If we were to build a new economy based on the underlying creative design of the cosmos, what would it look like? What values would be at its foundation, and what level of consciousness would be required to ensure we didn’t repeat the mistakes of our past in a different form?
For starters a new economic model would need to be win/win, far different from the win/lose paradigm under which we’ve been operating. It would demand that we release our attachment to manufactured lack and embrace the notion that what benefits one advances us all, while what impoverishes one diminishes us all.
Our society would need to mirror life, in that what we become must be greater than a simple sum of our parts. It would be founded on the premise that Earth is humanity’s home, and that anything we do going forward must be done with reverence for all life forms, for our shared natural resources and for the environment that supports and sustains us. Nothing we wish to accomplish must ever be considered more important than stewarding and nurturing our home, for no amount of monetary compensation will benefit us if we destroy our own ability to survive.
We’d also need to begin to perceive humanity as a living organism, and to honor each other as cells in that living body. Like cells, we grow under vastly different environmental influences with different likes, dislikes, capacities and passions, but we’re all working toward a singular goal: the ability of the human race to thrive.
Keeping that goal ever in mind would be helpful as we learn more, grow and do more as a species.
Aligning with Nature
To be more aligned with how nature operates, humanity would be well served to follow the fine example nature has already set. Nature doesn’t require any of her participants to pay for their needs before they produce in abundance. She nourishes them without complaint until they’ve matured and are ready to produce their bounty for the benefit of all. Nor does nature withhold her vast resources due to inability to pay; she freely makes everything she produces available to whichever creatures find themselves in need.
While she teaches us to be mindful of the need to prepare for the winter, she also shows us that hoarding leads to waste, since all things decay. Additionally, she teaches us that to take more for ourselves than is necessary creates shortages and causes suffering for others, which eventually comes back around to us.
Nature encourages competition of the highest sort—not to destroy, but to inspire individuals to be the best they can become. She rewards collaboration both within a species and between species by making it easier for those who cooperate to thrive.
She teaches us that growth must be curtailed when a life form reaches maturity, at which point the bounty and beauty that each life produces—not what it consumes— becomes its purpose. She reminds us that every living thing is exquisitely unique, and is worthy of the opportunity to grow and bring forth all it has to offer.
Nature is patient, in that she’s granted us time to discover who we are and why we’re here. She’s compassionate, in that when our creative time ends she graciously enfolds us into herself. Nature challenges us to grow in core competency by presenting us with obstacles and inviting us to find new ways around them.
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In short, nature exemplifies all the qualities we humans attribute to unconditional love. Perhaps, then, nature is love. Perhaps we humans are as yet the most advanced physical manifestation of nature’s infinitely loving consciousness, youngsters in her marvelous garden who are just now learning to emulate her love.
Our species, homo sapiens sapiens (which in Latin means the one who knows he knows), is a mere forty thousand years old. We’re still quite young in relationship to the long and arduous evolutionary journey that life has been taking for eons.
On a mother planet that’s been evolving toward an ever-higher expression of love for over four billion years, it’s not surprising that we’ve not yet had time to fully grasp how unconditionally loving we humans can be. I suspect we’ll realize it once we release our insecurities and false feelings of separation and instead revere the web of life in which we are all embedded.
A True Gift Economy
An economy based on the above principles and realizations, designed by a society that honors life in all its forms and recognizes that whatever diminishes one of us diminishes us all would not include money, bills or debts of any kind, since those instruments give a few of us the power to control and enslave the rest.
A new system based on a new level of consciousness would instead be a true gift economy, empowering all to access not only what they need to survive, but also what they feel is necessary to pursue their passions and bring forth their creativity. No one would dictate the activities of others or judge whether the “worthiness” of another’s productivity merited them receiving what they felt they needed.
We’d learn to trust that each individual understood the value of making a contribution in whatever way he or she felt called to self-express. We’d each take our responsibility to contribute as seriously as we take our current rights and freedoms.
Children would be taught at an early age that personal freedom and social responsibility go hand in hand, and that true freedom can only exist when individuals cooperate, practice self-restraint and feel empathy and compassion for all living things.
