Releasing the obsession with possession is a me-hugging idea

churchill-giving-quote1Pope Francis’s latest tough-love sting was against people who are too wrapped up in consumerism, at the cost of our spiritual individual and collective lives.

We live in a world that is always more artificial, in a culture of ‘making,’ of ‘profit,’ where without realizing it, we exclude God from our horizon…
Often today, giving freely is not part of daily life, where everything can be bought and sold, where everything is calculated and measured — Pope Francis, March 5, 2014
Instead of keeping balance sheets in the heart, he tells us that the best way to give is to not expect anything in return.  This way, he said, people can free themselves “from the obsession of possession, from the fear of losing what we own, from the sadness of those who do not want to share their well-being with others.”

He tells us that the downside of not just having stuff, but loving our stuff, costs more than cash or credit because it’s taxed with our peace of mind.  Once you have stuff, you invite fear–fear of losing it, fear of having it taken.  We have to be on alert and vigilant.  Maybe even anxious.  Perhaps that’s why so many people think back nostalgically to times when they had nothing, but were happy.  I remember when my husband and I were just married, we had very little.  We were leaving for the day shortly after moving into our first place, and I asked him, “Shouldn’t we lock the door?”  To which he responded, “Nah, if a robber came in, he’d probably feel sorry for us and leave us a buck.”

I got no lock on the door
That’s no way to be
They can steal the rug from the floor
That’s OK with me
Cause the things that I prize
Like the stars in the skies
All are free!
–I Got Plenty o’ Nuttin, George Gershwin, Porgy and Bess

So excessive attachment to our stuff causes us to be fearful.  Pope Francis also talks about the sadness obsession with possession brings, because being preoccupied with our stuff cuts us off from others.  We become territorial.  We develop a “what’s mine is mine” mentality, and to protect what’s mine, like every toddler, we become little watchdogs to prevent others from getting too close.  It’s a zero-sum game.   If they get, I lose.

Well, actually, some say it’s not a zero-sum game.   When I share or when I give, I don’t lose.  I gain.  Who says so?  Well, the Bible for one, which instructs us to give our first one-tenth to God.  And what does that do?  It makes us prosper.  It makes US prosperous.  And this is not just a woo-woo idea by a New Age author or a biblical scholar.  George Clason says in the classic prosperity book, The Richest Man in Babylon.  Modern-day financial guru David Bach teaches the same in his blog:

This notion—that the more we give back to others, the more comes back to us—is not simply a religious doctrine; it is virtually a law of nature. If you are looking to attract more wealth and happiness into your life, the fastest way I know how is to give more.

He said it–it is a law of nature.  We are hard-wired to share.  It makes us feel good, and somehow a flow is generated by giving that acts like a boomerang–it all comes back to us with more.   Obsession with stuff=sad; Sharing=glad!    Plus, a side benefit of letting go of obsession with possession is that by buying less, you are minimizing the impact of all this stuff on our air, land, and water.

In short, sharing, giving, and anti-consumerism may sound like a tree-hugging idea, but it is really a me-hugging idea.

How do we know if we are obsessed with our stuff?   Good question.  Richard Foster, in his book Freedom of Simplicity, offers a simple way to find out.   He says to start by just giving something away.   Not that ugly shirt you got for Christmas.  Give away your favorite shirt.   Just for the fun of it.  Examine your feelings when you do.     Frankly, as for me, way too often when I think about releasing many of my own possessions I feel exactly like that young man in the New Testament that turned away sad after Jesus proposed to him that his possessions may be coming between him and his spiritual yearnings.   Like him, I’ve already flunked the entrance exam.

We have, for the past several decades, established the paradigm that progress is measured in GDP.  Outward upward mobility is more important than inward upward mobility.   But we are seeing that there is a hangover that comes with the addiction to stuff.  We are seeing many symptoms of a sick society, and it’s nothing a little more sharing, a little less hoarding couldn’t cure.

I remember a book I read in grammar school about a dad who gave his son and daughter each their own garden to tend.  Each child started with the same size plot of land and the same number of flower seeds.  Both gardens grew and flourished.   One day the boy decided to cut some flowers for his teacher; his sister didn’t want to deprive herself of the beautiful blooms she had cultivated.  One day the boy decided to cut some flowers for the elderly neighbor; again, the sister didn’t want to share the flowers–she was enjoying them too much.  The boy continued to cut his flowers and give them away; the girl continued to keep them for herself.

