The man who quit money

Amy CarrillThe man who quit money

In 2000 Daniel Suelo quit money. He left his last $30 in a phone booth and simply walked away. Though his decision may seem abrupt, his entire life had been leading to that point. Mark Sundeen, in The Man Who Quit Money, explores both Suelo’s decades of philosophical questing culminating in that decision, and its impact on his life for the twelve years following.
Raised as a Christian, Suelo later explored many other philosophies and religions. For a time he became an atheist, before circling back round to ancient faiths. From each he was seeking a simple truth. What is the most fundamental essence of life? When all else is stripped away, when cultural accretions and false constructs are eliminated, what remains? Whether in Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism, or others besides, the same truth confronted him. Possessions, money itself, cause anxiety and suffering, while distracting from the truly important. Only by abandoning them can a person begin to delve deeper.
The man who quit moneyBased on this understanding, Suelo came to believe that he should quit money. But the prospect terrified him. It seemed impossible to survive within his, or any, society after abandoning one of its most crucial underpinnings. But that day in 2000, standing in a phone booth in Pennsylvania while making his way back to Moab, Utah, he finally made the decision.
Suelo has now survived without money for a dozen plus years. In doing so he believes he has achieved true peace. He lives by a specific set of rules. He doesn’t work for money. He rejects any assistance that is not freely given, such as government aid funded by compulsory taxes. He will, however, accept the hospitality of friends and family, who on occasion house and feed him. Much of the time he lives outdoors, in caves hidden deep within the Moab desert. For food he often Dumpster-dives in town for perfectly good vittles discarded by stores and restaurants. He also forages for wild edibles. For clothing and other bare necessities, he pulls rejected items from thrift shop trashcans. Living this way, Suelo believes himself to be at his most mentally and physically fit.
Though the author clearly reveres Suelo, explicitly comparing him to Joseph Campbell’s mythic hero, he doesn’t hesitate to explore valid criticisms. Some people call Suelo a mooch. He lives off the discarded remnants of a money-based society, and doesn’t hesitate to stay in houses paid for with money earned by people who have jobs. He advocates the money-free life, but if everyone lived as he does, there would be no discarded food to keep them all alive. As for money itself, nearly every society that has ever existed has naturally developed some sort of currency as a practical necessity.
The book ultimately raises more questions than it answers, which is one of its most interesting aspects. It leaves a reader with only one gentle suggestion, that perhaps we all should try to consume less, and in doing so explore life at its more essential.