Will You ‘Quit Money’ On U.S. Tax Day, Like ‘The Man Who Quit Money’?

  wonkette world o' books

Wonkette World o' Books: 'The Man Who Quit Money'American Tax Day is an unhappy time for most people, as we realize how little money we made during the previous year, or how much we’re paying in taxes, or how those good tax credits don’t apply for one reason or another, or how awful it is that we live in a country where the government extracts whatever it wants from our earnings and then spends it all on horrible bat-wing robot murder monsters soaring the skies over Afghanistan and Iraq and even right here in the U.S.A., while American kids go to bed hungry and teenagers with no education and no income are compelled by law to give birth to offspring they cannot possibly care for, and that the government will also not care for, because that violates Freedom. The culprit in all these crimes is Money, and a lovely man named Daniel Suelo has succeeded in quitting money altogether while living a rich and varied life.

Suelo’s existence is full of friends, community meals, hiking and camping in the slickrock country of Utah, volunteering at a shelter for abused women, and now seeing a book about his remarkable life that is spreading his gospel to unsatisfied participants in the money system around the world. Also, this year’s Tax Day is Quit Money Day, which means we can all consciously “spend” a whole day without spending money.

The usual Tax Day of April 15 fell on a Sunday this year, giving us a brief reminder of the fading power of the Day of Rest and the many social laws that used to ensure we had at least one out of seven days to enjoy without shopping and debt and misery. The language the U.S. Government used to announce the delayed filing deadline — a “two-day reprieve” — is exactly the language used when speaking of prisoners on Death Row. With this great annual stress and the moral accounting of the previous year that goes along with preparing one’s tax forms, there is also real death: a 6% increase in traffic fatalities is one grim feature of Tax Day. So please be extra careful when driving tomorrow, or just don’t drive at all! Maybe take the day off, for Mental Health, and try to not spend a nickel or click “Buy It Now” for a whole day.

Daniel Suelo himself is encouraging the rest of us to make April 18 a day without money. We needn’t get too fussy about it. If there’s an automatic payment of the electric bill or whatever, just keep it out of mind. But what if we went all day tomorrow without slapping down the debit or credit cards, without blowing through the usual twenty bucks for coffee and habitual snacking. What if we eat at home, eat what we have, entertain ourselves (preferably without anything we’re paying for, like the cable television), maybe read a book from the library, say hi to our dogs and our children, etc. Everything is so much more pleasant without ADVERTISING yelling at us all day, too. Let’s have silence, or some classical music instead of the teevee or the commercial radio. It’s spring, maybe Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, or some Vivaldi! Maybe just listen to the birds singing, as they are all quite happy about it being spring. No money, all day!

Now to The Man Who Quit Money, the delightful new book by Mark Sundeen about the life and times of Daniel Suelo, a wandering mystic who tried all the normal ways of American Society and found that none of them fit his mind and spirit. Sundeen is a smart writer who comes to this story well equipped with knowledge of the various prophets and teachers and traditions that tell us to live simply, even though very few of us do so by choice. This is a story with a shared Buddhist/Christian philosophy, and Suelo’s life is nearly as radical as the recorded lives of Siddhārtha Gautama or Jesus of Nazareth. (Suelo decides against the Hindu sadhu approach of the Begging Holy Man, because it’s just too foreign to the culture of the Modern American.)

What makes his quest so compelling is that he knows almost from the beginning of his adult life that the answer for him is to live without money, but it’s such a drastic step that it takes most of two decades for him to finally leave his life’s savings (thirty dollars) in a phone booth on a highway and be done with it. Through his work in the Peace Corps, the fundamentalist churches and the secular non-profits, what keeps Suelo from satisfaction is the minimal money he earns from his good deeds. It is only by divorcing his work from the way most of us are paid for work that he finds his Way.

While he does spend a lot of time literally living in a cave, much like the Desert Fathers (and Desert Mothers) who created Christian monasticism in the 3rd Century, Suelo also spends a lot of time at parties and housesitting for friends in Moab and taking road trips and just bicycling around the Canyon Country. Since a national magazine profiled him a couple of years ago, he even has disciples who show up at his cave camp to learn the philosophy of simplicity and compassion. This is more St. Francis ministering to the townsfolk than St. Anthony the Great alone in the Libyan desert, more Thich Nhat Hanh’s “engaged Buddhism” than the isolation of the forest monastery.

