Death and Taxes

Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.        —Benjamin Franklin, in a letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy, 1789

Perhaps you too are thinking about at least one of these topics five days before April 15.  We know that we can’t avoid either one ultimately, though we often put a lot of energy into trying to do just that.  What is coming to my mind right now as I finish working on our taxes and face a rather larger than anticipated tax bill is…gratitude.

In a fascinating little book by Canadian author Margaret Attwood, Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth, which I’ve written about before, Attwood teaches us that it is our privilege to be in debt – even the debt of taxes.  As she writes, being in debt is part of the glue that holds society together.  We are part of a community that expects us to live in a state of being beholden to others – and that is a good thing.

If my other entries about this book in past years haven’t caught your attention, I do urge you to find Attwood’s book on debt and see if she’s able to convince you that debt is good.

And just as with debt, we can begin to see how our embrace of the un-avoidability of death -life’s impermanence –   helps us to live more fully.  I don’t mean in an afterlife, but right here and now.  Love, be present, engage, see, feel, anticipate, mourn, appreciate – to do all those and more is what makes us fully alive.

And so I try to be grateful to be beholden.  Beholden to a society that wants me to pay taxes, giving so much in return.  Beholden to the reality of death which gives vital purpose to my feelings of love and awareness.


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