You have reached the pinnacle of success as soon as you become uninterested in money, compliments, or publicity

– Thomas Wolfe

Those in the UK, and perhaps further afield, might remember the tale of the Bristol man who decided to travel to India without cash, relying on the goodwill of strangers and his ability to provide services instead of cash for food & shelter. He got stuck in Calais, unable to speak French. Say no more. Except there is more to tell. He has now declared that he will live for a year without spending anything.

This chap, Mark Boyle, will use Freecycle, foraging and skill-swapping to meet all his needs cashlessly. And I hope he succeeds, so that people don’t thoughtlessly write off his ideas. You have to hand it to him – he is acting on his ideals; putting his non-money-based-currency where his mouth is.  I think I’ve found his blog, and you can, I assume, see how he gets on (and offer support) here.  As you’ll read there, a Wal-Mart employee was trampled to death on Friday by stampeding crowds looking for a bargain in the ‘Black Friday’ (post-Thanksgiving) sales. We need to be rethinking our relationship with the market and with possessions, surely?

The interesting thing about Mark’s attempt is not necessarily whether he’ll succeeed, (can you really live without any cash?) but what he will discover as he tries. Attitudes, prejudices, people’s willingness to help or not – by taking out any recourse to using cash, he is exploring a way of life that the vast majority of people write off as the preserve of the desperate.

Money – hard cash currency – is, after all, only a metaphor. Notes and coins are ciphers, symbols, for the gold in the bank. So why is it that as the markets tumble, the news reports that people are buying, or investing in, gold ?  How thick am I being? Surely all our money is “in” gold already, as the cash is just promisary notes in any case, relating to ……gold.

Economists, please – anyone able to explain?

But to move on a tad: will people accept a different currency/metaphor from Mark? Will he be able to deal with people who do not normally live within his philosophy? (They with him, more accurately).