An open space for global conversation
8-10a PDT | 11a-1p EDT | 3-5p GMT
Abundance... The word invites contemplation of polarities and perhaps even paradoxes. We contrast and/or connect it with greed and scarcity, as well as contentment and sustainability.
Where do we choose to source abundance? What forms and levels of abundance are possible and healthy for us individually, in our communities and for the planet as a whole? Occupy Cafe steward Pia Lizana will be our special guest conversation starter as we explore this theme together on Monday's Cafe Call.
As always, we also invite you to begin the conversation right now on this forum, and to continue it here once our call is complete. We are starting with the following question on the forum:
What is your relationship with the concept of abundance?
On the call, we will be asking these questions:
What are your challenges around abundance?
Where do you see opportunities to expand and share the experience of abundance?
Sorry I won't be able to join the conversation, but you might like to look at this
Anna with love.
This email/blog post sent out by Tom Atlee late last night is directly on point for this morning's dialogue:
For years I've known people who gave away their professional services as a gift, explicitly encouraging (though not requiring) gifts in return to allow them to continue their work. I've also loved the idea of "paying it forward" - enjoying as a gift what one has received from others and still giving them money so that people in the future can receive such gifts.
I've also known that the "gift economy" is already a gigantic (though seldom acknowledged) part of the overall economy of the world. When children come of age they do not receive a bill from their parents for "services rendered". Countless home cooked meals, mowed lawns, and love are neither traded nor paid for. Neighbors and strangers regularly "lend a hand" to each other, donate to causes and volunteer in their communities. Invisible in the midst of all this, plants pump out oxygen for us, and we exhale carbon dioxide for them, without any dollars moving from hand to leaf or leaf to hand.
For hundreds of thousands of years gift economies have formed the foundation of families, friendships, tribes and communities. Generosity, kindness, love and gratitude have been the fabric of belonging and the sources of untold abundance. Reputation and power equity have been guardians of the web of interdependence - relational feedback loops that minimize freeloading and hoarding that can be toxic to community. As gifts move through the community, its true wealth grows - not only the common wealth of shared resources and mutuality but also the individual wealth of reputation, appreciation and richness of life.
Laid over this profusion of gifting is the logic of exchange - you give me this and I give you that of equal value - and the abstraction we call money that enables us to expand beyond tit-for-tat barter and relationship-bound exchanges. The less intimacy we have with the people and life around us, the more we need money to ensure proper balance of giving and receiving. But a shadow of this great gift is that the more we use money, the less intimacy we need with the people and life around us.
Complex societies - especially national and global societies - need currency to measure of flow - or current - of exchanges among strangers. There are many forms of currency - some say even reputation is a currency - but the government-issued "fiat currency" - what we normally think of as "money" - dominates our exchange landscape. For most people "the economy" is all about money. Money is the prime measure of "economic health" as Gross Domestic Product (GDP) which is basically the sum of all the money spent by everyone.
Whatever is not paid for is simply invisible to modern economic calculation. Likewise, many harmful things or things of no intrinsic value to life - such as oil spills, bets on the future value of wheat, and usury - show up as "economic growth" because they involve money. This is part of the system that is destroying our world.
But money is not bad. It is just very powerful. Like fire, electricity, and political power, it needs to be kept within bounds, doing what we need it for and not colonizing and traumatizing every nook and cranny of our existence. Our economy is not just money. "Economy" is a beautiful word that comes to us from the Greek word oikonomia, meaning "management of a household". An economy is and should be much bigger than what we can commodify and monetize - especially given the sometimes toxic impacts of commodification and monetization on the earth, on communities, and on human life, beauty, sanity and meaning.
So perhaps we should ask, how many of our needs can be met through an economy of gifting and sharing? The more needs we can meet this way, the richer our individual and social lives will be, the more resilient our communities and families will be in the face of "economic downturns", and the more modest will be our negative impacts on the world around us.
