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Katrina Schneidewend

Edward Engh
Business 1050
8/6/2014
Jacob Needleman, Philosopher
There are a great deal of important things in this world: God, family, education, success,
etc. But above all, money is the one important thing that reigns over all others. Many people say
that with money comes power, freedom and happiness -- but does it, really? Journalist Bill
Moyers and philosopher Jacob Needleman seem to think that wealth will never be as important
as the self. This interview, titled Jacob Needleman, Philosopher, was aired on A World of Ideas
in 1989 and explains that losing one's money isn't as horrible as losing one's soul. Money, no
doubt, is a pretty wonderful thing to possess, but when someone loses out on valuable life events
because they must work to earn enough money to make a living, life is then wasted in exchange
for wealth. According to Moyers and Needleman, people should try to live as best they can
without the burden of finance to weigh them down.
The interview originally took place on a television show called A World of Ideas. The
show was hosted by the interviewer, Bill Moyers, who was famous for his journalism and his
employment in The White House, where it was his job to speak with the press and all media,
representing President Johnson from the mid to late 1960's. The show itself was a series of
interviews with well-known, influential people and it was meant to find out and report what
really makes people "tick". This particular interview was spent with a philosopher named Jacob
Needleman, who has lived his life reflecting on the meaning of life itself, and how to better live
one's life with the time he or she is given. Needleman started out as a student of religion and now
teaches his philosophies to his students, or anyone willing to listen.
Needleman gives a short history of money and how it has appreciated and depreciated
over time. He says that life in the Middle Ages didn't revolve around wealth but was more
involved with personal relations. Money was created as something to be exchanged for goods of
some sort that some other person had to take the time to create, and the goods that were bought
were things that were needed and not just desired. Money was a new concept to them and their
relationships with each other were far more important than making a profit off of one another. In
the current day and age, hardly anything is accomplished unless it promises some sort of payoff.
There are fees and interests, inflation, loans, credits, debts, and many other things to consider and
none of these things are meant to better any sort of human relationship at all -- it's all about the
money.
Money gives man a big ego boost. To have money is to be successful in the eyes of
common peers and therefore turns man into a sort of walking money bag in which everybody
seems to want a piece of. The interview repeats over and over again that money is the one thing
that humanity just can't get enough of. It is no longer good enough to have what one needs but
instead people work hard and spend so much time, effort and money on material things. A big
problem with material things is that once one craving is satisfied, another starts up. People will
always want more than what they have and need and Needleman says that what is really needed
is for people to learn to appreciate what they have already. Material things have the ability to
make people happy for a time, but after a while those things get old and are not as desirable
anymore. Want is a vicious cycle that never ends and can never truly satisfy.
Needleman warns that in a world controlled by finances and wealth, it is often the case
that the "individual" is lost altogether. This means that a person is no longer "conscious" of who
they are and what makes them unique. He says that people need to stop for a moment and remind
themselves of where they are and who they are and why they are doing what they are doing.
They need to take a moment to refocus and think about the things that make life enjoyable and
worth living. He also says that all humans must essentially live two lives, one where time is
spent doing things and being productive somehow and the other is spent experiencing more
meaningful moments. So much time is spent trying to get somewhere in the future that people
often forget to enjoy what is happening around them at the present time. In this case, a sense of
meaning or purpose is lost.
It is said that time is money, and common sense says that time is short and should not be
wasted. However, if a person's time is being spent working nine-to-five in a workplace instead of
being out in the world making a difference, the time they have to live is wasted in order to make
a profit. Happiness is not something that can be bought at the grocery store or at any place.
Happiness is achieved when a sense of wonder takes away all that makes someone stubborn and
negative. All that is left for them then is their consciousness and an endless amount of time.
Consciousness is a means of being alert of one's surroundings and enables them to comprehend
what is taking place. It allows for a state of mind where a person experiences the true state of
things, where hardly anything is overlooked.
Both Moyers and Needleman reflect on the fact that new bills can be printed any time
they are needed. Millions of dollars can be made by a machine, when many people spend their
lives doing hard labor just to make enough money to survive. They note that bills are nothing but
printed paper, and they only have value because there is an understood notion that those papers
can be traded for things. The business world, religious world and philosophical world all have
their set morals and standards that must be determined at some point, and each has to figure out
how to ethically go about their existence. They each strive for power, understanding, love, and
expansion.
Needleman says that personal debt doesn't have the same effect it once did because
people are used to always having to owe on something, so the need to break even is losing it's
sense of importance. He includes that philosophy is not a practice that can be physically
exchanged for goods of any sort. Society can work it's way into the ground trying to find ways to
satisfy itself and that generally means to make money. Happiness is a state of the mind, as so is
philosophy. If people could learn to take a moment for themselves and rediscover what it is that's
truly important to their well-being, they will find a new appreciation for themselves and for life,
regardless of how much money they have.


"Jacob Needleman, Philosopher." 2013. Critical Thinking: Readings from the Literature of
Business and Society. Comp. Edward G. Engh. 2nd ed. Boston, MA: Pearson Learning Solutions,
2012. 313-24. Print.
"Jacob Needleman, Philosopher." Interview by Bill Moyers. A World of Ideas. Public Affairs
Television. 1989. Television.