Dear beloved Wisdom & Money community,

Sawyer here. For the last few months, I have been learning and researching about what money is moving out of the US to support Israel and Palestine in this time of immense turmoil. Money is our business here at Wisdom & Money–not in the traditional sense of that phrase, but rather in the sense of “show me your money, and you will show me your heart.” The genocide happening in Palestine and the political climate in the US are shaping my approach to Lent this year.  

I write this reflection with immense gratitude to God for protecting and cultivating a spirit of life in me that has not been quelled by the culture of our time, especially as a white woman who could have so easily chosen status quo success available to me. I bow with honor to my mentors, both people of color, and to my friends that I can even attempt to describe what I am about to say. Many of them have found a way to be in this world–but not of this world and I am well on the path to that same embodied knowing thanks to their witness, advocacy, and love for me.

I know many in our community are personally affected by the Israel-Hamas War. My heart is with all of you as I offer this personal reflection in the Wisdom & Money way: sitting with what is arising for me around money, and expressing it to our network. Doing so in this written form both deepens my personal reflection and helps cultivate community through the act of sharing intimately with you all. At Wisdom & Money, we know that this is a tender subject, and we have done our best to take care. We invite you to notice what happens in you as you read, and to reach out for conversation as needed. 

Peace and healing,
Sawyer Tracy

 ***

The Habit of Freedom: Lent & Gaza

Since the Hamas attack in Israel on October 7th, more than 30,000 Palestinian vibrant and beautiful lives have been taken from this world. This does not include those missing or physically injured. The devastation of minds, lives, families, homes, businesses, schools, hospitals, and cities in the Gaza strip continues at a rate that is difficult to fathom. Today, nearly two million Palestinians are displaced without access to food, shelter, and water–that is a staggering 85% of the population. Do you feel the heaviness of this war? I do. Take a deep breath with me. 

Meanwhile, there is devastation, grief, fear, and suffering in Israel and in the Jewish diasporic community as well. The conflict has taken nearly 3,000 vibrant and beautiful beings from this world and many hostages are still in captivity. Antisemitism is on the rise and the unsettledness from this war is reverberating globally. The trauma of the Hamas terrorist attacks and the ensuing conflict continues to impact Israeli and Palestinian people and will for years to come.  I invite you to take another deep breath and notice how you’re feeling. 

Profiting from war

Here in the United States, while hundreds of thousands march against the war calling for a ceasefire in Palestine, companies like Lockheed Martin and Northrup Grumman have seen a dramatic increase in their share price since October 7th. For example, on October 5th, one share of Lockheed Martin was $397.35. It jumped to $436.53 by October 9th. The stock shares rose because of the promise of profit from this war. It continued to rise until late January, when the United Nations’ International Justice Court tried South Africa’s case against Israel in a public hearing. At this point, Lockheed Martin stock has dropped some, though it is significantly higher than it was in early October 2023.

United States military funding to Israel of $3.8+ billion per year (total of $158 billion since Israel’s founding in 1948) continues, and it is primarily used to purchase weapons and supplies from United States companies. To put that in perspective, there are 19 countries in the world with a GDP of less than $3 billion. This funding makes Israel’s military spending the 15th highest in the world while being one of the smallest countries in the world (98th most populated). The US has the largest military, largest military budget and is the number one arms dealer in the world. Many Americans can and do profit off of this situation that we created with our financial system. This is the business of war and this is life as usual under capitalism in the United States.

I write this to share how broken and violent our financial system is and how many of us are interwoven with that system. The bloodshed of innocent lives and the devastation of entire cities is profitable. At one level, my heart breaks at the reality that this war makes sense to our economic system and for all the ways this is business as usual in my culture of origin, in my home. At another, as awful as it is, I confess I am desensitized to the fact that my mutual funds have profited off of the genocide happening right before my eyes. A part of me finds it easy to ignore the connections between my investments and this war because I believe the financial counsel that “saving for retirement is good.”  

In this season of Lent, I am pondering these disturbing realities with great repentance, and I am thinking about the worldview that makes this economic system and its assumptions possible, and even seem “normal.” 

How could genocide be profitable? 

My understanding is that our economic system, capitalism, is built on a belief that more is better and that infinite growth is possible. It also assumes that all life is a “natural resource” to be used or consumed. Trees, soil, water, even human beings are not our relatives—instead, they are raw materials that can and should be transformed into profit. As investors, we invest our money for the promise of a profit in the future. With our money, the company has the capital necessary to make more in the future. It is a gamble on resources that have not yet been transformed into profit but will be soon. In this system, companies use that investor money to make money. Making more money, especially for shareholders and executives, is the primary indicator of success in capitalism. This means that there is an insatiable drive to find the next place or way to make money. It means that exploitation of land, people, or resources is justifiable because that very exploitation enables profit. Profit justifies any means. 