Moving Through a Transition Period
I envision humanity moving through a transition period as we shift toward a free economy, one that rewards a more responsible, loving level of human consciousness. How bumpy or graceful that transition will be most likely depends upon us. To inspire us to practice self-governance during our transition period, it might help if we wiped out all debts and eliminated money, paychecks and bills, then set up a resource-based asset distribution system.
It might look like what happens when we go around “Go” in the game of Monopoly®. Simply by virtue of being alive, all would receive annual credits for adequate food, water, shelter, clothing, medical care, non-durable and durable goods, education and vacations. In exchange for that we’d be expected to work so the system could provide what we need while we rethink and retool the global economy.
Because one size doesn’t fit all, everyone would have the option of trading their resource credits to customize their needs to their own situation. A full-time student might swap his durable goods credits for more education credits, while an athlete could trade his vacation credits for extra food calories. The more we exercised self-restraint and the greater responsibility we took for ensuring that what we produced was durable, the more would be available to be shared the following year. The Internet would be instrumental in enabling us to track what was needed globally and to discern where current surpluses and shortages were.
For adults, going to work would be the same as going to school is for today’s children. Nobody would be getting paid, but we’d understand and accept its long-term importance. Since we’d no longer be getting paychecks, people would be less inclined to compare the value of their jobs and all work would be revered for the contribution it made to the whole. Satisfaction for a job well done would ultimately be its own reward.
No goods or services would be priced; items would be inventoried instead. Imagine that every year we each received ten credits for durable goods products (items designed to last longer than a year). Our choices for that year might include an electric car, a new washing machine, a bed and some solar panels. Given their limited number of credits, people would become predisposed to choose only the highest quality merchandise and ask only for what they genuinely needed, because we wouldn’t want to waste our credits on something that might not last, or was only a whim. Industry would need to upscale manufacturing quality to meet consumer demands, so planned obsolescence and waste would disappear. Profits would no longer be business’s motivating factor; meeting popular demand would determine which companies survived and which dissolved.
With businesses no longer able to spend money to undermine the science of climate change or discount the effects of pollution to protect their profits, our desire to protect our environment would impact all product choices. Businesses would need to demonstrate a truly wise use of natural resources. No one would gain by cheating or lying about a problematic product, since no one would have a vested interest in a business’s survival. Companies that no longer served the public interest (or that did more harm than good) would either disappear or be retooled to make things people really needed.
Everyone who was currently unemployed or underemployed would be able to find work, because money would no longer be the deciding factor for whether or not enough work existed for all. Wherever work needed to be done, a new job would be created. Jobs could be posted locally through the Internet and people could respond based on their talents, passions and skills. Jobs requiring a high skill set could be posted globally and the people who filled those jobs could freely relocate. No one would be required to perform a job that didn’t fulfill him or her.
Once we reached full global employment the number of hours each person put in could be lowered, enhancing the quality of life for everyone. Many people would work from home or work locally to reduce traffic congestion and energy consumption. Mothers or fathers could once again choose to stay home and care for their children. They could work from home during school hours and be available to nurture their children each day when they returned home. Our able, experienced elders and currently unemployed teachers could pour back into our classrooms, enabling us to drastically lower the student/teacher ratios. That would enable children to explore their passions individually and at their own pace, creating a new generation of inspired and creative adults.
We could build new homes for all those who didn’t yet have adequate housing, using green technologies and new ideas. We could repair our crumbling infrastructure, clean up our polluted land and water, grow our crops organically, experiment with new technologies and find humane and fulfilling ways to do difficult jobs. We’d manufacture fewer goods to feed our egos, and instead would focus on enhancing the beauty, sustainability, and quality of the things we truly need.
Sharing and Cooperating
Local gifting warehouses might open, through which we could pass along things we no longer needed. That would enable others to reserve their asset credits for things they couldn’t find elsewhere. Recycling would become a natural part of how we functioned, because avoiding waste would be a priority.
As for the dirtiest, toughest and least desirable jobs, we could each contribute a couple of hours a month to getting them done so that no one would have a nasty full-time job. Those jobs could be posted as local Internet listings and ranked in order of social urgency, with descriptions of the consequences for us all if they didn’t get done. Monthly public service awards could be granted to honor those who contributed extra time toward doing those difficult jobs. Meanwhile our technicians and engineers could conjure up ways to automate those jobs.