Anyone who knows anything about gardening knows exactly what happened.  The boys garden soon was prolific in its blooms–because every flower cut yielded at least two more.  The girl’s garden unfortunately just went to seed and languished.   The moral of the story if obvious.  Who had the prettiest garden now?

Some people, proponents of the gift economy like Charles Eisenstein, are suggesting that maybe we see that this story is not just a parable about a family garden–but perhaps the concepts are true on a global scale.  Perhaps we dismantle some of the economic dogmas that are proving to be counter-productive, such as the idea that hoarding money–when our brothers are in need and when our resources are being decimated–might bite us in the butt very soon.  Maybe we have to redefine progress on an individual level, and then scale that up to local and global models of economic development.

We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.  –C.S. Lewis

Change? Or Be Changed?

During these sleepy, snowy winter days, I have been reading a book called Stepping Out of Self-Deception:  The Buddha’s Liberating Teaching of No-Self by Rodney Smith.  This is the kind of book you read with a highlighter.

One line that the author quoted really hit me…

We are not here to change the world.  The world is here to change us.”

Yikes–that seems like totally convoluted to many of us.   Some of us who wind up being “Helpers” or “Idealists” in our Enneagrams see this differently.  Haven’t we been attached to our thoughts about how messed up this world is?  Don’t we go into careers driven to our part to change the world?  Don’t we feel the frustration when we see all that is wrong with the world–all that has to be done–and how futile it seems?   We feel like Atlas with the world’s problems on our shoulders–Oh, if only everyone saw the world the way we do!

Even if we wear our “Be the Change you Want to See in the World” it implies action and effort.  But my take-away from Rodney Smith’s quote and from the commentary on it made by Smith is that there is a lot of letting go that needs to occur before we take on the world, or even ourselves.  We are so motivated by “results,” by “goals,” that our self-improvement projects are like an old Victorian home waiting to be restored, making us Weekend Warriors on our own souls.

I can in no way succinctly or accurately describe Smith’s simple illustration of how we move in the horizontal plane vs. the vertical, but in short, the horizontal is where we are most comfortable because it is the road between the past and the future, and all the baggage we take with us on that journey–our memories, our sense perceptions, or fears, our hopes, our to-do lists.  The vertical is where the here and now, where simply “being” resides.   (Forgive me, Mr. Smith for my oversimplification!)   While each has its place, and integration between the horizontal and the vertical is important, we spend too much time on the horizontal, and then when we try to seek the vertical, we become disoriented because it requires leaving behind the land of the horizontal, where we’ve spent our whole lives.   If the horizontal is the head, the vertical is the heart.

We need to find a home in this vertical world of the Present in order to really change.  One of the things that this requires is being still.   It’s hard to harbor stillness in the horizontal.   But the vertical plane is where we get “the right answer” about who we truly are.  We don’t need to “decide” anything, or do checklists to determine our life path.  In fact, we don’t have to “do” anything.    Just allow ourselves to go home to our real selves.

If the idea of allowing the world to change us sounds kind of scary (what, THIS world?  I don’t want to be like this world!), the author doesn’t mean the material world.  He means, I think that, as I was taught by the Benedictine monks, we need to open up the ear of our heart and listen and be responsive to what we  hear.

Today is Ash Wednesday, and so I’m going to concentrate on that this Lent.  Of course “doing something for Lent” is a horizontal plane task, but I’ll just use it as the bus to get me to that space where I can suspend my mind and rest easy in my heart for a spell.

you-have-the-power-to-be-changed

If you like Eckhart Tolle…, Part II: More about The Happy Wanderer, Anthony deMello

I have taken a good long break from writing, and not sure exactly why.   Shoot, my last post was about the election of Pope Francis, and look at all he’s done since then!  That tells you how long of a writer’s break I’ve taken.

But from time to time I’ll check stats here and I’ve noticed that the most popular, most viewed post by far is this one:  “If you like Eckhart Tolle, Byron Katie, With a Touch of Bill Hicks… You’ll love Anthony deMello.”   It makes me think that people get to the end of books like The Power of Now and realize there’s a whole other world out there where it may be possible to let go of attachments, be one with the present moment, and accept what is.

I hope that some people have been drawn to Anthony deMello as a result of reading that post.    He is so accessible, so light and yet so deep.   Since my last post, I learned that his brother, Bill deMello, wrote a biography about him.  It is called The Happy Wanderer, and it is a great, loving account of the road that “Tony” deMello took in his journey to mystic awareness.   But I will talk more about that later.

