My grandfather found religion (for the second time) relatively late in life. After having spent nearly a full lifetime toiling, he came to realize that he had neglected the spiritual aspect of life. He became a true believer and avid Bible scholar, and while never evangelical about it, he often wove biblical references into our conversations. One of his favorites was the following passage from Matthew 25:
“For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants[c] and entrusted to them his property. 15 To one he gave five talents,[d] to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.
16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17 So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money.
19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.[e] You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’”
This was his way of telling me that he intends to be a good steward of the (meager) wealth passed onto him very late in life from his parents, so that I and my children would have more than what he received. The reason that he worked 50-60 hours a week well into his eighties was because he refused to be the servant that merely buried the coin, without adding to it. The image he always evoked was one of a living tree. The role of older generations was to support and feed the upcoming youth, both physically, intellectually and spiritually, so that when they grow, they will be able to take on their role in supporting the structure of society as well as their own young.
He was also the epitome of the anti-fiat man, never having more than loose change in any bank account for very long. He prided himself on his (sometimes, to an external observe, extreme) frugality, and spent many a walk showing me what types of plants, fruits, berries where edible, and when. The idea being, that one should be able to survive on forage, at least temporarily, if needed. He would think nothing of walking several miles to save a few cents of busfare. All of this was justified by a very strong drive never to waste anything. In his own way, he succeeded, though mostly through the wisdom of his teachings, and the lessons of his life, rather than in a material sense.
By its very definition, precious metals are a STORE of wealth. They represent money at rest, especially in today’s world when they are not part of the ‘mainstream’ monetary system. Especially since so many of us have unfortunately, involuntarily become former owners of now underwater metal deposits, this all represents a lot of value taken out of circulation in the economy.
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Given that today’s economy consist to an alarming degree of Potemkin industries with holographic valuations and in many cases ‘products as well, this is not at all a bad thing. With the distortions and misallocations of capital induced by the past decades of CBs (both ‘national’ and transnational) and government policies, let alone our good friends the banksters themselves, it is becoming increasingly difficult to gauge the true value of material things. Not only have once-stable yardsticks of 'hard currencies' been corrupted, government overbearance (both due to insolvency, as well as a general trend toward exercising more power over the populace) makes it increasingly inefficient to try to work to better one’s lot. It makes perfect sense to store whatever savings one has into things that retain their value indefinitely. For my grandfather, it was arable land and the tools to work on it. For us here, it’s generally heavier metals from the 11th, and to an extent the 14th columns of the periodic table – and a large variety of other durable things.
But I am not Smaug, sitting atop his vast hoard of gold and jewels. If the stack I now have is all I can pass on to my children when the time comes, I shall be sorely disappointed in myself. There is a large and long task ahead – not only to pass on values, knowledge, curiosity and love to the next generation; but to hold onto, and if possible expand, the means of their continued survival.
So no matter how jaded and frustrated I feel with the markets, how depressed I feel reading the daily news (both due to events and the determined effort of media owners to control and mislead the populace), no matter how futile my wage slave existence seems sometimes, there is always a beacon of light reminding me to stop whining and start doing things better, smarter, faster. It is prudent to safeguard existing value by storing it in permanent forms. But it also behooves us to take advantage of the (now visibly) closing window of opportunity while the Great Keynesian Experiment is still running, before the experimental setup shakes its way off the lab table and smashes on the stone tiles. And we have to keep remembering that the sun will most likely come up tomorrow, bringing with it another day of responsibilities to be met.
The parable at the front of the passage was always told to me in paraphrase, not until I just looked it up did I know how exactly the whole thing went. My grandfather only said the man taking account of his servants was angry with the one who buried the gold coin he had received, and cast him off his land. The actual text of the book is a bit more detailed:
“He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’
26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents.
29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”
I’m not sure I fully understand what the latter part of the parable exactly means, other than that the man was obviously enraged by the last servant’s answer – and that burying a coin is not considered prudent stewardship. (I’m sure there are exceptions for passing Mongol hordes and global financial meltdowns). But the parts that seem unclear are:
- whether the man indeed considered himself deserving of unearned profits?
- could this be an oblique (actually, pretty plain) critique of bankers?
- but if the second point is true, why then a perfect quote to encapsulate bankster mentality?
What I DO know is that there will indeed in the end be weeping and gnashing of teeth. No way to be fully prepared (even if the ‘date’ is still considerably in the future), but making some hay now while the last rays of sunlight are still peeking through under the stormclouds may not be a bad idea. Taking a class, learning a skill, befriending a neighbor, spending more time with one’s family is easier when not beset by more immediate existential concerns.
So spend some time taking a walk, hugging a friend, showering together ‘to save water’ if so inclined. Smell the flowers, have a meal with a neglected acquaintance or rarely-seen relative. And of course keep preparing accordingly.