Suelo’s life is not perfect, because no life is perfect. He suffers from bad teeth and lonely nights, and there’s no Plan B for old age. But teeth can be fixed (and have been, through the pro bono work of a dentist friend), and many wise people have sacrificed a romantic life for a deeply fulfilling spiritual life.

As for old age and the final years, both are coming for all of us, regardless of how much we’ve got in the 401k or Social Security. The awful story of 83-year-old B-movie starlet Yvette Vickers resonates with so many people because this is what the end will be like should we choose the void of Social Media and shallow connections over real-life community: Vickers’ mummified body was found about a year after she died, inside her faded Los Angeles home, the computer screen still glowing:

The Los Angeles Times posted a story headlined “Mummified Body of Former Playboy Playmate Yvette Vickers Found in Her Benedict Canyon Home,” which quickly went viral. Within two weeks, by Technorati’s count, Vickers’s lonesome death was already the subject of 16,057 Facebook posts and 881 tweets. She had long been a horror-movie icon, a symbol of Hollywood’s capacity to exploit our most basic fears in the silliest ways; now she was an icon of a new and different kind of horror: our growing fear of loneliness. Certainly she received much more attention in death than she did in the final years of her life. With no children, no religious group, and no immediate social circle of any kind, she had begun, as an elderly woman, to look elsewhere for companionship. Savage later told Los Angeles magazine that she had searched Vickers’s phone bills for clues about the life that led to such an end. In the months before her grotesque death, Vickers had made calls not to friends or family but to distant fans who had found her through fan conventions and Internet sites.

Vickers’s web of connections had grown broader but shallower, as has happened for many of us.

That kind of True Life Mulholland Drive tale should make anyone have a thought or two about how things will end. Maybe Suelo will disappear into the desert like an old coyote, eventually feeding a a juniper seedling, but he’s a social enough creature that his last years will likely be spent in the comfortable casita of one of his many homeowner friends in Utah, with as much charity medical care as he might need to make the end pleasant.

But enough about death; it will come when it’s ready for us, and whether we’ve paid our quarterly estimated taxes on time or not. If you’re in Missoula tomorrow evening, head over to the main library to hear Sundeen and Suelo speak about the book and living without money for either a lifetime or just for a day.

Ken Layne retired from this site and the News Media just six weeks ago! But Rebecca threw out her back, because she is typing too much and not Exercising Every Day, and she asked if he had anything that he might be able to post, to be a helpful pal. So here is a book review. Hope you’re all well! Layne’s most recent book is a novel called Dignity.

Share This
 
Related video

About the author

A writer and editor of this website from 2006 to early 2012, Ken Layne is occassionally seen on Twitter and writes small books and is already haunting you from beyond (your) grave.

View all articles by Ken Layne

Hola wonkerados.

To improve site performance, we did a thing. It could be up to three minutes before your comment appears. DON'T KEEP RETRYING, OKAY?

Also, if you are a new commenter, your comment may never appear. This is probably because we hate you.

140 comments

  1. Barb

    Good to see you, Ken. The rest of the gang is fapping to the dazzling Sara Benincasa and will be here soon.

    Get well, Rebecca.

    1. JustPixelz

      I can't speak for everyone, but today I feel younger, thinner and smarter. And high also.

    1. actor212

      Hey, and if you get caught, you get all kinds of neat stuff like meals and a new set of clothes and exercise, and even a new husband named Mustafa…or Bonnie, if you're a girl!

      FOR FREE!

    2. horsedreamer_1

      First, "Signal 30", on Mad Men; now, taking a page from my Adbusters-obsessing Nemesis. What does Drezdn have to do to get some respect?

  2. WhatTheHeck

    The rumors of Ken’s death were greatly exaggerated. He lives!

    ‘Twas a sad day for our government this tax-year as they had one less day to misuse our monies.

  3. BornInATrailer

    No Jules, you're gonna be like those pieces of shit out there who beg for change. They walk around like a bunch of fuckin' zombies, they sleep in garbage bins, they eat what I throw away, and dogs piss on 'em. They got a word for 'em, they're called bums. And without a job, residence, or legal tender, that's what you're gonna be – a fuckin' bum!

      1. MilwaukeeKent

        Seems he mainly walks Utah, with a side trip to Montana now and then. Still, a charming story.It's Layne! Cue the Debbie Downer sound! I feel a sudden urge to re-read Hollywood Babylon or maybe some Doestevsky or Chekov…

    1. doloras

      The guy who said that was shot to death in a toilet a little while later, remember. Or earlier depending on your perception of narrative time.