I’ve explored other deMello books in the meantime as well:  The Way to Love:  The Last Meditations of Anthony deMello and Sadhana:  A Way to God.  

  • The Way to Love is a series of short chapters, or meditations on topics such as how to unloose the false beliefs that keep us from happiness; dealing with feelings of insecurity, how essential it is to cleave ourselves from our attachments before we can love.
  • Sadhana:  A Way to God is a more structured series of spiritual exercises, described by Amazon as “Truly a one-of-a-kind, how-to-do-it book, this small volume responds to a very real hunger for self-awareness and holistic living. It consists of a series of spiritual exercises for entering the contemplative state — blending psychology, spiritual therapy, and practices from both Eastern and Western traditions.”  Apparently the word Sadhana means “A means of accomplishing something.”    Very useful tool.

Once you’ve read a couple of these books, you may be inspired to check out the credentials of the author.  After all, f you want to learn to paint, you look to Picasso.  If you want to learn to build a building, you look to Frank Lloyd Wright.  If you want want spiritual awareness and enlightenment, you look to one who has walked the walk.

And that’s where Bill deMello’s The Happy Wanderer comes in.  Bill gives us a window into the life of his extraordinary brother, but he does not rely on just his memory or experience with him.  He was just a young boy when his brother left home, so Bill has done extensive research and conducted interviews with friends and colleagues in the Jesuit community who knew his brother in order to give us an accurate and multi-dimensional picture of who he was. At the same time, Bill’s love and appreciation for his brother shines through the book, which becomes both tribute to Tony and spiritual inspiration for the reader.

“The Happy Wanderer” title comes from a song deMello loved.  And it is an apt title for how he lived his life, as a person with no attachments, a wanderer in God’s world;  joyfully inspiring us to pick up our knapsacks and bask in the beauty of every moment.  His books take us with him on that journey.

And by the way, click this link to go to Bill’s Facebook tribute to his brother’s writings–and “like” it while you’re there!

We have a pope! Ring the bells that still can ring…

crack-light

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

How I LOVE that lyric from Anthem by Leonard Cohen.

On March 13, I was sitting in my living room proofing a report that was due to a client.  My husband burst out of his home office, looking for me.  “I hear the bells!  Do you hear the bells?”  Thinking he was going a little daft, I feared for a moment, but then got it…  the bells!  The bells of St. Augustine, the Catholic church at the bottom of my street.  The bells I catch at 8:45 every morning when walking Nessie.   Those bells ring at 8:45 every morning, summoning people to 9:00 Mass.

But it wasn’t 8:45.   It was in the afternoon.  And all of a sudden I remembered how the bells rang when Pope Benedict was elected.  So, this meant there was a new pope!  Now, my husband isn’t even Catholic, and for that matter, neither am I.  But I have certainly have brought my Catholic heritage into my life with no apologies.

So the bells were ringing, and with that, I was searching CNN.com.  Sure enough, habemus papum!  We have a pope!  And a simple Pope at that!   He cooks his own meals.  Eschews the fancy cardinal digs for a small apartment.  Rides the bus instead of taking a limousine.

CNN made good work of talking about this, how Pope Francis is a man of firsts–first non-European pope; the first Jesuit pope; first to choose the name of Francis, first to petition his flock to pray for him before he prayed for them.

Then, of course, the backlash.   Maybe he wasn’t so perfect after all.  Maybe he hadn’t done enough.  He should have done more to free and protect Argentinian Jesuits during the Dark War.  He didn’t back gay marriage.

When I started reading all this stuff about how “imperfect” Pope Francis is, I remembered Leonard Cohen’s lyric.  I remembered Dorothy Day who had an abortion, who was divorced.  I thought about the former party animal St. Augustine.   And then, what about Victor Hugo’s inspirational Jean Valjean–a thief, turned prisoner, turned ex-con, turned man of God.

I recently watched a Youtube video in which one of Dorothy Day’s commentator’s said that the meaning behind Dorothy Day’s famous quote:  “Don’t call me a saint.  I don’t want to be dismissed so easily”  is that designating her a saint lets us all off the hook.  If we expect saints to be perfect, we don’t have to strive for sainthood, because we’ve already “broken the seal” of sinfulness.  Kind of like when you abandon a diet after succumbing to pint of Cherries Garcia ice cream.  Well, guess what.  Yes, we’ve all broken the seal of sinfulness by virtue of being born.

