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Musings on the World of Money: Part I “The Active Vs. Contemplative Life”

October 26th, 2005 | 2 min read

By Andrew Selby

What does a philosophy major do with his degree?

Well, finance is far superior to flipping burgers, so I think the profession I’m in for the time being is pretty respectable. What it certainly has done is force me to think (I’ll hopefully never get away from that part) about what I’m doing and why I’m doing it.

I will begin with the latter thought: what relation do the active life and contemplative life have to one another?

I am very attracted to the world of ideas and books and discussions. One life that sounds wonderful to me is spending my days in some large library reading a book that I would talk over with my friends that afternoon before going home to my lovely wife in the evening and to play with my kids (that are not yet in existence). I would spend time teaching, helping others get into the Great Conversation and discipling them in their walks with Christ. That is the ideal world for me and I’ll definitely get to something like that at some point.

In the meantime, however, the doors in my life opened up a new horizon. I have a great job as a financial advisor Key components to success are creativity and people skills. So, mostly ungrudgingly, I’ve become a money-making-man.

While in college one of my thoughts about this life is that it makes it impossible to allow one’s thoughts rise to contemplation of eternal wisdom.

I have found this statement to be mostly false.

If you look at any given professor in the university, you will mostly find men and women as busy and caught up with their work and careers as you will in the outside world. My suspicion is that a life of contemplation can be cultivated by anyone. Granted, an 80-90 hour a week job leaves little time for thoughtful reflection. However, working 30-60 hours a week leaves plenty of time for contemplation if one is disciplined and makes it a habit. I’m personally enjoying studying Jonathan Edwards’ Religious Affections with one of my friends at the moment along with reading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein for pleasure. This kind of reading is also not the only way to live a life endowed with study: for the Christian, prayer is a requirement. Having regular times for prayer and praying throughout the day a la Brother Lawrence are ways of contemplating eternal Truth in a personal way even more beautiful than Plato imagined.

So being a businessman is all right with me so long as I keep contemplation alive in my soul. I hope this is a bit of an exhortation, as well as an encouragement, to the business-folks reading out there. And, the fact of the matter, is that “business-folks” ecompasses most of us.

It’s good to be in business. Dallas Willard believes that the end of man is to rule and reign, bringing all that we have authority over in this life, into submission to the glorious kingdom of God. Doing that in the business world is a noble pursuit and should be done with joy and vigour!