The Inimitable Human Currency

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”

– Henry Miller

What are you worth? It’s a common enough question, but one seldom afforded the consideration it demands…and that you, as the object of the question, deserve. More often that not, the answer will take the form of a dollar sign, followed by a number:

“Well, including my house and car, and subtracting the outstanding amount owed on my mortgage, I’d say…”


“Right now I’ve got such-and-such in the bank, but my retirement nest egg is worth…”


“I don’t have much in the way of savings, but I just got a nice raise, so I’d say such-and-such an hour…”

These answers are fine, though extremely narrow. Are you really only worth that number following a dollar sign? Of course not. For one thing, the value of a dollar – or a euro, peso, dirham, etc… – can, and does, change overnight. And, if central bankers around the world have their way, you may soon be worth a lot less…at least valued in the currency they seem hell bent on decapitating.

Here at The Daily Reckoning, your editors write extensively – sometimes painfully so – on all manner of subjects related to money. Our beat is finance and economics, with a sprinkling of philosophy and bad comedy thrown in to keep our Fellow Reckoners from dozing off mid-column. But money, in all its forms, is really just a means to an end, albeit a very important one. That end, of course, is freedom. Money simply happens to be one tool, one method, one key with which you can determine to lead a freer life.

When assessing your own “wealth,” dollars and cents probably only account for a small part of the whole. Consider, for example, your own wealth of experience…the unquantifiable value of your relationships…the immeasurable worth of the time spent playing with your children or canoodling with your partner…the priceless tag on your “net knowledge”…the value of the books you’ve read, plays you’ve seen, of camping trips, Little League games, memorable belly laughs, barbeques in the park, etc., etc., etc…

Consider, for just a moment, the price you would be willing to put on your memory vault, brimming with experiences both good and bad, with lessons and triumphs, failures and heartaches. There is not a central banker in the world that could dream up a currency to measure your real worth. (And what a good thing that is!)

The lessons of our life and the experiences that color them come together in our mind to form a kind of currency that is uniquely human: wisdom. In the words of the great Marcel Proust, “We do not receive wisdom; we discover it for ourselves by a voyage that no one can take for us, a voyage that no one can spare us.”

For many, including the largely reclusive French novelist, that voyage of discovery begins and ends rather close to home. For others, there is nothing quite so valuable as the new perspective won through extensive travel to new and wondrous lands. Every foreign culture sheds new light on our own. Every new taste, smell, custom and terrain, gives new and broader meaning to the life familiar. And every new adventure teaches us a little more about all that we thought we knew, both about others and, perhaps more importantly, about ourselves.

What’s more, if you’re not careful, the adventures you take abroad may even end up yielding monetary rewards…you know, for those inclined to worry about such worldly things.

Joel Bowman
for The Daily Reckoning