But accepting that we, as well as all the saints, have inherited this original sin offers us hope.   Because all we have to do is accept God’s grace and take up the cross.  Anyone can do this!  We aren’t that special!  But paradoxically, we ARE that special.   We are special because we have cracks–not because we are perfect.  Our cracks are the peephole to God’s grace, and the way for the light to shine on others.

So when some people bash Pope Francis, I just want to say, “He’s not perfect.  Duh.  But he has lived among the poor.  He does not dismiss them.  He has washed the feet of AIDS patients.  He does not dismiss them.”  And as pope, it seems he will not be dismissing the imprisoned on Maundy Thursday, when he will go to a minor’s prison outside Rome instead of St. Peter’s Basilica, where he will wash of the feet of young offenders,

If he can stay true to himself, it will be a wonderful thing for the people, for the Church, and for the world at large.  If he can continue to perform these simple yet profound acts of humility and love for all of humanity, warts and all, he will shine a light on what we all wish a Christ-follower and Church leader to be.  And he will shine a light on the path that we can all follow.

Why aren’t there more footprints in the snow?

footprintIt snowed in the Northeast last weekend, as everyone knows.   We got a decent amount of snow, but not too much to handle.

I took Nessie out this evening for her walk, and I happened to notice that there was only one other set of footprints in the snow out in the park, back by the creek where we routinely take her.  Maybe they were a neighbor’s–more likely they were my husband’s from when he took Nessie out yesterday.

I live in a suburb with hundreds of homes surrounding this little suburban oasis of a park.  But, with all those homes, there were no other footprints in the snow.   I don’t get it.

The woods were beautiful this evening–smokey grey and looking not unlike a Japanese pen-and-ink drawing.  The snow-protected creek bubbled with clean, clear, cold water.   The duck entourage quacked while navigating their way down the waterway.  And I couldn’t believe that perhaps I was the only witness.

The walkway into the park had been cleared by the township.  Perhaps the other dog walkers took that less-soggy route.  What a shame that we’ve moved so far from natural life that we think we should only walk on the cleared tarmac, and that we must avoid wet crunch of the snow and the icy, crackling, canopy of the woods.

How gratitude fuels prosperity

thank youYes, I’m still working through my prosperity classics.

One of the abstracts in Tom Bowden-Butler’s book sounded so interesting to me that I looked it up on Amazon and found that it was only a couple of bucks on Kindle, so I bought it.  It was Charles Fillmore’s Prosperity.

Charles Fillmore was one of the early New Thought leaders of the last century.   He founded Unity, a church within the New Thought movement which includes thinkers and spiritual leaders such as early ones like James Allen to modern-day New Thought practitioners like Caroline Myss.

One of the things you find in a lot of these New Thought/Positive Thinking books is that the secret sauce is gratitude.  You can work your butt off.  You can list goals.  You can network a web around every mentor and business leader and prospect in the country, but unless you do all of this with an “attitude of gratitude” your mileage on the road to prosperity is going to be akin to that of a Hummer.

“Many people who order their lives rightly in all other ways are kept in poverty by their lack of gratitude.” - Wallace Wattles

However, if you simply fill the tank with gratitude for anything that comes your way–if you simply thank God for the mundane as well as the miraculous, you may find you’re driving your way to prosperity at 50mpg.    Much higher efficiency.

Why is this?  To be sure, the mystics all talk about gratitude.  Meister Eckhart famously said that “If the only prayer you say in your life is ‘thank you’ that will suffice.”  But what does that have to do with opening up the door to abundance–to prosperity?

Poet, author and teacher Stephen Levine says:

Gratitude is the highest form of acceptance. Like patience, it is one of the catalytic agents, one of the alchemist’s secrets, for turning dross to gold, hell to heaven, death to life. Where there is gratitude we get the teaching. Where there is resistance we discover only that it keeps us painfully ignorant.

So when we are grateful we tap into the flow.   When we tap into the flow, we have access to an aura of abundance that that creates a magnetic attraction.  People become attracted to us.   Doors become open to us.  We, no longer resistant to what is, are open to walking through those doors fearlessly.

