to do with knowing the rules. This is the freedom of play, of art, of skillful athletes. The freedom of the figure skater who so intimately knows the rules of gravity she can jump and spin and dip; the sonnetteer who knows metre and rhyme so that his thought, his poetic impulse, shapes itself to its medium; the painter who knows how the eye sees and the hand draws, how colours layer and shapes resonate
Why does this come to finance? Because its rules are the rules of my engagement in society. If I know where my money comes from and where it goes, if I know the ebb and flow of my spending and saving habits, if I know where I am looking and where I always forget to look, then I can start to play more skillfully within those bounds. I don’t have to be bound or oppressed by it; I can be free within the limits I have. I can decide what is worth the sacrifice of time and what worth the sacrifice of money. It is one of the instruments of living, whose peculiar abilities and drawbacks need to be learned, like the paintbrush or the pen.