As I look at what is happening in Gaza, I see a connection between the horror of this war and the centuries-old script of colonization funded by capitalism. Western nations, ravenous for wealth and power, stole land, enslaved people, and committed genocide of hundreds of tribes here on Turtle Island as a path to economic prosperity for some. This kind of spirit is rooted in insecure grasping and a scarcity mentality, one I know quite well if I am honest. As successful as it is at creating financial wealth for a few, this way of being cannot and does not lead to true security or peace for any. In fact, it threatens abundant life for all of us. 

So why I am sharing all of this? 

Lent is here. Lent is a season of repentance, discipline, and transformation. And this year as I meditate on the horror of what is happening in Gaza, our economic system, and how that system shows up in my life, I find myself repenting and longing for salvation.  

I want to be free of the script of “grasping for my own personal security at any cost.” I want a permanent ceasefire and immense support to rebuild and restore Palestine today toward a two-state solution. So this Lent, I am practicing freedom as a way of shifting the ways that imperial conditioning is at work in me. And I believe this inner practice is connected to the outer realities of the world.

I use the term freedom to describe the place from which I want to respond in these times. Freedom is the antithesis of exploitation. It is a knowledge of wholeness, a state of complete sufficiency rooted in the reality that life is abundant. “Enough-ness” is another way I describe my understanding of freedom. I long to root my character in true freedom so that my all of life, my money and my actions can be good, life giving, and trustworthy. For me, the hallmark of true freedom is being fully in the present, fully conscious of cultural and personal conditioning with agency—or freedom—to choose the right action in the moment. Responding rather than reacting. Thich Naht Hahn says with great clarity that “Freedom is a habit and a practice.” What does it look like for me to practice the habit of freedom for Lent this year? 

My Lenten Practice 

My Lenten practice is practicing freedom or enough-ness, as a habit. I believe in the power of discipline and in the neuroplasticity of my brain; that habits that are embodied over time become lasting character. 

I understand that the core of this terrible genocide is exploitation driven by a sense of insecurity. It is a very common impulse. Israel is currently demolishing Gaza as the latest episode in a century-old conflict that began in World War I and was affirmed when the British promised to support a Jewish homeland in Palestine. For some Jewish people, this represented a return after centuries of exile from their sacred lands. The current war is part of a much larger, and very complex story that I have been studying for years. As I reflect on this history, what I see is that even if Israel completely  annihilated every last vestige of life in Gaza and all of Hamas and resettled Gaza completely, Israel would not experience true security or peace as a result. We have seen the impact of grasping at the geopolitical level time and time again. It does not work. 

Often, my own sin flows from a similar insecurity. This is the conditioning of being a colonizer/descendant of colonizers. This grasping for more cannot and does not lead to true security or peace inside of me. I understand grasping itself is inherently unnatural.  Grasping for security outside of myself–whether puffing myself up or putting others down–does not relieve my suffering and does not make me secure.

Instead, I know another way is possible, even if I cannot always access it. Freedom is a habit and a practice. Enough-ness is here and now, it is accessible to us at every moment, and it comes from a steady and settled place within

I know it is not my fault that I have this dangerous conditioning, and it is my responsibility to choose another way. So during Lent, I want to notice when I feel insecure. When I notice it, I want to ask myself gently, “According to what standard are you ‘not enough’?” In doing so, I am hoping to make the imperial script within me–that assumes more is always better at any cost–explicit. Once I see it for what it truly is in me, my prayer is that I would also easily see the elective nature of that script. It is optional! And it feels ridiculously unnatural to me when I run it. Does a tree or any other part of nature ever seek to be more than it is? 

I am also incorporating a discipline of “non-action” this Lent with a commitment to not checking my online budget planner. In doing so, I am practicing trusting that I am enough and that I have enough. My hope is that this non-action will bring an embodied sense of flow with money rather than my usual, careful budgeting. Does a tree or any other part of nature regularly calculate its assets? 

Herein lies the value of these two practices. I want to notice the habit patterns of insecure grasping in my life and shift them because they are unnatural. I also want to concretely work on my money life by intentionally reconnecting with my sense of flow that does not budget or calculate. I trust that as I practice enough-ness, I will see the fruit of that in my finances naturally.

Will either of these Lenten practices end the genocide in Gaza and bring peace to the Middle East? No. Rather, my hope is that they will make me more present and available to take the actions that could, when combined with the actions of others, have a life-giving impact, especially in Gaza. What I hope is that this habit of freedom will become my “normal” and the normal for my lineage, both past and present, so that none of us will engage in exploitation to save ourselves ever again. May it be so. 

God, in your mercy, bring peace in Gaza and Israel. God, in your mercy, save me from the imperial scripts that I have been conditioned by for the sake of all life. Rescript all of us who have been conditioned by imperial standards. Make us as natural as the trees. God, in your mercy, set our hearts and our resources free to flow according to your nature. 

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