Daniel Peralta describes this phenomenon in Louse L. Hay’s book, Gratitude: A Way of Life:

When you express gratitude, you raise the vibrations around you to a higher frequency. You create positive energy that emanates out from you and returns to you as wonderful experiences. You become magnetic. Good things and good people gravitate toward you because you’re such a joy and delight to be around.

An attitude of gratitude is naturally attractive. It has the power to turn challenges into possibilities, problems into solutions, and losses into gains. It shifts the energy. It expands our vision and allows us to see what might normally be invisible to someone with a limiting attitude.

So, taking this concept, adopting it, and making it “actionable” in the parlance of business leaders means that once that gratitude has seeped into your consciousness like rum in sponge cake, you are in the position of accepting your present circumstances.  More than accepting them, you embrace them.  You call them good.

Good leads to good.  So if you’re starting from a place that you deem to be undesirable, what good can come of it?   So by turning the switch from the attitude of scarcity to an attitude of plenitude, you are on a different trajectory.  You are on your way to exponential goodness.

“We should form the habit of blessing everything that we have. We know that we are setting the law of increase into operation.” – Charles Fillmore

So, let’s just lean into our gratitude.  Let’s not just thank God for the obvious.  Let’s thank God for everything that is now in our field of vision.  Everything we can see.  Everything we can embrace joyfully.  Everything we can accept gratefully.  Everything we can change purposefully.

Here’s a poem about the joy of gratitude that expresses how I’ve felt at times:

I Kissed It

I was ironing the other day
And I found myself
Kissing
My son’s white T-shirt
Size 8
It was a silly thing to do
I did it anyway

I was wondering what to cook the other day
And I found myself
Kissing
A small rutabaga
It was a silly thing to do
Kissing a rutabaga
(Purply-waxy little thing!)
I looked around sheepishly
To be sure I was alone
And I kissed it

Some things make sense to kiss
You kiss a spouse
You kiss a cheek
Or two, if you’re in France

But there are things
So beautiful
So wonderful
So awe-inspiring
(To my eyes anyway)

That the desire wells up
Irresistibly
And I…
Sshh…
Just have to sneak a peck!

A silly way (to be sure)
To simply say
Thank you

–r. carrera  ©2012

What’s Your New Year’s Prosperity Affirmation?

bart-simpson-chalkboard_www-txt2pic-comThis year I’m not doing New Year’s resolutions.  I’m doing New Year’s affirmations.

Remember when our teachers made us write things on the board 100 times in order to modify our behavior?  Well, maybe they had something in common with people like James Allen and Wayne Dyer.  And maybe they were really on to something.

I got an Amazon gift card from my son for Christmas.  So, I spent some time perusing the seemingly limitless choices, and then a light bulb when off.  Why not get one of Tom Butler-Bowdon‘s books?  Years ago I got his 50 Success Classics on MP3 and listened while I was driving.  I loved it.  It was just enough to get the gist of the classic works, already abstracted and synthesized.  And the bonus is his “In a Nutshell” where he gives you the key takeaway of the whole book.

So, getting his one book is like getting 50 books–and 50 great, time-tested books at that.

This time around, I chose 50 Prosperity Classics.   That choice may seem weird for someone like me, who writes about people like Peace Pilgrim and Charles Eisenstein and who basically feels that unlimited economic prosperity is going to ruin the environment.  But I looked at the list of authors in this book and they called out to me:  people like James Allen, Andrew Carnegie, Thomas Friedman, Paul Hawken, Ayn Rand, Dave Ramsey and Muhammad Yunus.  If that’s not a diverse group of people to put under the prosperity umbrella, I don’t know what is.

What struck me immediately as I started to move through some of the authors was a common thread–the idea that manifesting prosperity is a matter of affirming your prosperity today.  And to me, prosperity doesn’t mean dollars and cents necessarily.  I’m not looking to be a millionaire, or own a better car than the one I currently have (a 2007 Prius), and I certainly don’t want more rooms to clean.  To me, prosperity is about thriving in a holistic sense.  Having physical needs fulfilled is part of it, but really, to me, it’s about creating conditions for your mental, physical, and spiritual being to thrive so that God can work through you.  Prosperity can be the happy result of unclogged spiritual plumbing.  Spiritual clogs can be fear, doubt, lack of imagination, lack of belief, and resignation.

