It’s Ideas/Information day here at Taking it to the Streets
One of the tenets of my hippie youth that I very quickly outgrew (as did most of my peers, albeit in perhaps differing ways) was a distrust of and disdain for money. I’m a fan of money in the same way I am a fan of other tools – it is a means to get things done. Much as I may enjoy bartering, money has always struck me as a particularly efficient means of exchange and meaningless in and of itself. I’m always befuddled by people who would sell out for money (love, for sure, but money – you kidding me?). And equally befuddled by people who seem to embrace poverty as more holy or pure – nah, it’s just more —- well, poor!
My pastor talked about this book at church two weeks ago and it reminded me that I had the book but had not read it – so I remedied that. Wow, am I glad I did! Very thought-provoking. the heart of the book is revealed in the chapter titles for chapters 3 and 4:
Scarcity: the Great Lie
Sufficiency: The Surprising Truth
“greed and fear of scarcity are programmed; they do not exist in nature, not even in human nature. They are built into the money system in which we swim.” And “Adam Smith’s system of economics could more accurately be described as the allocation of scarce resources through the process of individual greed.” – those quotes are her take on a book by Bernard Lietaaer called “Of Human Wealth”. She sums up the Scarcity myth as having 3 components: 1) there’s not enough; 2) More is better; and 3) “That’s just the way it is”
What if we DIDN’T believe any of these? What would life look like then?
Well, check out the chapter lead-in for the Sufficiency chapter:
“When you let go of trying to get more of what you don’t really need, it frees up oceans of energy to make a difference with what you have. When you make a difference with what you have, it expands.”
She talks about an indigenous South American tribe, the Achuar, for whom “wealth means being present to the fullness and richness of the moment and sharing that with one another.” Or, as she says later in the same chapter:
“I suggest that if you are willing to let go, let go of the chase to acquire or accumulate always more and let go of that way of perceiving the world, then you can take all that energy and attention and invest it in what you have. When you do that you will find unimagined treasures, and wealth of surprising and even stunning depth and diversity.”
Her three truths of sufficiency to counter the three lies of scarcity are:
1) Money is like water
2) What you appreciate appreciates
3) Collaboration creates prosperity
My brother taught me that first law when we were young wild hippies. Our friend Kate got stuck in Denver (don’t ask!) and he sent her a plane ticket. We were young and poor and I wondered how he had the money – well, he didn’t really – that was his rent money, but what he said stuck with me – “that’s how it works, you know – you have to give it away to get it, then it just flows to you.” He was right. I think I’ve written before on the power of tithing and/or generosity so let me just say here – it works. And as Lynne Twist says “The happiest and most joyful people I know are those who express themselves through channeling their resources – money, when they have it – on to their highest commitments. Theirs is a world where the experience of wealth is in sharing what they have, giving, allocating, and expressing themselves authentically with the money they put in flow.” Agreed!
For Maxim 2 she invokes Buddha, who “ told his followers that whatever they chose to give their attention, their love, their appreciation, their listening, and their affirmation to would grow in their life and in the world.” So when we focus on lack and on stuff – well, that’s all we get. That’s not where I like to place my focus.
As for the third maxim “In reciprocity there is a nourishment and joy: I am there for you and you are there for me.” I’ve recently had several friendships that were NOT reciprocal – and I know what that feels like. But virtually all of my close relationships are wonderfully reciprocal, collaborative and joyous. Lynne Twist also says ” We find sufficiency and sustainable prosperity when we think of our resources as a flow that is meant to be shared, when we put our full attention on making a difference with what we have, and when we partner with others in ways that expand and deepen that experience.”
Wow – I am looking at both the book and the clock – I’ve only written about HALF of what is in this very thought-provoking, action-producing, passionate book (and it’s getting late and this is already wordy enough).
So let me end with a Mary Oliver quote:
“What are you going to do with your one wild and precious life?”
And think about that. Shop? Kvetch? Spend more time at work? OR, make a Kiva loan, buy a family a bunch of chickens through Heifer, help your neighbor shovel snow, spend time with your precious children, write your book, help out at your church —– and on and on and on. All we have is love and time and health people. Let money be your enabler, not your god. Do good rather than seeking goods. And read this fabulous book!
Now tell me – is “money a conduit, a way to express your highest ideals”, a “currency of love a committment, expressing the best of who you are” or is it “a currency of consumption driven by emptiness and lack and the allure of external messages” in your life? What do you want it to be?