RNA Newsletter – April, 2021 – What Is Money?


Friends, Almost 40 years ago Carolyn and I got some friends together and started a discussion group that is still going strong today (thanks to Zoom this last year). This month is my turn to lead the discussion, and the topic I have chosen is “Money.”

Those of you who know me well won’t be surprised to know I plan a pretty abstract approach. What is money anyway, and is it more than a figment of our imagination? (I’m sure our artist members will suggest that imagination itself is a real thing, so that if money is real it is grounded in the reality of imagination – I’ll have to decide on the spot whether to urge the conversation further in that direction). What are the symbolic aspects of money, and why do we measure value (and even “store” value) in its terms? Why does cryptocurrency seem so hokey and money seem so real? How does money intersect with psychological dynamics like personal and group identity?

It’s not that I am disinterested in more mundane aspects of money. In fact the way RNA deals with money fascinates me. We don’t require dues; we don’t make appeals for money (and I assure you, this is not one either). We have precisely two regular donors – one a college professor who sends $140/month and the other a Spanish priest who set up a regular $5/month PayPal donation. Other members give occasional gifts in the range of $100-$200, specifying whether they want the money put in our operations fund for present needs or our endowment fund for future generations. What amazes me, though, is the sense of affirmation and appreciation I feel when getting these gifts, which makes me wonder again about the symbolic and psychological aspects of the topic. Abstraction upon abstraction.

On the spending side, we have almost no expenses. That’s largely because of our good fortune at beginning our existence when internet dynamics had already made it clear that “bricks and mortar” organizations are not always necessary or even desirable (and your officers underwrite the annual costs of our website, which are modest to start with).

Not having expenses may change soon, because our RNA Outreach committee (which Ursula talked about in the February Newsletter) is poised to recommend to the Board of Directors that we spend about 1/4 of our existing funds on some consulting work. I will be hugely interested to see whether this initiative “succeeds” or “fails,” assuming the Board approves it. I put those words in quotes because I personally suspect there are problems with potential success, and upsides to potential failure; but if you go back to my first paragraph above, you’ll know that my real interest is not so much in these practical implications – important as they are – but in what YOU think about the topic of money, both abstractly and practically. I’m really hoping that among our 662 members, others besides me are interested in the topic, and will start a conversation on the topic in one of our forums. In particular, I’ll be interested in your thoughts about how money intersects with nature.

Finally, our music committee has started selecting a “song of the month” to add to the newsletter each month, and this month they’ve selected Level Up by Vienna Teng. You can find it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U4n_8R5lKnw.

Very cordially yours,

Michael Cavanaugh, Secretary/Treasurer