Truly Rich: Gain Insight On
Technology and Prosperity  
By Jesse Wolf Hardin



No matter what careers we choose, or what we do to make money, we really only have one job: the fullest actualization of our authentic beings.... in service to each other, to divine Spirit and the living, feeling Earth. The technologies we employ should further our inhabitation of self and purpose in the here and now, assisting our sacred magical quests. In focused presence and purpose, sensation and service, we discover the real meaning of rich.  

Technology: Tool & Choice
We live in decidedly technological times, an age in which almost everything we do makes use of or is influenced by the wonders of industry and science. Being neutral in character, this powerful force can be used to create everything from important new medicines for AIDS to satellite surveillance and government mind control, from long lasting solar electric panels to nuclear blasts brighter than the sun.

Brain implants can be used by doctors to help patients control their seizures, or by an intrusive world government that seeks complete control over our behavior.

Because technology is a double-edged sword we must try to be conscious of its effects on we who wield it. On the human psyche and the diversity of culture. On other species and greater environment. On the course of evolution and the manifest will of the inspirited Earth.

It’s relatively easy to call into question the accelerated development of weapons of mass destruction, or even much of the digital distraction that so often passes for home entertainment. But the implications and results aren’t always so obvious.

A person grows stronger by pulling a load, pushing hard against an obstacle, or having a difficult mountain to climb. Thus by promising us ease and comfort, technology threatens to take away the very sources of our strength. It promises the possibility of us living hundreds of years through the use of synthetic bionic parts, and yet it is our awareness of the finite nature of life —  of how relatively short our life spans are — that we come to fully appreciate, value, and concentrate on each precious present moment.

It can accelerate our day to day activities and increase our production, but unless we take careful countermeasures we may find ourselves experiencing things on a more superficial level, having no time for the depth of relationship and understanding that lead to wisdom and enlightenment. Because technology gives us the means to manipulate appearance, we find ourselves increasingly surrounded by the artificial, with a reduced capacity to know the difference.

The most “appropriate” technology, then, is that which uses up the least resources and does the least damage, while accomplishing the most good. Appropriate means not “efficient” so much as beneficial and beautiful — leading us not away from self, Earth and Spirit, but ever deeper into the experiences we think of as “natural” or “spiritual.”  Likewise, the most “sustainable” technology is not the longest lasting, but that which helps sustain the spirit and dignity of human life, of other life forms, our besieged environment and this sacred planet Earth.

The laptop I write this on was created out of plastics made from oil, which contributes to the pressure for more drilling in sensitive places like the pristine Arctic National Refuge. There’s environmental damage and pollution associated with the production of its computer chips, and those hours spent on it writing about spirit and the natural world are hours that could have been lived outside, directly engaged in the spiritual quest.

Does this mean that those working to save the Earth and heal humankind should reject the latest tools of technology, leaving them to those who would manage or even destroy our planet home?  Of course not. Nor should we ignore or deny the personal, social and environmental damage caused by these tools.

Instead, we can both compensate and make amends — by making the most of them, for all the best reasons. To justify their existence, to qualify their use, we need only dedicate them to purposes that are generous enough, curative enough, beautiful enough.

When we are in touch with our magical selves, with Spirit and the will of the land, we naturally know what technologies to dis or to use — and how. We are empowered by a sense of connection to the rest of enchanted creation, impelled by a force deep inside us, committed to the real work of sustenance and significance, healing and love.

The Meaning Of Rich
 A personal story: as teenagers we could already see how much of what folks called “being rich” came at the expense of old-growth forests and fragile wetlands, underpaid laborers in South Korea and the homeless huddling on America’s streets. We liked to rant about “crass materialism,” which we defined as “having more belongings and toys than free hours to enjoy them.”  It  took the Zen sage, Alan Watts, to set me straight on the term, one day at a party aboard a Sausilito houseboat. He motioned me over, and asked me to feel the beautiful fabric of a handwoven robe, the raised silk embroidery and deftly braided edges.

“A real materialist,” he explained, “is someone who notices and relishes the actual material of this wondrous world.”  He took a slow sip of hot tea, smelling and savoring it, before beginning the task of filleting the night’s salmon.

In the ensuing years I’ve come to realize there is nothing necessarily noble about being poor, nor is there anything special about having money. The poor are not always more grateful, nor does having a good income mean one is oblivious or uncaring. What’s important is how rich we are in the things that matter most, how closely we pay attention to them, and how truly grateful we are! I remember that even as a little boy I couldn’t understand anyone with a big bank account and sad eyes. It hurt to watch them making up for a lack of self love, or the absence of a personal mission, by buying more things. And it hurt worse to see them not really taking the time to daily appreciate the crafted wood and expensive fabrics they’d surrounded themselves with, not really taking pleasure in the many objects they purchased.

So when does one have too many things?  When we can’t remember what all we have. When we have things we never use, things that have no sentimental meaning to us. When we can’t take the time to learn its story, and its history. When we can’t find any way to use them to make our lives or the world a little more beautiful, a little more healed.

And when does one have too much money?  When we have no other purpose for it besides easing our fears and insecurities about the future. When we seem to live to make money, giving all our time and focus to it, instead of making money in order to better live.

No matter what we may have heard, money isn’t really the “root of all evil.”  It’s just a symbol for the many uses we put it to — whether it’s spent on screwing things up or making them better, on making our immediate world uglier and lonelier or more wonder-full and caring.

Money is most valuable to the degree that it provides us with a more meaningful and manifest life, useful for some greater purpose than simply our own personal survival and comfort.

There are magical spells and practices to help attract money into our lives, but most importantly, we need to find new ways of making magic happen with the money we have!  As with any potentially magical energy, we have the option of gathering and hoarding it for personal gain or directing it for the betterment, balance and bliss of all existence.

Without the strength of our intentions, cash is nothing but cold paper and shivering change. American dollars are far too stiff to make rags, and don’t burn well enough to start a lifesaving fire before the big hundred-year snowstorm hits. In other words, they have no real value outside of their ability to pay for real nourishment for our bellies and eyes, hearts and souls — to secure land, to fund a campaign for justice or wilderness, or to help us make dreams come true!

Being rich, then, is never a matter of how much we have of anything. It’s how much pleasure we get out of what we’ve got, how much these things deepen the significance of our lives, and how much good we do for others and for this Earth with what we make and own.

Truly rich is the Seeker who follows his heart, the teacher or child who does her part.

The very richest will always be those who give the most. And those richest in experience and purpose, in wisdom and understanding. In magical experiences and wild places. In compassion and truth, sensuality and meaning, family and tribe. In home, and in hope.

Jesse Wolf Hardin is a teacher of Gaian (Earth-informed) spirituality, and author of Kindred Spirits: Sacred Earth Wisdom (Swan•Raven, 2001). This article will appear as a chapter in his upcoming book “Gaia Eros: New Nature Spirituality,” to be re-leased by New Page in 2004. Wolf and Loba present at various pagan, spiritual and environmental events, and host seekers at their enchanted riverside sanctuary. For information on their presentations, wilderness quests and retreats, or resident internships contact: The Earthen Spirituality Project & Sweet Medicine Women’s Center, Box 509, Reserve, NM 87830, also see their website .  

Return to the September/October Index page