I am currently about half way through Charles Eisenstein's wonderfully thought-provoking book, Sacred Economics.  We have, of course engaged on this terrain in other places within the Cafe, including this discussion thread tied to the Cafe Call last December on which Charles was our guest "conversation starter."  I felt called to start a new conversation however, given that I am feeling so inspired not only to read but also to share this book.  

If you are not familiar with Sacred Economics, you can still join the conversation based on your response to this brief and compelling video.  You can also read the book online here (please consider a contribution back to Charles if you take advantage of this gift!).  

I also am feeling called to explore further this idea of a "hosted" conversation.  Here's what I wrote many months ago when this idea was first proposed:

Please note that this is a hosted discussion.  We want to focus on dialogue and collective/creative thinking, not debate or the promotion of personal agendas.  If the activity gets heavy, we will periodically ask people to step back or step up, to make sure the dialogue is balanced and there is space for all voices to be heard.  We will also ask that side conversations that emerge be taken onto new discussion threads so that this core conversation remains focused and readable.  Thank you in advance for your help with this, and if you are interested in hosting a discussion yourself, please email connect@occupycafe.org.

I would like to resume our experiment in this terrain, and perhaps stretch ourselves a bit more than the  framing above implied.  I want to try this in three ways, all of which might be serve to give this conversation that special and sacred quality of "aliveness:"

  1. Explore our willingness to collectively pursue a particular intention for a conversation
  2. Invite all participants to think of themselves as "hosts"
  3. Invite the possibility that connecting emotionally, showing compassion and being in relationship can be just as much a part of what we engage in here as the intellectual exchange of ideas

So... here goes!

My intention in convening this conversation is to see to what degree the ideas in this book can inspire and help us articulate a "Story of Now" and a "Story of Us" for the Cafe.  Marshall Ganz describes the former as a story that can inform "the challenge this community now faces, the choices it must make, and the hope to which 'we' can aspire."  And the "Story of Us" illuminates "what your constituency, community, organization has been called to: its shared purposes, goals and vision."

Some basic questions that we can explore are:

  • In what ways, if any, does Eisenstein's diagnosis of our current situation resonate for you?  In what ways, if any, does it challenge you?
  • Is the invitation Eisenstein issues for co-creating "the more beautiful world our hearts tell us is possible" compelling and inspiring to you and if so, in what ways?

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Sea, can you explain in a comment what Eisenstein overlooked in Das Kapital?  I’m
not a student of Marx.

Hello, Richard.   Have you considered the possibility that you  might always be at home?    Further, what do you think of the idea that focusing on 'going home to the past' is similar to focusing on 'going home to the future' in that both take us out of the vivid experience of Now?

When someone asks me where my home is, I always have a split second of wondering what they could possibly mean.   So many possible answers flash up.... 'Earth, East Coast  (let me see what month is this, for if it is October it is in Maryland, but if November, it is Florida)  or, you mean I'm not home now?  Well, maybe he means where was I born? '

Well.... finally I just try to give him what might satisfy him.  But it won't be any more true than any of the others.

Richard, Life is but the Tao. We can never go home again and we can never leave it! Absolutely right about the richness of many of our communities growing up before TV and similar technologies, but we must recall that one had to be white and middle-class to enjoy such things. What we're about now is finding that kernel of community, but making it all inclusive - even global.

“…parts that felt like socialism or worse.”

 Jerry, what don’t you like about socialism?

Jerry, since you implied an aversion to socialism, I was more interested in your understanding of it, and especially what part of it you don’t like.  If I understand you correctly, you simply don’t want a redistribution of wealth by force.  Is that your message?

Aren’t we doing that now through our tax laws?  Should taxation be voluntary?

Ben,  I'm missing something: when is this conversation, or is it a blog roll?

Michael: We don't have a Cafe Call scheduled for this topic a the moment, if that's what you mean.  We may set something up in the future though--I believe Jitendra said he was thinking of reaching out to Eisenstein.  But I would like to see this stand on its own.  I think "asynchronous" conversation is an art we are still in the early stages of exploring collectively, and I hope this discussion moves us forward not only in its specific content bu also in terms of our skill with the process.  See my initial post for a bit more on this.

I invited you in because of the New Story piece to this--my intention is to explore the degree to which Sacred Economics informs the stories we want to tell in the Occupy Cafe community.  I think the Road Map also fits into this question.

Ben and all,

I have two general responses to this thread and your questions. One is theoretical and one is practical.