As for the rich, no one would be forced to surrender their present home or give up any current assets beyond money, stocks, bonds and other financial instruments. The rich would receive the same allocation of resources as everybody else, so they wouldn’t be disadvantaged by this social system shift. If their existing boats, planes and vacation homes used too many energy credits they could swap durable goods credits or education credits for energy. Or they could donate items back to the system for redistribution and better social use.
Time would eventually take care of any remaining inequities in material assets, since the rich would someday die and the younger generation would gradually forget what life was like when a few had more privileges than others. Since the rich constitute such a small part of the population, what’s crucial is how the majority of us would feel about this newly established system. To be rid of the stress related to bills, debts and fears about money would likely unleash so much joy and creative energy we’d be astounded by how much we could collectively accomplish in relatively little time.
We’d make it clear to all that this was a grand social experiment, designed to maximize our personal freedom to express our full potential within the context of our responsibility to the social body. If a large percentage of the population failed to live up to their civic responsibility by contributing work to the system, or if too many of us attempted to “game” the system from greed, the experiment would fail and we’d either return to the old monetary system and pyramidical power structure, or we’d try some other way of being in relationship with one another based on what we learned.
Aiming for Good and for Improvement
Is this a perfect transitional approach? Of course not. But as Voltaire once said, “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” It may in fact be impossible for humanity to ever get to perfect, which doesn’t mean we shouldn’t aim for good and continually try to do better.
Many who fear or distrust change will find ways to poke holes in these ideas, from claiming they’re naïve and undermine freedom (shades of socialism, Nazism or communism, depending on one’s biases), to fearing they will lead to the collapse of human civilization. Of course, since it appears our economic and monetary system is already on the brink of total collapse, what harm can there be in experimenting with radical new ideas? weaking the old [beliefs and system] won’t accomplish enough to fix what ails our economy at its core.
The most passionate challenge I’ve encountered whenever I talk about shifting our system from a debt to a resource economy springs from the fear that the dreaded “others” will take advantage of our “good” efforts. We’ve become so conditioned to believe the worst about each other that we find it nearly impossible to imagine a world in which we’re not constantly on the lookout for those who might screw us over for a nickel.
Perhaps the reason people take advantage of others is because that’s the only way they can see to get ahead in a monetary system, which is stacked against the general population. We’ll be able to stop worrying about other people getting ahead at our expense the moment we implement a system that instead eliminates debt and rewards us for lending a helping hand to our brothers and sisters.
The Open Question: Can We Do It?
The open question we’ll need to find an answer for is this: Can humanity, when the weight of the fear of survival is finally lifted off our shoulders, become more loving, generous and supportive of each other? Can we live to thrive, instead of merely survive?
I know it can be done, at least on a small scale, because it’s already happening all over the world. In September of 2009 I was blessed to attend a spiritual retreat at Hummingbird Ranch in New Mexico. The Hummingbird community itself is a lesson in conscious evolution; its residents are committed to living and working together in ways that honor and protect the land they steward. Their intention is to foster honesty and intimacy, personal growth, regenerative life practices, voluntary simplicity and a shared wisdom culture as they grow and evolve in community together.
Additionally, the living school they’ve built on the land brings together people from all walks of life to share and learn new ways of being within a community.
During that retreat I witnessed two amazing events I’d like to share. First, my friend Barbara Marx Hubbard introduced to our group of about thirty-five people her longstanding dream of creating a global peace room as sophisticated as our present war rooms that would map, connect, coordinate and communicate the best of what’s working for us around the world.
As we sat in a group circle, Katharine Roske (one of the resident founders of Hummingbird) led us in a meditation on what that peace room might look like to each of us. With our eyes closed we were then invited to offer into the circle our dreams around what that system might become. Eight pages of notes later, what emerged from our collective input was a creative vision of a combination of physical locations and an Internet social synergy system far more magnificent and inspiring than what any of us could have imagined on our own.