  4. Lionel[redacted]Esq

    It's a noble idea Ken, but have you ever tried bartering with a prostitute or your local drug dealer?

  5. BaldarTFlagass

    Any of you out there that are feeling like quitting money, and you're going to go cold turkey, you can send all your spare money to me to help remove the temptation, keep you from backsliding.

    1. Lascauxcaveman

      Sorry, I already left all of mine in a phone booth by the highway.

      (Do phone booths still exist?)

  6. Chick-Fil-Atheist™

    The book company won't have to write royalty checks when this dude commits suicide after losing his can opener.

    …too soon?

  7. prommie

    Not begging, but accepting charity? Hmmmm, accepting handouts, just not soliciting them? Lotsa people house-sit and dog-sit for the wealthy, thats charity, though, thats not some breakthrough.

    Hey, I have always wanted to be a hobo, not putting hoboism down, and hey, he's a spiritual hobo, great, but come on, he hasn't invented some new Way, the hobos have been hoboing in such manner since time immemorial.

    Me, I have decided, I want a conch shack on the beach. I want a little palapa, with a cooler and a table, and I will make conch salad or conch ceviche for the people who come to my conch shack. Thats what I want, I want a conch shack on the beach.

    Can I crowdsource the start-up costs for this, do you think?

      1. prommie

        That is a lot of hobos in one paragraph, isn't it? And I wasted a great opportunity to use the word "bindle-stiff," which is just not the kind of thing you want to waste.

      1. tessiee

        Conch burgers, conch fillets, conch stir-fry, conch kabobs, conch gumbo. Conch ice cream. Conch hubcaps. Conch contact lenses. Conch-based religion…
        [with apologies to MST3K]

    1. Lascauxcaveman

      Prommie, it's all right there in Ken's book, Dignity, which I have read and I got by, uh … giving some money to my local bookstore.

    2. tessiee

      "Me, I have decided, I want a conch shack on the beach. I want a little palapa, with a cooler and a table, and I will make conch salad or conch ceviche for the people who come to my conch shack. Thats what I want, I want a conch shack on the beach."

      I don't know if anybody remembers this, but a few years back there was a commercial for… some long-distance phone company or other… the gist of which was that the *other* long-distance carriers gave bad service, like wrong numbers. They illustrated this with a generic guy getting all frustrated because he accidentally got connected with some non-English-speaking brown guy in jams on a beach under a palm tree. I don't know who the generic guy was *trying* to call, but I thought the guy who lived on the tropical beach was way more interesting.

      1. CrankyLttlCamperette

        Is this your card?

        I remember that too (and will occasionally answer my phone that way). It was right after the Bell network broke up and everyone was fighting to be your long distance carrier (see also: "Do they have circles?!").

        I feel old, now.

        1. tessiee

          Yes!!
          Oma-nocka-peach-ay!
          The former Mr. Tessie and I had that as one of our catchphrases.

    3. Lascauxcaveman

      Also, too, sure we can pitch Kenny shit about how this guy's gig is impractical on any large scale. But y'know; baby steps. It's good to plant the seed of something like this in the imagination.

      If someone told me five years ago that today I'd be happily living on a low-sodium diet, riding my bike 50 miles a week, rarely eating chips and soda, and almost never setting foot in a fast-food chain, I'd have laughed my ass off. But exposure to lots of well meaning people going on and on about the health benefits of all that really got me thinking, and better yet, doing.

      Baby steps.

  8. LastGasp

    … make April 18 a day without money.
    Oh since I'm jobless I think I'll have no trouble with that.

  9. BaldarTFlagass

    "as much charity medical care as he might need to make the end pleasant."

    Maybe he's got some chickens he can trade to Kevorkian's replacement.

  10. Beowoof

    The no money idea is a nice theory. However, over at the liquor store when trying to purchase another case of Rex Golaith with the offer of good deeds they told me to get the fuck out of the store.

    1. Come here a minute

      I think the idea is to camp out in some rich douche's wine cellar while he's living in his other homes.

  11. BaldarTFlagass

    "The language the U.S. Government used to announce the later filing day — a “two-day reprieve” — is exactly the language used when speaking of prisoners on Death Row."

    I think Ken has maybe gone Tea Party on us.

    1. horsedreamer_1

      As I know well from my uncle the fluoride denialist, the line between far left & far right is no line.

  12. UnholyMoses

    First: Bach's Brandenburg Concertos are wonderful on a Spring day.

