(photo courtesy of Money & Life documentary, by Katie Teague)
“Only two things that money can’t buy and that’s love and homegrown tomatoes.”
for years i’ve offered my work as a gift, without outright charging people money, before i even understood or had words for what gift economy was, before studying countless books about the foundation that the monetary system was built and books from philosophers and systems thinkers about gift economy, before i thought i had “enough money” to risk not making money. i jumped in and started tackling the most fraught topic/value/system of all.
i did it before anyone asked me to. i listened to the call of my physical body and my heartmind to dictate my actions, to include as many people in my work for self kindness, creativity, otherly kindness and joy as were drawn to it.
it was hard. i had a lot of fear. but what i’ve learned so far is energizing.
i didn’t wait for anyone’s permission. i did not wait until i had a feeling of safety or security. i did not wait to understood how i might receive back for what i was doing. i did not wait til it felt good to me. i just jumped in and was forced to deal with some really difficult things that rose up in me while simultaneously witnessing other people who saw me as naive, ignorant or “must be nice to be rich that you don’t have to charge money” and countless other misunderstandings. i had to deal with reactions to my curious intentions and actions committed to offer my work with a priority upon doing what was needed in my community, instead of going along with a status quo prioritizing what would assuredly make me money.
in doing so i sometimes received money, but i received so much more than money.
by forgoing money i discovered so much about myself, my relationship with money, how it is tied to greater currencies than what money represents.
i was astonished to realize there were ways i could receive and give money as expressions of love, but that i did not need any money to witness the currencies of love and kindness.
and not in an airy fairy, let’s burn our bras and smoke a bowl together and live off of love and kindness. in a real, gutsy, gritty, go without stuff i wanted and sometimes needed, tough love tough kindness kind of sense. (edited to add: women’s lib was NOT airy fairy, poetic license to maybe make you laugh?)
money is such a difficult thing to understand. it was so hard for me to let go how money defined my sense of self and what was possible for me. let me be totally honest… it STILL is.
as long as i can remember all things to do with money were exalted alike a collective world religion, like money is the highest power that should dictate all our actions and ultimately our life. feelings of money scarcity generate fear that literally make people give up on their own dreams, or the possibility of doing what they were meant to do in life because of money.
you hear things like, “i won’t be an artist, a musician, a teacher, (perhaps insert your own dream here) because there is no money in that.” money in this case disrupts a person’s life as an auto-immune disease of the soul.
i have learned so many things reprioritizing the hold money has had on me and my actions. and i still have much to learn (or i should really say unlearn).
the biggest lesson so far is that we humans have the potential to be wiser than money. we can ouwit it! we can reinvent it. that there are so many more currencies available than money. (remember our ancestors invented money in the first place…. the bastards! kidding ancestors. you know i love you!)
right now, our world is in crisis and it’s pointing directly how we are stacked with great fragility and that is why there is so much fear and panic about money. more so than our human species survival some of us are more worried about money, our retirement accounts…. the dow.
ok, sorry. for some reading this i probably hit a nerve.
i am grateful to have had the privilege these years to listen to my heartmind and overrule dominant money culture beliefs. i’m thankful to have experimented in gift economy when i thought i had a choice. i would be totally wigging out about money right now if I didn’t have so many secret realizations about gift economy. good things, that i hope my sharing here is sparking a bit of hope about.
seems now that what might sustain us more than having “enough money” are all the new values and beliefs i earned practicing gift economy.
- that community is greater than money.
- human imagination is greater than money.
- wisdom is greater than money.
- love is greater than money.
- money can be given and received as an expression of love.
don’t misunderstand me…. i still have a lot of concern about money for my family and what having less money may mean to addressing my our needs. but i am not afraid because i have been paying attention these years in my own study of money and experiments in gift economy. i have been into the abyss and bring love and homegrown tomatoes to share with you! 🙂
there are hundreds of thousands of us in the world who have been experimenting with gift economy aka permaculture, barter, sustainability practices. and there are billions of us who have been practicing principles of gift economy since we were old enough to care for our baby dolls.
billions of us have placed the needs of others before our own, and that feeling is more powerful and generative than greed. it may not feel it right now, but i have lived this for nine years, witnessing the acts of gifts that have come to me because of my willingness to give and include. i have seen how the community i have served has cared and gifted back to me and my family. my community, and communities across our planet in other people’s experiments in gift economy. it’s really inspiring, and it is really possible because it’s been already happening.
this is a time for imagination, reimagining. for systems to collapse and beckon collective human imagination and aspiration. that we can rebuild in greater alignment with the earth’s turnings and woundings, and towards the principles that so many of us have been waiting for the luxury of having enough of to try. principles of kindness and love, for human EVOLution.
now is a time for us to reflect on things that were not working for us. of course to serve and care for each other. to respect physical distancing and protect our humans to try to heal and save as many lives as possible.
and while many of us are home, perhaps we can play, and try to remember our dreams (our nightly ones and our lifelong awake ones) and co-create the solutions we so desperately need.
this is a time for teachers, musicians and artists to step into the work and joys that called us to these gifts (heeded or otherwise), to shine even brighter in the work we were born to do.
this is a time for us to remember or discover why we each were born in the first place.
each of us has a gift to give. as Saint Francis of Assisi wrote, “For it is in giving that one receives.”
i’m not saying money will or even should go away. what i am saying is there are ways to discover how money is not the most important reason to make decisions around. your happiness and joy are more important than money.
we are in this together. i believe in us. i believe in us humans. our greatest time is to come, and i feel so grateful that we watching the next chain in human evolution/human progress.
nothing of value is birthed without pain and sacrifice. but through pain and sacrifice we will receive wisdom and meaning.
i’m not going to wait til i feel this essay is ready to share. i’m not going to spend 2 hours editing. (edited to add, I spent 3 hours editing 🙂 ) i’m going to trust that the heart and soul is in this enough to extend my love of you, to you and send this out to whomever it might bless.
what does this make you feel? think? i’d love to know. i believe in you.
with so much ❤ for your joy,