Afterward we took inventory of what the group had to offer to assist with the peace room’s construction, and discovered that in our little gathering of thirty-five people we possessed nearly all the energy and talent necessary to make that dream a reality. No one seemed overly concerned with whether or not they’d be getting paid to do the work; the mere idea of being part of making that dream a reality was all the payment anybody needed. It was one of the most moving and powerful acts of co-creation that I’ve been privileged to see.
Later that evening we were treated to a visit from a group that calls themselves the “Superheroes.” The Superheroes are bike riders who leave their homes, jobs and families for a month at a time to bicycle around a given state to gift their time and energy to whomever needs their services—for free. No job is too dirty, no task too demeaning for the Superheroes to agree to undertake. At Hummingbird Ranch they chopped and hauled wood so the residents could keep warm in the coming winter. They make a game of it, with each rider taking a name and donning a crazy costume for the duration of the experience.
When they arrive in a new town there’s an aura of playfulness that accompanies them. Infinity Kid, The Crimson Seeker—I loved hearing their individual names and stories and getting to know each person. Representing both sexes, they ranged from students in their early twenties to professional fifty-somethings.
The Superheroes carry their own tents and supplies and live very minimally during the duration of their ride. If money is pressed on them they’ll give it away to a local person in need before they leave town. They will gratefully accept food, as well as space in which to pitch their tents for the night; warm showers and clean bathrooms are also appreciated. Beyond that they have no expectations of any material reward. They do what they do because they can—and because they enjoy giving to others and spending time in the embrace of a loving community of like-minded individuals.
If people like the Superheroes can do what they do while still embedded in a pay-before-you-go paradigm, how much more might we collectively accomplish if we shifted our system to a take-what-you-need-and-give-all-you-can way of life? The Superheroes demonstrate that greed and fear needn’t dominate our thinking any longer, that love, generosity and joy can lift us if we choose to embrace those aspects within ourselves.
Fulfilling Our Potential
We already know that we carry within us the basest of our natural instincts all the way up to unconditional love. So far as we know we’re the first life forms to become fully aware of what we presently are and to imagine what we have the power to become. Having also been gifted free will, it therefore seems incumbent on each of us to decide what we want to become, and then to be it.
As Gandhi once said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” The important point is that we can’t wait around for everyone else to become more loving, giving and socially responsible before we take our own leap of faith and do what we know to be right for ourselves and the world. As a species that has long prided itself on its powerful religious faith, this may be the one place and time in history where a genuine leap of faith is truly called for.
Whatever our individual cultural history or religious background may be, life itself has placed enough trust in us to have evolved us to this stage and encouraged us onward. The question is: Do we humans have enough trust in our own collective capacities to aim for this higher vision of humanity that life is revealing to us, right here and now?
I do not know the answer; but I believe.
subtitles added by InnerSelf
Copyright 2018 by Eileen Workman. All rights reserved.
Reprinted with permission of the author.
Sacred Economics: The Currency of Life
by Eileen Workman
“What diminishes one of us diminishes us all, while what enhances one of us enhances us all.” This philosophy for engaging with each other to create a new and higher vision for humanity’s future lays the cornerstone for Sacred Economics, which explores the history, evolution and dysfunctional state of our global economy from a new perspective. By encouraging us to stop viewing our world through a monetary framework, Sacred Economics invites us to honor reality rather than exploit it as a means for short-term financial profiteering. Sacred Economics doesn’t blame capitalism for the problems we’re facing; it explains why we’ve outgrown the aggressive growth engine that drives our global economy. As a maturing species, we’re in need of new social systems that better reflect our modern life situation. By deconstructing our shared (and often unexamined) beliefs about how our economy works, Sacred Economics creates an opening through which to reimagine and redefine human society.
About the Author
Eileen Workman graduated from Whittier College with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and minors in economics, history, and biology. She began working for Xerox Corporation, then spent 16 years in financial services for Smith Barney. After experiencing a spiritual awakening in 2007, Ms. Workman dedicated herself to writing “Sacred Economics: The Currency of Life” as a means for inviting us to question our longstanding assumptions about the nature, benefits, and genuine costs of capitalism. Her book focuses on how human society might move successfully through the more destructive aspects of late-stage corporatism. Visit her website at www.eileenworkman.com