“They’re just not jaded.” That’s how someone described the people he encountered during his recent visit to a hospital in Costa Rica. The doctors and nurses were so warm, friendly, and genuine; they even gave him their personal cell phone numbers. “Call us if you need anything.”
I was just thinking this yesterday at how some of the teachings that i have encountered in my life would have been different if they had been held through the gift economy. As a herbalist I have done extensive long studies, and the teachers have need to be compensated for their wisdom and their time. But the loss that we all experienced because it was through the impersonal and sticky lens of the dollar was felt by everyone.
The teachings were profound, a year long immersion into forest wisdom, years long apprenticing into journeying and other realm healing, elemental plant medicine, year long deep dive into case histories and wisdom sharing from elders. they have been and remain to be life changing.
However the communities that were formed have all but disintegrated, our relationships with the teachers clouded by having access to their time and what we would owe for that and this is what i was musing on yesterday as i wondered about how it would be different if we had be given these teachings because they belonged to us, because they are inherent in our community and apart of our community.
I'm into the ethos for sure. And the on-the-ground transformation, not just as a theory. But I must admit real rock-against-hard-place challenges as a lifelong fringe virtuoso woodwinder who has been living on the dental-floss (thinner than shoestring) budget for some decades at this point. My experience, for instance, with donating performances to spiritual institutions and/or conferences has only led to more "opportunity" to play for free and pay my own way to get there. Something that would need to be funded by. . . .? the conversion of some other activity (non-existent "dayjob"? fictional trust-fund?) into funds to travel and register, I suppose? It's a kind of dark ouroboros, and it sounds trite to sum it up here but, it's a nut I have not cracked let alone roasted eaten or digested.
This essay is good food for thought of the root of what's really at stake in all this, so that's helpful.
I grew up in London after WW2 and this is how it was. Thank you for reminding me Charles. Margi.
I appreciate the reminder. I am troubled by the professionalization of intimacy. It has gotten to the point that holding space for friends as they share their trauma and pain is considered irresponsible if one does not have a degree and certification.
I have been trying to find a space for an addiction support group that is attempting to integrate what works about the 12 steps with a social and trauma-based understanding of addiction, but because I'm not a credentialed therapist, well-meaning people fear that it is too dangerous to discuss the relationship between trauma and addiction without a professional there.
The idea of people coming together to find trust and intimacy and explore their pain and common bondage to oppressive systems is scandalous. It is a sign of how completely capital has stripped away the cultural commons.
In the ancient times of 1988, at the Third No. American Bioregional Congress, the Economics Committee, which was my thing back then (Gaian Economics, creating an economy for the living Earth), crafted the most beautiful vision statement that was adopted by formal consensus. Reading it out loud (with All Species present, thanks to the magic of David Abram who coordinated the All Species committee) was one of the most moving experiences! Here is what we came up with:
A bioregional economy manifests itself through qualities of gift, trust, and compassion. Bioregional economics is a tool for implementing a social agenda informed by relationships, interdependence, and diversity; and is sensitive to the scale of the Earth’s systems. Bioregional economics distributes the gifts of Earth to sustain the health and richness of the biosphere in which we live and through which human needs are fulfilled. Decision-making is based on principles of local, democratic self-control and, secondarily, through mutually friendly, cooperative and compassionate relationships between and among individuals, groups, communities, bioregions, federations, and all species. A bioregional economics is expressive of a universe of beings evolving and working harmoniously toward the fulfillment of our individual destinies and our common future. A bioregional economy reflects the oneness of all life.
Sustainability of the bioregion is the hallmark of the bioregional economy. The following principles characterize the quality of action in a bioregional economy.
1. Balance between individual freedom, social equity, and responsibility to the web of life.
2. Respect for the Earth community and responsibility to the future as a context for local, decentralized control.
3. Equitable access to the gifts of Earth.
4. Respect for individual freedom within community.
5. Attention to scale in relation to ecology, economy, and decentralization.
6. Friendly and cooperative economic relationships.
7. Ecologically prudent design, production and distribution of durable goods (minimize waste).
8. To engage in the exchange of goods and services by relying less upon taking as much as possible for the smallest possible payment, and to rely more upon giving as much as one is able to and trusting the the gift is returned as others are able.
Then were were several strategies to get from here to there, which are in my book, Economics as if the Earth Really Mattered.
This is a very ideal vision, I am aware. Yet the models to create it do exist - various forms of community currency (both physical, paper currency or networks of exchange, that can facilitate wider exchanges. I helped co-create a community currency project in the early 1990s (it was a physical currency based on Ithaca Hours (the most 'famous' community currency started by Paul Glover). We even got some stores to accept it for a % of purchases. This was in Montpelier, VT. Today, the Schumacher Center for a New Economics in Great Barrington, MA is an excellent source of information, as well as an amazing library (on line for some things but at the Center itself) for pretty much anything ever written on community economics, land trusts, CSA, community currency, and so on. We know what we need to do. We have many of the tools we need. What we are lacking is . . . what? What keeps us stuck? (I know there are many answers to that question).