The theoretical part is about the imaginal cell metaphor. In that story, the imaginal cells are not triggered until the collapse of the host, the caterpillar. They are not activated before the caterpillar goes into the cacoon. Similarly, we can quibble about the particular stage of social collapse we are currently in, but the reality is that the money system still has great sway in determining the way people think and interact. It's very difficult for anyone to construct sufficiently diverse social relations to extricate oneself from the money economy. Despite the grasp we believe we have on the nature of the collapse and all its reasons, unless and until it progresses further, we can't quite yet point to significant progress in constructing the alternative.

Yes, it's true that there are many incipient forms of an alternative economy emerging in many places. Lots of creative energy, practical, effective and growing. Yet I also hold to the truth that the full depth of the transition involves something deeper and more personal than whether we use a bank account or a time bank.

The practical point I am making is that the progressively destructive abstraction that money represents must be reversed. We have to undergo the de-commodification of our relationships. And that process brings us directly into contact with our deeper fears, sense of scarcity, our "not enough"-ness, the whole idea that our personal worth is somehow connected to money.

The root of it is that all that we have as a species, as partners with all life on the planet, belongs to all of us. We will not be able to reverse the commodification of relationships unless we can at least entertain the possibility that our future depends on a return to something like an indigenous consciousness that finds us nested within successive ecologies.

While Charles' analysis is profound, and I have learned immensely from it, the issue he and we all struggle with is how, in the midst of all the new economy structures we imagine and build, we understand this inner process of transition to the Gift. This is a process of learning how to "be there" while "getting there," how to put attention on the inner process while we build the outer structures, being both the chicken and the egg.

That's my story.

Gary, we can point to millions of examples of an alternative being created, from the personal shifts from consumer to citizen, to the host of socially oriented community groups and NGOs to the Arab Spring and yes, OWS [happy anniversary]. Or are you waiting to see it show up on the corporate controlled nightly news? They'll report only after it's undeniable. 

And yes, it is far deeper than bank accounts. It is finding ourselves as part of Life, and hence in connection and in concert with all that lives on this planet. The recognition that we're all Here together is profound. 

The process of 'being here' and 'getting here' [to the place where we recognize ourselves for who and where we are] is one of letting go of fear and finding gratitude, even as Sacred Economics and World 5.0 suggest. 'The longest trip we take is inside.' But only here can we find our true self, and our inherent gratitude.

Jim, with all due respect, even with the millions of examples of an alternative, the millions of NGOs, we are perhaps talking about 150-200 million people worldwide who have a perspective about what needs to be done--people who are acting deliberately in their communities. Maybe add another very generous speculation of 500 million people who are aware and not acting in their communities.That's about 10% of world population. Oh hell, let's say 15% really get it. How many are enough to stand against the national surveillance state that is criminalizing dissent, to unravel the hegemonic corporate agenda that doesn't care how grateful you are, to turn back the tide of the military-industrial-political complex that exists in an entirely extra-judicial universe?

Did you know that Walmart (not known to be especially committed to our interconnected universe) sells 25% of the food purchased in this country?  

I surely agree that the longest journey is inside, yet am also under no illusion that collapse could come in three years, three months or even three weeks.  How much time is enough? How soon do we need to "get there?"    

Gary, with likewise respect, if we look at trend lines and the oppressive, psychopathic power of the controlling elites, we have little hope. In a world as corrupted and broken as ours, with all the personal distraction and trauma, it's hard to see how we 'fight the power.' Indeed, OWS suggests, with its triumphs and struggles, that this plight is to be longstanding.

Such arguments, while logical and apparent, do not take into account the mystery and awesome power of Life. History is full of moments where sudden, unexpected change took place, perhaps due to natural disaster, perhaps war, perhaps a new technology like the printing press.

Nassim Taleb uses the notion of a 'black swan' to describe the idea of an unlikely event changing culture in unlikely ways. We require something of the sort these days as the world trembles in the face of the madness of globalization. We even have a date to look toward - 12/21/12. Should it blow by with no more impact than 1/1/2000, it could mean trouble.

Regardless, the personal key for each of us is to use our intent to breathe, forgive and find gratitude. This leave us invulnerable to fear, and in touch with the only real freedom there is [freedom from fear]. 

Jim, my previous note should have concluded that I don't think we will know how well we are doing or how close we are to getting there until the system implodes further, if that wasn't implicit.

And of course I do subscribe to the notion that unexpected surprises happen...as history clearly shows.

And...some people thought the 2008 financial collapse was a black swan. It has not turned out that way. What would amount to a black swan today? I guess by definition it's hard to say. But a well blow-out under polar ice might be one. A rolling collapse of the EU might be one. A rolling black-out of the NE corridor? 

The drought in the mid-west might be one. We don't know yet. In any case, yeah, something that  distracts the nightly news from its usual distractions.


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