I used to dismiss the idea of intrinsic abundance as a fantasy, given the realities our modern world. But several months ago I was sitting at dinner with a couple I'd recently met, where I discovered that the husband was a car salesman. I found myself dismissing this profession in my mind. However, as the conversation proceeded, he said he had once been a lawyer. What?!! It turned out that he had been doing public interest law but the stresses were so high and the rewards so small that he went on to other things. He'd become a glass worker (both in windows and in art), he'd moved buildings, and he'd gone through a half dozen other professions. He'd landed in car sales because he loved cars and enjoyed talking to people and helping them get their unique needs met. The extent of his competencies and potential gifts to the community blew me away. And all the time it was hidden (to me) behind the reductionist economic label of "car salesman".
I realized that ALL OF US have a vast range of potential gifts for our communities, hidden behind whatever narrow economic role we've landed in. Our latent gifts are known only to a limited network of friends, if that. But what if the gifts all of us had to offer were suddenly made available to all of us? What abundance would there be then? For the first time I began to appreciate what a gifting economy could reveal to us about how rich our communities actually are.
I recognize, of course, that a vibrant gift economy is only the beginning of sustainable abundance. Over the long term, greater abundance requires, as well, preserving our natural environments - including air, water, soil, ecosystems, climate and biodiversity - and aligning ourselves to natural cycles - including reducing and reusing "waste" and tapping the exorbitant energies of today's sunshine - as well as reducing our population while increasing social equity.
But one of the most immediate blossomings of abundance is available right here, right now from you and me in co-created economies of gifting and sharing. The rewards for all of us are potentially immense - especially for the unemployed, poor, houseless, and simple living folks whose numbers will likely grow considerably during the coming decades.
This won't just happen. We have to co-create those economies. Unlike the money economy, they are not given to us. They present us not only with opportunities, freedoms, and many rewards, but psychological and logistical challenges, as well. These are the challenges of evolving into a better world. I feel called to rise to them, and I invite you into that co-arising.
In addition to simply amplifying the generosity and gratitude in our immediate lives and relationships, today's gifting economies offer two emerging institutions to help us expand the support and warmth we can give and receive - in-person gifting and sharing circles and online gifting and sharing networks.
For an introduction to gifting circles, see Alpha Lo's Gift Circles FAQ at http://opencollaboration.wordpress.com/2009/11/28/gift-circle-faq/.
For online gifting and sharing networks, shop around at places like this:
and last but not least, http://kindista.org, the online gifting community starting up right now in my hometown of Eugene Oregon. It features social networking and a strong reputational aspect. If you like the looks of it, let me know if you'd like to help them expand into your community.
For more understanding of what this new economy is all about and what its implications are, you'll find great resources at http://www.shareable.net/, such as the article below by Charles Eisenstein. I recommend his groundbreaking book SACRED ECONOMICS. You will find more eye-opening, mind-expanding, possibility-generating ideas and visions in these two TED talks http://www.ted.com/talks/rachel_botsman_the_case_for_collaborative_...
and this article
Finally, for a bit of remarkable street theater from this new consciousness, consider:
There's a LOT going on here. May the Gift be with you. And blessings on the Journey.
Ben brilliant articulated message thank you!
Pia's leadership in the conversation was interesting. Another Chilean enters my life and rather interesting synchronicity in my V3W notion of Person to Person (P2P) being the last node in redesigning a robust rigorous global Internet for Change. Santiago Chile has been a SPLACE (Space of Wonder and Place of Biological Wisdom) since 1984. I met Fernando Flores the youngest cabinet minister (Finance & Commerce) in Allende Government has been released from Pinochet's Mock Trials and arrived in America. Over the next few years I was introduced to leading edge thinking in cognitive science "The Tree of Knowledge; Biological Roots of Human Understanding" by Humberto Maturana and Francisco Verela. My point is Chile is a very rich intellectual center in our world. Santiago University has broken some new ground in cognition. So thank you Pia for being Chilean and sharing the childhood story of justice in compensation for services as a role of the contracting agent's ethic's of dignity in social relations.
