Living on faith: A review of The Man Who Quit Money

 

The Man Who Quit Money
Mark Sundeen
272 pages,
softcover: $15.
Riverhead Trade, 2012.

The title grabs your attention: The Man Who Quit Money. Intrigued, you open the book and read: "In the first year of the twenty-first century, a man standing by a highway in the middle of America pulled from his pocket his life savings -- thirty dollars -- laid it inside a phone booth, and walked away." He must have been on drugs or a nutcase, you think. But no, you discover, reading on: Daniel Suelo, a 39-year-old, well-educated and apparently rational man, had simply decided to act on his belief that he'd be taken care of if he followed the advice of St. Francis of Assisi: "If we embrace holy poverty very closely, the world will come to us and will feed us abundantly."

More than a decade before Suelo's life-changing decision, Mark Sundeen, the book's author, worked with him briefly in Moab, Utah. When Sundeen heard about Suelo's moneyless lifestyle, he was struck by the different paths they'd chosen. Intrigued, he tracked down his former co-worker, who was still living in the Moab area. The two men renewed their acquaintance by going dumpster diving, picking melons from an abandoned garden, and digging wild onions. It didn't take long to "harvest" enough food to last several days and pack it off to Suelo's residence: a cave situated on public lands located "a two-hour walk from pavement." Illumination inside it came from burning cotton cords floating in glass jars filled with vegetable oil, and the cooking was done on a ventilated "number-ten chili can." Living permanently on public land is illegal, and once, after Suelo was caught, he unsuccessfully argued his case before a judge. He paid his fine with hours of community service, and then settled into a smaller, more isolated cave.

Suelo has many strong opinions about capitalism and religion, which he expresses freely on his blog, accessing the Internet via a public library computer. Hostile readers have called him lazy, a freeloader, and worse. But Sundeen keeps a cool head as he weaves facts, timelines and anecdotes into a fascinating story, researching everything from Suelo's grade-school years to the history of banking. What he discovered about the defining moment in Suelo's life will give readers a lot to think about. Ultimately, Suelo decided, our attachment to money is about our fear of death: "Money perpetuated the fantasy of immortal earthly life, the illusion that we could determine the future." Sundeen concludes that, despite his critics, Suelo is still a productive citizen, a sort of "freelance philosopher." He just doesn't receive -- or want -- a paycheck.

High Country News Classifieds
  • OPERATIONS DIRECTOR
    We are a Santa Fe-based nonprofit that builds resilience on arid working lands. We foster ecological, economic, and social health through education, innovation, and collaboration....
  • COMMUNITY ORGANIZER
    Come work alongside everyday Montanans to project our clean air, water, and build thriving communities! Competitive salary, health insurance, pension, generous vacation time and sabbatical....
  • CAMPAIGN MANAGER
    Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA), a nonprofit conservation organization dedicated to protecting, defending and restoring Oregon's high desert, seeks a Campaign Manager to works as...
  • HECHO DEPUTY DIRECTOR
    Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and the Outdoors (HECHO) was created in 2013 to help fulfill our duty to conserve and protect our public lands for...
  • REGIONAL REPRESENTATIVE, COLUMBIA CASCADES
    The Regional Representative serves as PCTA's primary staff on the ground along the trail working closely with staff, volunteers, and nonprofit and agency partners. This...
  • FINANCE AND OPERATIONS DIRECTOR
    The Montana Land Reliance (MLR) seeks a full-time Finance and Operations Director to manage the internal functions of MLR and its nonprofit affiliates. Key areas...
  • DIRECTOR OF CONSERVATION
    The Nature Conservancy is recruiting for a Director of Conservation. Provides strategic leadership and support for all of the Conservancy's conservation work in Arizona. The...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Amargosa Conservancy (AC), a conservation nonprofit dedicated to standing up for water and biodiversity in the Death Valley region, seeks an executive director to...
  • BIG BASIN SENIOR PROJECT PLANNER - CLIMATE ADAPTATION & RESILIENCE
    Parks California Big Basin Senior Project Planner - Climate Adaptation & Resilience ORGANIZATION BACKGROUND Parks California is a new organization working to ensure that our...
  • CUSTOMER SERVICE ASSISTANT - (PART-TIME)
    High Country News, an award-winning media organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks a part-time Customer Service Assistant, based at...
  • SCIENCE PROJECT MANAGER
    About Long Live the Kings (LLTK) Our mission is to restore wild salmon and steelhead and support sustainable fishing in the Pacific Northwest. Since 1986,...
  • HUMAN RESOURCES GENERALIST
    Honor the Earth is an affirmative action/equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate based on identity. Indigenous people, people of color, Two-Spirit or LGBTQA+ people,...
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Colorado Trout Unlimited seeks an individual with successful development experience, strong interpersonal skills, and a deep commitment to coldwater conservation to serve as the organization's...
  • NEW BOOK BY AWARD-WINNING WILDLIFE BIOLOGIST, BRUCE SMITH
    In a perilous place at the roof of the world, an orphaned mountain goat is rescued from certain death by a mysterious raven.This middle-grade novel,...
  • DESCHUTES LAND TRUST VOLUNTEER PROGRAM MANAGER
    The Deschutes Land Trust is seeking an experienced Volunteer Program Manager to join its dedicated team! Deschutes Land Trust conserves and cares for the lands...
  • PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Now hiring a full-time, remote Program Director for the Society for Wilderness Stewardship! Come help us promote excellence in the professional practice of wilderness stewardship,...
  • WYOMING COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIPS COORDINATOR
    The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership is seeking Coordinator to implement public education and advocacy campaigns in the Cowboy State to unite and amplify hunter, angler,...
  • MOUNTAIN LOTS FOR SALE
    Multiple lots in gated community only 5 miles from Great Sand Dunes National Park. Seasonal flowing streams. Year round road maintenance.
  • RURAL ACREAGE OUTSIDE SILVER CITY, NM
    Country living just minutes from town! 20 acres with great views makes a perfect spot for your custom home. Nice oaks and juniper. Cassie Carver,...
  • A FIVE STAR FOREST SETTING WITH SECLUSION AND SEPARATENESS
    This home is for a discerning buyer in search of a forest setting of premier seclusion & separateness. Surrounded on all sides by USFS land...