26 April 2012

Money Isn't Everything

I've finished hand coloring my screen printed currency and thought I'd share with you some of the thinking behind the designs.

There are four different "denominations" in my currency, basically Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. On the front face of each denomination is a hand which emerges from a cloud and holds a symbol of the element. Each note also has a quote. The back face is the same for each denomination, just colored differently.

The "Earth" quote is from Wendell Berry, who has been an advocate for localism and stewardship of the earth for over 50 years. Berry just gave a powerful speech as the 2012 Jefferson Lecturer at the National Endowment for the Humanities a couple of days ago.


The words on the "Air" note are a paraphrase from a Ray Bradbury story called Something Wicked This Way Comes. The story is kind of a horror story, but it opens with an intriguing character who is a lightning rod salesman. The lightning rod salesman has an uncanny sense of the atmosphere and the weather, so I liked using his words here.


The quote on the "Fire" note is from Albert Schweitzer. Schweitzer is not often mentioned any more, but I remember when I was a child my parents spoke of him with admiration. Schweitzer was a medical missionary and 1953 Nobel Prize winner who espoused reverence for life and worked in pursuit of a universal ethical philosophy that could transcend religions and cultures.


The "Water" note quote is another from Wendell Berry, a lovely twist on the Golden Rule.


If you read the top lines of each note and put them together, you get:
From thee I receive
To thee I give
Together we share
And from this we live
This is a song that I learned and became very fond of in the early 1990s at a place called The Opening the Heart Workshop. Turns out the song was written by two Rabbi brothers named Nathan and Joseph Segal in the late 1960s. I like it for its evocation of community and interdependence.

In this currency I wanted to honor and elevate those parts of the economy that are so often ignored by economists in their calculations about value and worth: the goods and services provided free of charge by nature as well as the cultural heritage given to us by our ancestors. We would have nothing if not for these gifts. And they are gifts. Nothing we have done has caused them or made them ours.

There's one more bill in my system of notes. I called it "Jubilee," based on a few Old Testament Bible verses.  Deuteronomy 15:1 talks about a Sabbath Year -- "At the end of every seven years you must cancel debts." And Leviticus Chapter 25 speaks about something called a Jubilee, which is the seventh of the Sabbath Years and is a time when all slaves are set free. I liked this concept. Sometimes debts need to be forgiven, so this is kind of an "I-don't-owe-you" note.


Next I'll be bundling these bills into sets that contain four of each denomination plus one Jubilee note.

1 comment:

betsy best-spadaro said...

Annie, these are WONDERFUL! Bravo!