AN ALTERNATIVE PHILOSOPHY OF LIFE : A SPIRITUAL MESSAGE
by Paul Schroeder
A spiritual message, in a time of need, illuminated a larger life path:
“The Spell of the Yukon”
By Robert W. Service
“I wanted the gold, and I sought it;
I scrabbled and mucked like a slave.
Was it famine or scurvy—I fought it;
I hurled my youth into a grave.
I wanted the gold, and I got it—
Came out with a fortune last fall,—
Yet somehow life’s not what I thought it,
And somehow the gold isn’t all…”
I rarely ever worked overtime, or sought spare part- time jobs to make more money, seeking blue skies above to doing work indoors, and I relished my poorer beer pockets without ever developing or resenting the absence of a richer champagne taste.
Those ambitious lads of my childhood who entered finance, medicine or law, worked 24-7 towards a salaried lifestyle that flew them first class, overseas to luncheon meetings and purchased them mansions in the glass sky towers of Manhattan.
Effete, they would confess,”Those who say that money can’t buy you everything, don’t know where to shop!”
I became a college instructor teacher who received a meager pittance, but though I relished my bankers’ hours’ 9 to 3 job, I deeply longed for the respite of work, each academic year, within a ten week vacation, over the summer.
During academic semesters I recklessly ate up all of my sick days and personal days, taking escapes in the sun at the beach, and landscaped land escapes in three and four day weekends, at mountain lakes’ sites to hike in virgin woods alone.
Others in Higher Education had instead garnered many days, ‘in their bank’, saved up jealously, to trade for cash, losing one day for every two saved, upon retirement.
To me, counter intuitively, non providentially, time away to think was worth more, as an escape valve, than half of some obscure future money.
Work was onerous and exacting, and freedom was a hiking-in-the-woods- relief, from fluorescent overhead lights, and the grinding grading of incessant exams and papers.
For release, the best part of my chosen vocation, I lectured and pontificated, teaching American and English Literature, in a large lecture hall, chain-smoking unfiltered cigarettes, during class instructions, throughout, to self medicate.
I am presently retired, thirty-five years in teaching, and have a modest lovely home and property, and as for wanderlust, I have long found that armchair travel is the cheapest kind of travel, content to read brochures, than take inoculations, to explore the world.
Money aversion- ennui got worse as I grew older.
I soon preferred the sidelines of copious earnings, a spent man, seeking to relax and to write.
Why was I, so different, to care little for “success”, measured in hard work towards riches?
I wasn’t remotely money excited, as a child, dimly knowing on a subliminal level that God didn’t place us here, on Earth, on a special mission, to make money.
A spiritual message experience, I received, as a teenager, a homeless runaway at seventeen, running from a divorced household of violence and police- being -called -by- the -neighbors,
became a core influence for my slant on monied life, a purposeful one of just getting by, instead of working hard towards earning luxuries.
It was Christmas time in New York City and I was seventeen years old, homeless penniless, and wandering.
I had exited the Museum of Natural History on Central Park West, where I had feasted for hours, on museum eye -candy, but my stomach had rumbled with hunger.
And now back on the street, I found that it had been and was now, snowing heavily.
I wondered worriedly where I would sleep, that night.
A local movie manager, a friend, Paul Gary, said that I could, when in Brooklyn, sleep in a little used old loft room in his movie theatre, the Loews Oriental, in Bath Beach, Brooklyn, in a dusty, haunted costume property room.
I was the inhabiting spirit.
The smell of freshly roasted chestnuts, sold to passerbys from a kiosk wagon, near to the museum’s stone steps, in a blizzard of snow, wafted my way and roused me.
I had no money in my pockets; I salivated at the sweet nutty perfume.
Chestnuts were a seasonal treat I had enjoyed, at this very museum’s site, when I had a bountiful existence within my cantankerous parents’ marriage’s deep pockets’ circle of influence.
I would ask my parents, they’d fish for loose change and I would relish the sweet flavor of fire roasted hot chestnuts, now a new symbol of want and the faded memory of childhood .
I was alone upon the streets of Manhattan, hungry and had no money.
The snow covered shoulders and face of the man who stood behind the kiosk wagon, were wrapped in steam; he was small and dark, wearing mittens with holes for the fingers.
The snow fell heavily in sheets that made a city of asphalt shock look gentler.
I came close enough to inhale the dark aroma of roasted chestnuts, a childhood memory token, an olfactory solace for my pangs of hunger.
I noticed that on one side of his kiosk wagon hung a large piece of grey cardboard with a blue magic marker message upon it, his philosophy of the moment, but on an unconscious level, one for the rest of my adult life.
A raised consciousness was sparked.
“I really don’t like making money;
I don’t want to conquer the world,
and I don’t wish to ever be rich;
I don’t even want to set the world, on fire;
I just want to keep my nuts warm.”
A spiritual message, in a time of need, illuminated a larger life path.