A while back, I touched on Wayne Dyer and his book Wishes Fulfilled.  As a result of reading his book, I spun off with an interest in Anita Moorjani and Neville Goddard.   Reading the 50 Prosperity Classics I was reminded of these inspiring writers who join with James Allen, and Catherine Ponder, and Napoleon Hill in advising us to BE what we want to be NOW.  Don’t say, “I’m going to be healthier.”  Say, “I AM healthy.”   Don’t say, “I’m going to be able to pay my bills.” Say “I AM able to pay my bills.”

Once of the basic tools most of these folks teach in order to manifest prosperity in life is the use of affirmations, like  Catherine Ponder’s “I am the radiant child of God, my mind, body and affairs now express his radiant perfection.” 

Some people may think that affirmations are New Age-y and cheesy, but the most pragmatic, successful people believe in the power of the imagination–people like Richard Branson and Steve Jobs, who simply affirmed and asserted their unique visions.  They didn’t let “reality” stop them from manifesting who they were and what they were here on earth to do.  Reality is what we make of it.  It’s not a wall–it’s the window of our minds, thoughts, and hearts.

All these prosperity books are replete with stories of people who were able to manifest their realities.  I might think those stories were fiction, if I didn’t have a story of my own, but I do.    Someday I’ll tell it.

Not Just Any New Year: the 60th Anniversary of Peace Pilgrim’s first step

This is the way of peace:  Overcome evil with good, falsehood with truth, and hatred with love.–Peace Pilgrim

60 years ago today, Peace Pilgrim stepped out to walk her walk and her talk of Peace.  I first learned of her in 1999, and was immediately drawn to her simplicity of purpose, and the joy in non-attachment she had.

She was a woman who walked well over 25,000 from coast to coast spreading her own rendition of the Golden Rule and living a life of peace and simplicity.  Her message is so basic and pure, uncluttered by religious dogma, nationalism, or any other –ism, I have become deeply inspired by it.  Love is The Thing.  Typically, so many things clutter up that message.  But she simply got rid of all those other things in her own life and was left with the Big Thing.

Here is an NPR article about her in honor of the 60th anniversary of her first step.

Here is the Friends of Peace Pilgrim Facebook page.

And here is the full text of Steps to Inner Peace.  I have several copies of this little booklet, which I try to give out when I can.  This is a short post, but I would rather you read her words directly.

Happy New Year, and may this year be a year of peace for all.

In order for the world to become peaceful, people must become more peaceful. Among mature people war would not be a problem – it would be impossible. In their immaturity people want, at the same time, peace and the things which make war. However, people can mature just as children grow up. Yes, our institutions and our leaders reflect our immaturity, but as we mature we will elect better leaders and set up better institutions. It always comes back to the thing so many of us wish to avoid: working to improve ourselves.– Peace Pilgrim

Bottled Water: A Simple Question With a Complex Answer

In my last post I referenced the author and speaker Charles Eisenstein.  Because I “liked” his Facebook page I get posts about his travels and articles from time to time.  I’m going to reprint some excerpts from the one I got yesterday.  I thought it was so good, I would recommend that if you are interested, go to his site and read the whole article.

I really liked this article for a couple of reasons:

  1. I identified with the title Nestlé executive.  Having been a VP in a global marketing firm (and actually having had Nestlé as my client on a few projects) I could stand in her shoes, interested in doing the best job possible, both for the company and for the society it serves.   I could also identify with the young girl who asked the rather accusatory question–I certainly have my own questions about Big Business and its ability to serve the public good without further damage to the earth, simply because the goals of business and environmentalism are inherently at odds with each other in most cases.
  2. The simple question put to the Nestlé executive by a young student was about Nestlé’s manufacture of bottled water.  But the answer was not so simple, and that’s what I really liked about Eisenstein’s piece:  It acknowledged that there is no benefit to a black/white, either/or mentality.  There is no benefit to pitting Us against Them and pointing fingers, simply because  we’re all in this together.   The question of “shouldn’t you stop making bottled water” calls into question not only market supply and demand, but also the lifestyle we’ve chosen for ourselves that necessitates water on the run, the current state of our natural resources to which we have all contributed, and our personal stories we live inside–of the Evil Corporations rolling towards us, the Helpless Citizens, tied to the rails.    But Charles Eisenstein gives each of us more power than that.

Well, I’ll let you judge for yourself by linking to the article, The Lovely Lady from Nestle on this website.  The bottled water question is emblematic of the whole tangled web we’ve woven, and the need for all of us to take responsibility in addressing the pressing questions of our future lives on this planet.