    Second: If I were single and didn't have MASSIVE back problems, I'd be down with living a totally-off-the-money-grid life. But it takes some physical stamina, if not some emotional given so many societal pressures that can be so hard to overcome. But I'd so fucking be there if possible, as I am sick and tired of this planet at this point. I really am. Just … fuckityfuckshitfuck shit is fucked up and shit.

    Third: While paying taxes blows dead goats, let's remember that shit costs money. We want better education opportunities for our kids? A health care system that doesn't leave millions bankrupt and/or dead? Some energy options that aren't making the Earth unlivable? Our house to be put out if it were to catch fire?

    Well, that costs money. Of course, I wish that's what my money really went to, rather than stupid wars, subsidizing GE and Exxon and all the rest, paying Congressional salaries, etc. etc. etc. But, ya know, just typin' …

  13. BigSkullF*ckingDog

    I try to quit my credit cards all the time, but the stoopid banks won't let me.

  14. BaldarTFlagass

    Not to be a wet blanket, but the idea of 310 million people giving up money and wandering around the country with no real jobs doesn't really sound like a very good idea.

    1. sullivanst

      For one thing, if we all give up our houses to walk the earth… who are we gonna housesit for?

      Also, sleeping in a cave in Minnesota in February is a suboptimal life choice.

    1. prommie

      Its kinda like the people who want to run their diesel VW on french fry oil, or the numbnuts who think they can just take their gun and live off the land. Works great, as long as its just a few fringers. Not really so sustainable, though, if everyone did it.

      1. Lascauxcaveman

        Hey, y'never know. I'm guessing all those fringers w/guns would thin themselves out pretty quick. You got two guys simultaneously shooting at the same buck, by the time they get face to face to argue about it, you gotta figure at least one of them still has a bullet or two left.

  15. JustPixelz

    "Rebecca threw out her back"

    Our landfills are overflowing and she's throwing out a perfectly good back.

    Every back is a working back.

    I'll bet her back was fine before Obamacare.

  16. Mumbletypeg

    I have no moneys to spend, not even one. So I'd have to find something else to part with, on this fabled commemorative Day Without.
    *One* week from Apr. 18 I will be parting with the local gym franchise that locked me into an overpriced membership from a 1-month trial, imprisoning me these 3 years since. That will be some freed-up money I'll look forward to spending "saving" again.
    Isn't there some 'local holiday' in D.C. that's responsible for bumping up the IRS deadline?

      1. HuddledMass

        Yeah, I was thwarted in my attempt to lunch at the Concord Inn by a phalanx of Rev War re-enactors. Plus it was 90 degrees out, so global warming, we're all doomed, etc.

  17. BornInATrailer

    He's seems all noble and whatnot until you remember that he'll do anything.. anything.. for a can of stew.

    Hobos love canned stew!

  18. prommie

    This sounds suspiciously like the life-plan of that guy who was arrested living in Diddy's house in the Hamptons. Was he one of this dude's acolytes?

  19. Lascauxcaveman

    Before Yvette Vickers, there was Marie Prevost

    In the words of Nick Lowe, "She was the winner/who became the doggie's dinner."

    Great song. Sad. Funny. Catchy. Not historically accurate.

  20. nirrti_rachelle

    Oh for crying out loud…I would love to have the choice to "quit" money. But that requires having had any in the first place.

    There's nothing new about his lifestyle. It's called being "poor".

  21. Guppy

    Everything is so much more pleasant without ADVERTISING yelling at us all day, too.

    should we choose the void of Social Media and shallow connections over real-life community

    /cough

  22. swordfis

    I swear that that guy looks JUST like me to the point where it's uncanny. But what am I doing riding around in the desert with a black hat and a cross?

  23. Geminisunmars

    I gotta say that being left in peace to mummify before my computer for a year doesn't sound like a bad way to go.

    1. Lascauxcaveman

      You'd think the electric company would have cut her off long before a year was up. Unless she was ghostwriting those checks.

      1. Guppy

        All I can think of is automatic deductions from a checking account that got automatic deposits.

        Seriously, who among us could go a year without someone pounding at the door looking to collect a debt?

      2. Geminisunmars

        Maybe she had that automatic bank payment thing set up for that and all her utilities, and enough money in the account to cover it.

        1. Naked_Bunny

          Yeah, all of my bills are on auto-pay, so they'd keep going until the bank account went dry. It sure wouldn't take a year, though.

    2. Naked_Bunny

      She went a year without a landlord barging into her home or the utility company turning off her electricity. Dead people have all the luck!