A dear friend homesteaded, worked as a midwife and environmental protector and intimately connected directly to the locals in Costa Rica for over twenty years. She has alot to say about the many reasons Costa Rica is the way it is. Costa Rica has no standing military. It has around 26 different political parties all vying for votes. She tells me that few in Costa Rica actually follow the rules or listen to the government. They smile and nod and go their own way. Which is very frustrating when you want to get something done, but means there is much less stress in the culture as they just throw up their hands with complex problems and say God will have to take care of it and then move on. Costa Ricans are almost exclusively family oriented and grow much of their own food and live in tightknit communities. Food is abundant in a rainforest environment and they are good farmers. This makes them incredibly independent even when quite monetarily poor. The western powers have done far less explotiation and political machinations in Costa Rica compared with nearby countries such as Nicaragua etc.
On the darker side, there is alot of property theft, expecially stealing from gringos. As a woman alone, my friend had to chase bad dudes from her property more than once. ( She is truly an amazon and used her machete to threaten invaders with. Apparently pretty soon word went around not to mess with her!) My friend still has property down there, but got stuck in the US during Covid. She went back for awhile, even tho she is unvaxed and the Costa Rican government was officially requiring vaccination;
but because they are so lacksidasical there in many ways, she got back in. My friend is aging and homesteading the jungle requires alot of work. Plus her family is here in the states, so it seems less and less likely she will move back there. If I were in better health myself, I would be sorely tempted to move down there with her! Even tho I have never been there, she speaks so fondly and longingly of her Costa Rican jungle homestead that I wish very much I could go.
This is another wonderfully Intelligent article.. thank you..
Yes indeed it is a fact that our society is run by the Black Cavalry of commerce. It Conditions the consciousness of Americans to Monetize all things. Even medical practice..
Up until about one hundred years ago Chinese medicine functioned in a much purer state.. your Chinese doctor received a small monthly stipend to maintain your optimal health.. if you got sick the stipend stopped until the patient regained good health.. so obviously your doctor was motivated to get you back to optimal health asap, this is the opposite of how it functions in todays American Corrupt Sick Care system which has been monetized for about 150 years..
Pharmaceutical Companies are the Antithesis of True Health care systems.. They and their products are just Predator Monetization.. a plague upon Americans and mankind..
As a minister's daughter growing up in small towns I sat on the edge of sustainable community where people could have conversations from different points of view and still maintain love and caring for each other. Now, age 67, I can't tell you how many people have stormed away from my life because our views differ. I long for the connection I remember in those small towns. Where I live now is a small community but I've experienced the lying, cheating, and agendas from supposed friends that stems from unhealed personalities who operate from their childhood wounding. It is very sad to me the lack of trust and suspicion that abounds.
Tony Blair gave a talk at the WEF be moaning the lack of digital infrastructure in the world. He meant digital vaccine certificates and the ability to track them, along with other biometrics and using business as the partner to do this. For example, banks and credit card companies.
I am pessimistic about our ability to stop this. It represents the next big thing, monetizing the human being by digital slavery.
I really enjoyed this article, Charles. This is a message that I wouldn’t mind if you continued to repeat, over and over. And, healthy human beings are altruistic. It’s part of our nature. Just ask the Dalai Lama!
Great insights. Naturally there can be some middle ground too. In a small backwoods community I once described the serial barter of "ducks, trucks, and bucks." Yes, bucks were sometimes included in the exchange. For example, when I had a decent pickup truck to share, I set a per km rate, transparently set to cover costs (fuel, insurance, maintenance). This was a practical solution that achieved truck access to a small circle of neighbors, while sharing real expenses.
Wow. Really thought provoking message.
I think that as more and more people walk away from organized religion, for better or for worse, we begin to let go of an inherently strong 'gift community' or village. I'm sure everyone's experience with organized religion can be very different but I grew up in a church community that would do anything for one another and it was amazing. I've recently had to part ways due to some serious differences in beliefs, but It's been very difficult to give up that community feeling. Yes, those people are still kind to me and would do anything for me but it's not the same now. I'm having to think about ways to build that community again and it's very difficult in today's society. I'm slowly connecting with people with similar values but it's a long slow process and I can tell it's unlikely to end in the same kind of ties that I had in my old religion.
Another thought that I had while reading this was the connection between these ideas and the ideas expressed in the book "Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture". Amazing book that I highly recommend! I had come to many of the same conclusions in this book as I began to really dive into homemaking so reading it was so soothing to my mind. I had realized years ago that my health was failing because I was fully involved in the fast paced "convenience" and materialism society of today. What my family and I really needed was a slower, healthier lifestyle. It required sacrifice and hard work, but the benefits have been more than worth it. My life has been transformed and I am so grateful that I was able to get out of the consumer driven culture. I still do live in that culture, but it doesn't rule over me anymore.
Thank you for these words of wisdom!
Money is perhaps the greatest curse visited on humanity. Yes, we wouldn't have anything like the developed world we enjoy in the 21st century without it. But has it been worth it?
Can humanity disengage from the 'economic' world and learn to live in the 'real' world, the world of grace and freedom, the only world that all other species on this earth have ever known?
Painfully lovely. It is heartbreaking for me to watch the devastation being wrought in the Yucatan of Mexico in just this way, and the rapid breakdown of all of these collective, healthy systems. Thank you for sharing this and giving people a way to turn back towards sacred capital.
THIS IS EVERYTHING. I have given up my business but still have my own expenses and now just gifting ... what comes back, will. I have faith. And I feel fortunate to even know this is a way.
Thanks for being good for my nervous system, Charles ... YOU are the gift.
Great piece. Thank you for sharing it to free subscribers, and thus embodying your message.