I am providing some excerpts, reluctantly.  I would reprint the whole thing, but I don’t have the author’s permission.  Printing the excerpts is nothing but a hatchet job of a very lucid piece, so I hope you link directly to The Lovely Lady From Nestle by Charles Eisenstein

The Lovely Lady from Nestlé
Charles Eisenstein

At a conference recently I happened to overhear a conversation between one of the speakers, a vice-president of Nestle Corporation, and a college student who was questtioning the VP’s glowing portrayal of Nestle’s social and environmental policies.

The student bravely interrogated the VP about their leading beverage category, bottled water. “Do we really need such a thing?” she asked. And, “I understand you are using 40% less plastic per bottle, but wouldn’t it be better to use no plastic at all?”

To each query, the VP had a persuasive, thoroughly reasoned response. Bottled water meets a real need in a society on the go. And did you know that raw ingredient for making the plastic bottles is a byproduct of producing gasoline from petroleum? If it doesn’t go toward bottles, it will end up as some other plastic product or dumped directly into the environment. Glass uses way more energy to produce. And tap water is no longer pure.

….

The VP’s positions are unassailable unless we can expand the scope of the conversation. We have to ask questions at the level of, “What role do plastic bottles play in the accelerating pace of modern life, why is this acceleration happening and is it a good thing?” “Where does our busyness and need for convenience come from?” “Why is our tapwater becoming undrinkable?” “Why do we have a system in which it is OK to produce waste products that are unusable by other life forms?” And, “Is the ‘sustainable growth’ championed by Nestle possible on a finite planet?”

….

In fact, the corporations don’t have all the power at all. They only do within the framework of a universe of force. In a universe of love, things are not at all hopeless. If we see the VP and people like her as people just like ourselves, then they can change as we have changed. …Maybe there is a time for fighting, for matching force with force. But I think if we carefully examine our victories in social and environmental justice, we will find that it was the power of conscience, compassion, and love that powered those victories.

Some random thoughts on money

ImageMoney:  Just a means of exchange?

One day my great uncle, at that point a young lawyer, came home to find his wife, my Great aunt Florence, crying.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

Aunt Florence tearfully told him that she had torn up an envelope, thinking it was junk mail, and later realized there had been a check for $100 in it, payment for a short story Uncle Edwin had written for Boys’ Life.  $100 was a good chunk of change back then in 1920, around the time this occurred.

“Acchh, money,” said Uncle Edwin, consoling her.  “It’s just a means of exchange.”

If only he were right.  Seems pretty simple and I guess most fundamentally, he is right.  But we attach so much more to it—our security, our identity.  We trade it for what we think will give us comfort, prestige, success, beauty, and an aura of intelligence and even wisdom.

“When you’re rich, they think you really know” sings Tevya in the musical Fiddler On The Roof

But what exactly are we exchanging?

So we exchange away, we exchange our lives for this means of exchange.  We labor. Too often it means working in jobs we hate, working for people who demean us or exploit us.

Then we get our paychecks, and seek ways to find recompense for the unfulfilling hours of our lives we’ve spent to acquire it — trading it for stuff to make us comfortable, prestigious, successful, beautiful.

Sometimes we find we don’t have enough of this exchange medium, so then we go further and exchange our future for it—we go into debt.   By going into debt we build walls between ourselves and our liberty, because now we have to work harder and longer servicing the debt.  We exchange our future for more exchange medium.

Ultimately this “means of exchange” winds up being the medium of our prison.  We have taken what would be a better guarantee of happiness—more time with family and friends and greater choice of right livelihood—for an illusion.

“Money makes the world go round”  sings the M.C. in another musical, “Cabaret.”

So, what if we took money out of the equation? 

What if we found a way to eliminate money from our lives?  Screeech!!!

I can hear the sound of the needle on the LP screeching to a halt—all the music stopping and all that’s left is silence as people think, “huh??”

But, we HAVE to have money!

If all of a sudden money went up in a poof of smoke, or if it were exposed as the illusion it truly is, what would happen?

Would we disappear from the earth?  No.  We might be more in touch with it.

Would we still have access to food, shelter, clothing?   Well, think about it.  Perhaps we would then learn to work cooperatively in communities and share labor and simple resources, like they do in Amish communities.  We would, as part of this shared community, cultivate and grows plants from real seed for real food.   We would share livestock, birds, and fish.