  24. tessiee

    "Money is not everything, but it is better than having one's health. After all, one cannot go into a butcher shop and tell the butcher, "Look at my great suntan, and besides I never catch colds," and expect him to hand over any merchandise. Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons." — Woody Allen, back when he was funny instead of creepy

    1. Negropolis

      Funny. I was thinking about (and dreading the idea of) the eschewal of toilet paper, myself.

  25. Tundra Grifter

    Rebecca being out explains why my perfectly innocent comment (well, somewhat innocent; actually, it wasn't at all, but it was pretty funny) about the Secret Service Agent disputing his hooker tab wasn't allowed to be posted.

  26. tessiee

    "American Tax Day is an unhappy time for most people, as we realize how little money we made during the previous year, or how much we’re paying in taxes, or how those good tax credits don’t apply for one reason or another"

    …Or how the corporations who moved our jobs overseas get the benefit of the strong government that's supposed to be protecting us from them, despite the fact that we paid taxes and they didn't…

  27. tessiee

    "But what if we went all day tomorrow without slapping down the debit or credit cards, without blowing through the usual twenty bucks for coffee and habitual snacking. What if we eat at home, eat what we have, entertain ourselves (preferably without anything we’re paying for, like the cable television), maybe read a book from the library, say hi to our dogs and our children, etc."

    I don't even…
    Is this supposed to be sarcastic, or what?
    I can't even tell anymore.

    1. Naked_Bunny

      I think Ken is projecting his lifestyle onto me.

      I am using electricity right now, I admit.

  28. user-of-owls

    You are a terrible man, Ken Layne, for coming back here and reminding (some of) us how it used to be. But then, I'm morally weak.

    1. Naked_Bunny

      To be fair, Suelo's lifestyle only works because the bulk of humanity is busy grinding out the supplies and infrastructure keeping him and those around him alive.

      Nothing wrong with taking some quiet time, though.

  29. Guppy

    What if the only money I spend tomorrow is cash in exchange for organically-grown whole foods? Do I get partial dharmic credit?

    1. larrykat

      Not unless you listen to Vivaldi while smoking your Whole Foods quinoa. Cuz "classical" music is just inherently more natural and money-free than any other kind of music.

  30. comrad_darkness

    But I like money. Admittedly, it can act like a hot-tempered woman at times, but that just makes that vaguely sweaty, vaguely cocainey smell of it that much more enthralling.

  31. imissopus

    So just eat whatever's in the house? Let's see, I have some old scallions I should probably throw out, an orange, a box of Cheerios, two bananas, a couple of slices of cold pizza, half a jar of peanut butter, and some stale macaroons. Sorry Ken, I think I need to buy some groceries. If it makes you feel better, my car got stolen and I am seriously considering replacing it with a bike.

    1. fuflans

      i am very sorry for your car. this would make me sad.

      may you have a rewarding relationship with the corporate sector that controls whether or not you are reimbursed for the things you paid for.

      1. imissopus

        Actually the insurance company gave me more money than I had expected. I was pleasantly surprised. So far not having a car in L.A. has actually been a nice change, though I think it's going to get old soon.

        1. Lascauxcaveman

          My advice? Buy a really cheap bike first, see if you like it. Doesn't have to be a bad bike; just used. Find someone in the know and hit craigslist.

          1. Lascauxcaveman

            So am I. Some people make the mistake of going out and buying a $2000 carbon fibre dust collector that just sits in the foyer.

            There are buttloads of decent, cheap, mostly unridden bicycles on craigslist, put up there by people who decide they want their foyer back.

          2. imissopus

            Oh believe me, I have no intention of spending more than a couple of hundred bucks. I just need something that I can get around on, not some high-tech feat of engineering. I assumed you were talking motorcycles because I recall you being an enthusiast.

          3. Lascauxcaveman

            "All of them, Katie."

            But the pedal bike gets about %1000 more of my time than the vroom-vroom one does.

  32. Negropolis

    Sweet, sweet talk of death. How very and supremely sublime. Pass the peyote, Ken.

    Now, someone go check on Ken and make sure he's all right. Also, where's my gun? Also.

  33. larrykat

    The problem is that only a very few can "quit money"… otherwise what houses would this faux-mystic house-sit? And what dentist would fix his teeth for free? This is such a load of unrealistic shit that it even evades snark.

  34. UnholyMoses

    So it's like life for, oh, about 50 million American families who also live a (totally unplanned) money-free existence?

Comments are closed.