I offer that beyond the symbol of money in all these diverse domains global transactional configurations happening there is even a more basic fundament you touched upon above regarding gifting in the social reality of our everyday living experiences. We use free the energy of human commitments with one another to create and design solutions to our real human concerns. And that is what I witnessed in today's conversation of abundance, the possible possibilities of slowing down the panic and invite wisdom to play a long term strategy to designing a future world together that adorns the beauty, embodies the appreciation of dignity in human relations and simplifies the appreciate inquiry embracing and integrating diverse beliefs and some that are very old and work quite well.
In my life experience and study I have concluded that money is not what economics is all about. In my opinion (and all of this is my opinion so if I assert something as fact know that it is my opinion) money is important but it is not fundamental to economics. What I understand is fundamental to the operation of our or any economic system and to an understanding of it is that at its most bedrock fundmental an economy is people using tools on and from land to produce goods and provide services. Money is the medium of exchange. It is not the stuff we eat, clothe or shelter ourselves in, drive around in, dig ditches with or any of the things that are produced. No one can eat money and live or dig a ditch with it. This means that the stuff we produce is real wealth. Money stands for wealth but is not wealth per se unless it is also gold or silver being used as money.
I therefore do not look to the money question as fertile ground for the fundamental solution to the question of the disparity of wealth because the mechanism by which some get more than others without earning, working or deserving it did not start with money, it started with the more fundamental relationship between land, labor and capital (which for this discussion I define as the tools of production). I also want to stress that land is not capital. I and my associates make this distinction between land and capital because every criticism of capital in the last century or so applies without exception to land and natural resources and not very much to non-monopolized capital/tools of production in the hands of billions of ordinary people which makes up ownership of most of capital/tools of production. Marx noted this distinction in Das Kapital III but this was published after his death and the self appointed "vanguard" of the revolution either never read it or just ignored it. Leftists still do not make this distinction and in my opinion have muddied the waters of understanding and left their most potent and indisputable argument for social and economic justice on the table unused.
Also maybe an even more relevant distinction to money, ownership and wealth today is the fact that every unit of our humanity existed prior to our current globalized culture based on "Get Money or Eat Dirt" by owning land, labor and capital? What did our ancestries do? I propose that they created trusted exchange in human commitments that cared for one another in the permanent common concerns of living together. Money is a symbol we have created to dynamically exchange human commitments in a unified world. I also submit it's now possible to create an Internet of Appreciative Inquires and Dialogs that return dignity to the autonomous node of control in human transactional configurations while creating an entirely new discourse in institutions and governance in an integrated structure caring for the earth and future generations. Money appears to me to have lost all power while human commitment in masses of people are awakening to designing a future world and occupying earth in dignity. For which I am most grateful for your work in economics and the notion of "The End of Poverty" as a solution ready~at~hand requiring our human commitment to be applied in solidarity. Thank you!
Thank you for your support of further discussion of fundamental economic question. The role of taxation in the scheme of things is incredibly important in my opinion and it is an area not well understood by the left including Marxists. Also in my opinion the conservative right is very vulnerable to arguments based on tax justice in the way Henry George formulated it. For that reason I think those of us who care about moving a progressive agenda forward have failed to realize what a powerful tool already fully theoretically developed with a real life rack record we have left on the table unused.
I think a little investigation of the Georgist analysis will reveal that it could provide the core of a truly "plausible New Age position". In my opinion the Marxist analysis comes from the right heart space but that it is too freighted with economic and historical shortcomings to be the basis of the economic transformation we need. For this reason I think Occupy will cripple itself by aligning itself with Marxism or anything to do with traditional socialism. Americans want a new perspective and one is available that covers the territory Marxism claims to cover. My opinion.