Wouldn’t our lives be pure drudgery?  How would we have fun?   Despite what people think in this high-tech entertainment world, fun is fundamentally available for free.  We’ve just forgotten how to have fun without paying for it.

Yes, Virginia, there is life beyond Versace, contrary to what the advertising world will tell you.    There is even life without money.  The birds do it, and the bees do it.

“Look at the lilies of the field.  They neither labor nor spin” says Jesus (Matthew 6:28)

So, what is a world without money?

I am not an economist by any means.  But I think it’s interesting to just sit for a moment and challenge the paradigm that we have to have money in its current form to live.  Really.  Think about it.  What if our current caste system, which is driven by our “net worth,” was gone?    What if there was a New World summit that could hammer out solutions for removing the source of social inequality, greed, misplaced ambitions, years of hard labor, and the idea of “retirement.”

Think about it.    Just imagine a world without currency as a means of exchange.

Sacred Economics

That’s what I’ve been pondering since reading a couple of books related to a concept called the gift economy.  The first, Sacred Economics, by Charles Eistenstein.  The book description:

“A broadly integrated synthesis of theory, policy, and practice, Sacred Economics explores avant-garde concepts of the New Economics, including negative-interest currencies, local currencies, resource-based economics, gift economies, and the restoration of the commons. Author Charles Eisenstein also considers the personal dimensions of this transition, speaking to those concerned with “right livelihood” and how to live according to their ideals in a world seemingly ruled by money.”

An Elevated Life

There are many, many ideas laid out in Sacred Economics, and there are so many provocative ones.  One of the primary ideas is that our current system promotes a scarcity economy, while a gift economy promotes a plentitude economy.  I love the fact that Eisenstein presents his ideas in a way that shows that by giving up some of our profane habits, we elevate ourselves to the sacred.   There is no reason to think that giving up money is going to diminish us—on the contrary, it will elevate us.  It will open up all kinds of opportunities for right livelihood.  We bow into service to a life worth living.  We serve each other and by serving one, we serve all.  This is not laying down our daily lives for a company that exploits, denudes, or deprives.   Eisenstein says,

“It is ironic indeed that money, originally a means of connecting gifts with needs, originally an outgrowth of a sacred gift economy, is precisely what blocks the blossoming of our desire to give, keeping us in deadening jobs out of economic necessity, and forestalling our most generous impulses with the words, ‘I can’t afford to do that.’”

By the way, in keeping with the spirit of the philosophy of sacred economics, you can buy the book, or you can read it online for free.

The Appeal to our Self-Interest

The main reason for exploring this new way of thinking about money at all is one which should appeal to our self-interest:  Our current growth economy is simply not sustainable.

We are going to deplete all of nature’s resources and basically hand over our survival on this planet to the 1%, because income disparity will continue to widen, and the resulting impoverishment will run deep—even as the natural resources of the Earth dry up.    Something to think about.

Deep Economy from the Well of Community

The other book I read which is not specifically on the concept of gift economy but certainly outlines a transition to a more sustainable economy is Deep Economy by Bill McKibben.  McKibben, author of many seminal books on ecology and climate change, offers some interesting alternatives to a more sustainable way of doing things right in our own backyard.   For instance, simply orienting ourselves to our local communities will help right some of the inherent dangers in relying on giant corporations and foreign exports to drive our consumption.

In doing so, we build valuable social capital, and McKibben quantifies that social capital.  He shows us that the way we are living now–consuming mindlessly with false assumptions about true value–is built on faulty logic.  The same faulty logic that is used to justify working 40 hours a week simply because we think we“have to work”, even if by working we have to pay for childcare, car payments, transportation costs, work clothes and eating out.  The same faulty logic that justifies eating cheap, processed food, even when the long term costs in terms of our health will be so much greater.

Is All Growth Inherently Good?

It’s natural to think that all growth is good.  After all, nature is prolific in how it grows.  Human life is prolific in its growth as well.  So, it makes sense that we see economic growth the same way.  But not all growth is positive and life-affirming.  Cancer grows and cuts off life by upsetting the delicate balance of natural systems in the body.   Unrestrained economic growth is the same kind of cancer—taking over, dominating, crowding out the sacred connections to the broader, more organic systems in our communities and our culture at large.

We can go along on the current path, believing that “capitalism isn’t perfect, but it’s the best way.”  Or, we can open our minds to another way.   Improve the capitalism we have now.  Or come up with something entirely different.

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