The Man Who Quit Money Short Summary

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Selfishness, characterized by a preoccupation with one’s own well-being and disregard for others, is seen as a negative trait when it surpasses a certain threshold. The question of its origins is raised – whether it is a learned behavior in humans or an inherent animalistic instinct beyond our influence. Mark Sundeen, the author of The Man Who Quit Money, uses the story of Daniel Suelo to delve into this notion.

Daniel Suelo, a middle-aged man, made the bold decision to abandon his previous life and rely solely on the goodwill of others and discarded items from dumpsters. This meant he no longer adhered to the typical American lifestyle or utilized money. The book highlights two types of selfishness: the evident selfishness of people and their willingness to give, versus the ambiguous selfishness exhibited by Daniel Suelo in his self-centered approach. Personally, I perceive Daniel Suelo as an unintentionally selfish individual, thereby emphasizing how money can inevitably lead us all to exhibit selfish tendencies.

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On page 11, we witness evident selfishness as Suelo leads Mathew and Melony to a patch filled with watermelons and other fruits and vegetables. The patch was originally owned by a man who believed that everything would be ruined after Obama became president. However, when that didn’t happen, the man left it behind, even though it still technically belonged to him. Suelo takes Mathew and Melony to the patch and they pick several watermelons. This raises the question of whether their actions can be considered selfish since they are essentially taking something that doesn’t belong to them and disregarding the effort the original owner put into it.

Or is it selfish that this man owned this land and just abandoned it? This concept of selfishness is subjective and dependent on one’s perception of the situation. Nonetheless, it remains a manifestation of selfishness. “Mathew and Melony and I filled our arms with melons, hoarding them like iGadgets we’d liberated from Best Buy after a hurricane. But Suelo chose only a single, small green fruit.” (Sundeen 11) Frequently, in the American way of life, we consume more than necessary, resulting in significant waste.

The three individuals who filled their arms with melons in an attempt to grab as much as possible could have simply gone to a grocery store and purchased the same type of melons. However, Suelo, who had no money and was uncertain about his next meal, only took one fruit. This exemplifies the concept of selfishness because as human beings, we often take more than necessary and end up wasting a large amount. Personally, when I eat at the commons on campus, I know that I can take a significant amount of food due to the meal plan provided for being a football player. Frequently, I take more food than I can consume, reflecting the saying “my eyes are bigger than my stomach”.

At the end of my meal, I discard a significant amount of food on my tray, resulting in a considerable waste. This act becomes particularly disheartening when I observe fellow students who have regular meal plans and can only take a limited amount of food. They manage to consume all the food on their plates and waste very little, adopting a sensible approach by taking only what they require to satisfy their hunger until their next meal. Suelo echoes this notion in his book, sharing his experiences which demonstrate that those with fewer resources are often more willing to share and minimize waste.

It is ironic that individuals who have the ability to share a greater amount are less inclined to do so and will ultimately waste more, whereas those with fewer resources tend to share more and waste less. This notion appears irrational to me, as it is challenging to comprehend why those who possess more are less willing to be generous. My father, who falls into the upper middle class category, has imparted valuable life lessons onto me and has shared his personal experiences. Despite not having all our desires fulfilled, my family possesses everything necessary for our well-being.

Despite not being particularly wealthy, my father is incredibly generous. He contributes both financially and with his time to various causes and is often assisting others. I recall a summer when I questioned why we had to help these individuals with their yard instead of simply hiring someone. He explained that he never wants money to make him self-centered and that he aids others not for appearances but because it is morally correct. At the time, I didn’t fully grasp his reasoning, but as I continue to age and develop, I am gradually comprehending it more and more.

During a conversation, my father shared about his colleagues and superiors who engage in acts of charity, but only when they are in the spotlight. In such instances, they donate money or participate in charity events if the media is involved. In retrospect, this notion appears extremely self-centered. At what point in life do we become so selfish that we are unable to assist others? Is it a deliberate decision or simply unawareness of our actions? I have observed a similar selfish mindset in my own encounters. Having attended a prestigious private school with numerous students hailing from affluent backgrounds, this idea has resonated with me.

Frequently, these families would provide financial donations to the school, but they would anticipate receiving recognition in the form of a plaque or having something named after them. Some argue that this is not selfish since they are giving back, while others contend that it is a self-serving act as they are only giving in hopes of receiving something in return. Many assume that Daniel Suelo is extremely selfless because he lacks money and willingly works without payment. However, I perceive Daniel Suelo as a selfish individual, not in terms of money since he has none, but due to his selfish actions.

It might appear as a radical assertion, but I believe that many individuals have not truly delved into the matter. Daniel Suelo, residing in the woods and living a vagabond existence, seems to have never considered the impact of his actions on those around him. Beginning with his self-centeredness towards his family, has he ever contemplated the pain and frustration he has caused them? They are unaware of where he spends his nights and if he will survive to see another day. Although these individuals love him and want what is best for him, they understand that what is best may not be provided for him due to his choice to abandon that way of life.

Furthermore, Suelo’s selfishness towards the community and his neighbors is evident in his choice of dwelling. For countless years, he resided in a cave until one fateful day when a park ranger stumbled upon Suelo’s abode. The ranger remarked, “If I were hiking along here and I saw this camp… I’d feel like I wasn’t allowed here, that it was someone else’s space. But this is public land” (Sundeen 14). Inadvertently, Suelo was acting selfishly by appropriating this land and depriving others of the opportunity to enjoy it. Although his selfish actions were unintentional, they still had an impact.

This passage examines the concept of selfishness, both unintentional and deliberate, in relation to Suelo and the government’s public space policies. It also raises the question of whether humans are inherently selfish or if it is a characteristic we choose to adopt. The situation with the Park Ranger highlights whether the government itself is being selfish by enforcing restrictions on public land usage. Some perceive nature as a creation of a higher power, making it universally accessible. This perspective aligns with Native American beliefs that man cannot claim ownership over land since it was not created by man. However, permits are required for occupying land and fees are charged for visiting natural sites by the government, challenging this notion of inherent accessibility.

Suelo received a fine of $120 for exceeding the government’s permitted time for sleeping in a natural cave. Thus, Suelo had to make payment due to his occupation of an area claimed by the government. It is evident once again that selfishness is a recurring theme. The government possesses authority over public land, granting them the power to establish regulations and impose penalties for infringing upon these regulations. Yet again, Suelo grapples with the concept of ownership and public space. Suelo reveals his experiences of scavenging in dumpsters and the resistance he faces from restaurants and companies unwilling to allow him access to their dumpsters.

Suelo used to scavenge from dumpsters, consuming what people discarded, but he was often hindered by companies refusing him. The reason behind this is unclear. However, one could argue that since the discarded items would eventually be destroyed in a matter of days anyway, these companies’ refusal seems selfish. It appears that their motivation is driven by monetary concerns; they prefer that individuals purchase food from them rather than consuming it from the trash. It is evident that money causes both individuals and companies to act selfishly. Capitalism was the founding principle of our nation, and it seems that everyone strives to maximize their financial gains.

This is why individuals who have more are less inclined to share and give; they desire to retain every dollar and avoid any wastage. Similarly, the government aims to extract maximum funds from citizens, which is why they enact laws concerning nature and enable the sale of land for profit. I hold the belief that every person possesses a certain degree of selfishness, although the extent may differ for each individual. Ultimately, every human is inherently selfish by nature and this trait cannot be eliminated. This is an inherent aspect of being human – the inclination towards selfishness.

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