Karmic Economics

A small fortune

Fortune_cookieI got an email callout today from a filmmaker friend, asking if anyone could help him pay down some credit-card debt. The bastards had let him exceed his credit limit, and then without warning had simply upped his interest rate and added a hefty monthly surcharge to his bill.

My friend declared that he would much rather pay the interest to a friend than to those bloodsuckers. He is confident that he will be able to repay the full amount, with interest, within a few months. Could anyone lend him $1,000 for a few months?

I know this person to be of  highest integrity and intelligence. He has helped me in the past and  I have helped him. I am able. And so, I immediately sent the money over to him; grateful to be able to help him with his projects, and happy to see my money go to help a friend rather than to fatten a planet-raping multinational. I have enough, I have friends, and I have faith. I will not starve. And I credit my friend for having the courage to ask for what he needs, and for offering me the karmic opportunity to help. No doubt he will receive as generously as he gives, and so the energetic cycle will continue.

I want to write about how it is that I have this money to re-cycle. For those of you who think I am some kind of entrepreneur or trust-fund baby, I assure you that is not true. My family was the middlest of middle-class, and it has been a long time since I grossed over $15,000 in a year. My savings are tiny, and I don’t even try to manage my money. The reason I  live so well for so little is because my needs are modest, and seem to be on a steady downward slope. But I did make one significant financial decision in my life. Here’s the story.

One sunny spring day in 2001 I was riding my bike along Point Grey Road, and  a minivan drove into me. I bounced off the hood as my bike was dragged under the van. My bike needed a new front wheel and fork, and my right knee was pretty messed up.

The driver of the van, a young Korean woman, was in Canada on a student visa. She had a learner’s permit and was out on a practice drive with a friend. When I arrived home from the hospital and hopped out of the cab in a leg brace the two women were waiting for me at my apartment, with flowers and cake. I accepted the gifts and talked on the phone a couple of days later with the driver’s companion, who said her friend was unable to sleep and had been crying constantly. I felt terrible for them, but the fact is, cars are dangerous things. The woman had accidentally hit the gas instead of the brake, and now, I had a year of physio ahead of me, and a potentially permanent injury.

I called David Hay, a lawyer friend who specializes in bicycle injuries. The case with ICBC dragged on for about three years. It was  weird and conflicting. At the end of it all David handed me a cheque for $25,000. Out of my misfortune came a very small fortune.

This is when I did the really smart thing. I’m no financial genius but I knew that if I put the cheque in my savings account I would whittle it away day by day, and soon enough, it would be gone. So I took $5,000 and used it to pay off my credit card and other minor debts, and I put the remaining $20,000 in a Guaranteed Investment Certificate. The account gathered modest interest, but more importantly, it required that I make some effort to access it. I mean, it certainly wasn’t inaccessible or locked down—but in order to free up any of the money I had to physically walk into a bank and talk to someone. That was enough. Then I played a clever mind-trick on myself, by forgetting that the money even existed.

Of course, I knew the money was there, but it was sacred. It was my Deep Pocket, only to be used for VERY SPECIAL things. Of which there were few. I have never made much income (at the very peak of my business I probably grossed $25,000), but with no debt to service, no mortgage, no dependents, and no car expenses to suck my earnings, I got used to living well for very little. So, for many years, I had no need to crack into my small fortune.

However, even though I wasn’t using the money, it had a real effect. Once in a while I’d take a notion to do something a little wild – like go travelling, or turn down paying work so I could start the Commercial Drive Festival or some other crazy project, or go off to Arcosanti in Arizona for a few months, or whatever. If I charged up my credit card, I would pay it all off as soon as I could, even if I wasn’t sure there would still be enough to cover my rent. A bit of financial anxiety might arise—what if I can’t afford to do this? And then, I would remember the Deep Pocket, and it would be like a magical charm. I’d recall that money, and then I’d go ahead and take the risk—which always, always, was worth it. And then I would make myself forget about the money again. It strikes me as funny and magical,  because even if it turned out that that money had never existed, it wouldn’t have mattered. What mattered was the trick of convincing myself that I was safe, that I was covered and would be OK. Every time, I would find my faith, and move forward.  And it turned out, again and again, that I didn’t actually need the money.

Finally, however, I did reach into the pocket. My friend Robin desperately needed $3000 to finish a project on her farm, and it was a no-brainer—I marched into the VanCity and freed up the cash to give to Robin. She finished the project—a tiny guest cabin—which she named ‘Carmen House’. Years later, when she was diagnosed with terminal cancer, she paid me back the money. A couple of years after that I extracted a couple of thousand to lend to a friend to finish a video documentary series, which was proved to be successful, and one day he walked up to me at a party and handed me a cheque for the full amount. I used a couple thousand dollars to get some major dental work done, and withdrew a thousand for a new bike. I took out $4,000 last year, when the opportunity came to buy my lovely bus. I always know immediately when something is Really Special, and then, the money iss there for me to use. And when it comes back to me, back it goes, into the account.

Now, fifteen years after the original bikefall/windfall, I still have $10,000 in the bank—half of my original small fortune. It is there in my Deep Pocket, waiting patiently for the next Something Special. For some people that would be a massive amount of money, and for others, it is next to nothing. How many dollars it is, is really irrelevant. I know that if I continue to practice owning little and owing nothing, then I will be rich beyond numbers or words. I can continue to use the powerful energy of money to serve the highest good. I will do this until the pocket is empty. And then I will imagine myself a new one.


<<other posts I have written about Karmic Economics:>>
Privilege and power
How i got rich
Lend it spend it give it away
Your parents will die they will leave you some money


2 Comments on “A small fortune

  1. That was literally a very rewarding story. Wealth can come from some strange places. A couple of years ago I was chatting to a visitor from the US , and I casually remarked that I had lived in his country.” How long were you there, and did you work” he asked. Eight years and I worked mucho, I replied. So have you claimed social security , he asked. As I hadn’t thought about that, I called the Embassy the next day. They took details, and a few weeks later a letter arrived from Baltimore stating that I was entitled to a modest pension , that would be back dated nine years!! Now as it happened my mortgage was due and with our piddling interest rates my savings were well short. So problem solved, and my two fledgling boys even though they are now men still need the occasional tit bit. So the moral of my story is don’t knock Uncle Sam to much as sometimes the cavalry come to the rescue.

  2. Dear Carmen –

    I have been rewarded by your post. Thank you! I found your site from a investment blog written by Darrow Kirkpatrick. I have so much to learn and truly have been blessed by reading your humble essay. Nicely done!


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