06 April 2011

Money: Pagans, Careers & Finances (Part 1)

Money remains a taboo subject of discussion in our culture. Most of us would rather discuss politics, religion or even sex than reveal our thoughts and personal practices around our finances. Good or bad, our finances are tightly bound up with our identities and feelings of worth - to expose our financial affairs is to open ourselves to scrutiny: our habits, our vices, our weaknesses and strengths, our status. Although they are separate issues, our self-esteem and our net worth seem to be inextricably linked.

In the first few weeks of business school, as all of us eager and idealistic students got to know each other, it was clear that many of us had altruistic aims. Many of my colleagues worked for non-profit organizations and were hoping to not only further their careers with an MBA, they hoped to promote the ideals of their organizations.

My first professor noted our general liberality and idealism with an indulgent smile. He told us all that we should be aware that as our careers progressed, and the more money and assets we collected, our views would likely become more conservative. It struck me as grim and cynical, but I suppose most people can afford to be idealistic and liberal when they don't have much to lose.

When I look around the Pagan community, I notice that many of us don't seem to be interested in the traditionally lucrative career paths, favoring instead the humanities and arts. Although we seem to be lifelong learners, few of us are able to transfer these skills into money-making opportunities. When I read the results of the first Pagan census, I noticed that the computer sciences were among the most popular career choices, followed closely by nursing and social work. There were very few attorneys and accountants and no physicians.

Perhaps, as my professor suggested, we Pagans are afraid that affluence will cost us our ideals and maybe even our values. We seem to be both suspicious and envious of those who prosper. We possibly assume that the prosperous among us are less devout, less connected to the community or have maybe even sacrificed spiritual attainment on the altar of financial security. Do we fear the loss of leisure time to a demanding career? Or maybe the increased scrutiny of outsiders correlated to enhanced job titles and salaries?

I'd love to hear from my Pagan readers - have you foregone a promotion or a more lucrative career track in favor of your spirituality? How would you characterize your relationship to money? Do you feel you have enough? or can you barely make ends meet?

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