Yes women's studies is crucial. I suggest that the Georgist focus on sharing the earth is the most fundmental of issues having to do with the feminine and women's issues since the earth is of the feminine polarity. Treatment of the earth and women mirror each other. What better way to honor the feminine than to start with the principle that the earth belongs to all, is for the benefit of all and that no individual has the right to monopolize her for private profit. There is a way to accommodate private ownership of land for USE with the common right to ownership of the value all of us give to land by our very existence and by all the things we do as individuals in community. In the debate between Marxism and Georgism the focus is shifted off of capital all of which is very masculine in polarity onto our relationship with the earth from which all capital comes and will always come from.
A comment on the current political situation where we see that Romney has selected Paul Ryan to run as his running mate. Ryan is a died in the wool devotee of Ayn Rand and one of the cardinal principles of that grotesque monstrosity of a philosophy (my opinion) is that there is no such thing as community. The implication of this is that the only thing that exists worthy of concern is the individual and his property rights and al the rest is pure socialism/communism/communitarianism. The absurdity of this is obvious but these folks have convinced themselves of it.
Also just to "straighten out" some confusion about terms: land is not capital. Land is its own separate and distinct factor of production. The classical economists treated it this way and Marxists and neo-liberal thinking, both left and right, ignores that distinction. Failure to make the distinction is a fatal flaw in economic analyses of both left and right. Always willing to discuss these and any other issues arising from the Georgist paradigm.
Thank you Wendell! Thinking a "conversation starter" slot might be in your future, if you're so inclined. Curious where, if anywhere, you see 'transpartisan" opportunities emerging out of this framing, not just progressive ones.
C.A.: I appreciate your enthusiasm for Wendell's work, as well as your request for some reading you/we might do to go deeper with these ideas (and your desire for deeper inquiry in general). And, believe it or not, share your concerns about being too "new agey."
I also want to comment on this statement by you:
However Cafeers rely too much on links to other's thoughts, instead of doing it themselves.
We are seeking to foster a culture in the Cafe that avoids judgmental statements like this. I shut down when I feel judged. My belief is that I cannot really know what is going on inside someone else's head. Doing that is what is referred to as "taking someones inventory" in twelve step work, the suggestion being that we ought to only be taking our OWN inventories.
Here's an alternative approach to consider, from our friends at GroupWorksdeck.org:
Ben, I think you need to take this to heart yourself in your reply to CA. Anna
Thank you, Anna. (Ben, here, wearing my OC Steward hat).
C.A.: in case it isn't clear, I do assume that your intentions are to help make the Cafe a vibrant, hospitable and transformational space. I take notice, for example (and greatly appreciate) the fact that you so often post a note of welcome to newcomers as soon as they join. Indeed, the fact that I appreciate your presence and energy here is one of the main reasons I take the time to respond to aspects of your posts that I find challenging or that I don't believe are serving our collective desire to see the Cafe evolve positively.
The culture we create here is essential. We can all engage with one another when our numbers are small. But if participation grows substantially, that is no longer possible and it is the culture of the space that will guide the quality of our interactions. What we do collectively to steward that culture into being can make the difference. This is what we are getting at with the first two elements of the "hurdle" (note that, in deference to you, I'm not using the word "price!") I'm we have drafted in our first iteration of the invitation:
Do you want to give reference to this Carephysics?
Please see my reply above re your sense of being "admonished." I appreciate that you are taking my request in what appears to be a positive light.
I hear your concerns again about New Age concepts. As I noted, I have my own challenges there as well, although I don't share what appears to me to be a dismissal of the value of terms like "the divine feminine" or of the insights that many have gleaned from the twelve step world.
Finally, I offer this piece from the late Gore Vidal for your consideration: "Notes on Our Patriarchal State." Brilliant, concise and as true today as it was in 1990. Maybe nothing specific here that you and I and most others here in the Cafe don't already know, but there's something powerful about a well crafted essay like this one. Perhaps in the 22 years that have elapsed since it was written, enough things have shifted so that real change might occur. If nothing else, the battle lines seem clearer to a whole lot more of us.