What would it take for money to be beautiful?

It’s strange how random thoughts sometimes stay with you.

Perhaps it was the beautiful September day, or the enthusiasm of the people on the stalls, or the colour. We went to the only garden exhibition we’ve been able to this year, and the explosion of colours, smells, and enthusiasm for craft and beauty in the shadow of the Malvern Hills just made me smile.

Back to the random thought.

What would it take for money to be beautiful?

We used to repay debts in kind, a reflection of gratitude for the favour bestowed. You help me with my Barn, I’ll plough your field. You paint my house, I’ll make you a table. It was local, personal, memorable and founded in gratitude, recognition and relationship.

Somewhere along the way, it’s become grey, anonymous and sterile. It doesn’t reflect in any way what has been done to earn it. I use the same money to pay a gas bill as I do to my child’s surgeon.

The consequences of an accident, or worse, negligence, are recognised and paid in money. (In Roman Times, bridge builders had to live under the bridges they built. Gives a different perspective on ISO)

We determine whether or not a loved one gets life saving treatment based on QUALYS – Quality Adjusted Life Years. Value for money. That’s just about the most repulsive acronym I can think of.

Obscene fortunes are made trading one currency for another based on the short term prospects of their economy. No mention of what may be determiniing those prospects. Natural disasters reduced to data points.

An artists obsession with beauty traded for money after her death, with death normally increasing the value.

What if we said you could only hold the currency of the country you live in? That your wealth is directly linked to how well your country is doing? That only national exchequers could benefit from currency trading? That shares you buy have to be held for a year? Or that trading in money for other money carried a punitive tax rate?

What if money stored and not used to do something generative automatically reduced in value, and that money used to do something that improved somebody’s life chances increased in value?

That money derived from mining natural resources, or polluting the atmosphere, was a different colour to money earned from feeding refugees?

What if we asked the question of every transaction “how will this make things more beautiful”?

What would our wallets look like? What would the wallets of corporate executives look like compared to a nurse’s?

We have made money anoymous, grey and ugly, with the personality of a zombie.

I’d quite like it to be colourful, beautiful and attractive.

As I said, random thought.


Agency is one of those interesting words that seem to have polarities of accepted meaning. At one end, the association with external agency- estate agencies, advertising agencies, government agencies.

At the other end, our personal agency. How we interact with the world, what we take responsibility for.

I think it’s about locus of control. Those we authorise to exercise power on our behalf, or over us implies an external locus. Not down to us, down to them. We always have an “out”. Not our fault.

Internal locus of control is very different. It’s down to us. There is no “out” or place to allocate blame. We have no choice but to show up.

Right now, with everything that’s happening from coronavirus to climate, and the consequences, we have no choice to have agency. We are enough, and besides, no one is coming to rescue us. It’s down to us.

All around us, there are good things being done by people who care. They need our help.

On our own is difficult; with a few others, less so.

Agency is a choice.

Reflections 13th September

Cloister corridor of Santes Creus Monastery,Tarragona,Catalonia,Spain.

What I’ve noticed.

That I’m finding myself quietly optimistic. If that sounds irrational, it’s not because I think all will suddenly be sweetness and light, it’s because what is happening is forcing us to pay attention whilst we can still do something about it.

Coronavirus is going to be with us for some time, and we have to learn how to adapt. As we do, we’re discovering how to work differently, to consume and travel less frivolously, and to value our communities and relationships. That’s a reason to be cheerful.

I think we’re at the end of the “bluster and bully” phase of our exit from the EU. We can’t go backwards, and no matter how deeply flawed, and perhaps politically engineered the decision was too much water has gone under the bridge, and we now have to make sense of who we want to be, what we want to do to, who to follow. We have enormous resources, and need to learn to use them wisely rather than just selling them cheap for short term gain. Time for some overdue self respect.

I suspect we are at the end of a phase of the phase where our politicians think they can some somehow manage their way out of a lack of vision and leadership. A vacuum has been created, and we need to pay very careful attention as to what, and who we allow to fill it. Whilst pandering to manufactured fear is easy, and seems to be a default strategy of those without ideas, there are much more inspirational goals to chase.

There are people and businesses out there doing those inspirational things. They are not big, but they are growing. They do not intend to grow huge, but stay connected to what’s important to them. I went to the Malvern Plant Show yesterday after a summer deprived of agricultural and flower shows, and the sight of people creating and cultivating beautiful things, from flowers to pots to food, on a beautiful day restored my soul more than a little. Not a corporate in sight.

What is shaping my reflections?

Our emerging relationship with AI. This is making me pay real attention to the provenance of what I read.

How to save a planet. Podcast. for me this is no longer a cause, or a movement, it’s central to everything we do.

On line learning 2.0. It’s a different medium and a different way of learning. We don’t need the equivalent of old ways of learning walking in front of it with a red flag.

A quote

When setting out on a journey do not seek advice from those who have never left home.”


What I’ve learned

That what I need to do is as simple as it is difficult.

  • Not to pay attention to the the avalanche of noisy, manufactured media being pointed in my direction. It’s not interested in informing me, just shaping me.
  • To do at least one small thing a day that embodies and demonstrates the optimism I feel.
  • Not to worry about scale. Do important small things, and connect with others doing the same.
  • Not to wait to be lead. Lead as best you can.

What I’m up to.

Preparing for Catalysing the Future on Sept 30th. Here are some links. Join us.

Web: catalyzingthefuture.com.

Twitter: @CatalyzeFuture.

Have a great week.

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