“One of the things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.”
- Annie Dillard
19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
- Jesus (Matthew 6: 19-21)
Whereas security in an interest-based system comes from accumulating money, in a demurrage system it comes from having productive channels through which to direct it - that is, to become a nexus of the flow of wealth and not a point for its accumulation. In other words, it puts the focus on relationships, not on “having”.
- Charles Eisenstein - The Ascent of Humanity
“Just as life does not end with adolescence, neither does civilization’s evolution stop with the end of growth.”
- Charles Eisenstein, Sacred Economics
“Kingdom of Heaven” - in Greek it is actually “Kingdom of the Heavens” - is all too often misinterpreted as the Kingdom of the future, of the next world, of the afterlife. For Matthew, “Heaven” was simply a euphemism for “God”, the Dwelling used interchangeably with the Dweller.
- John Dominic Crossan, God and Empire - Jesus Against Rome, Then and Now.
“It is an attitude of scarcity, not of abundance, that has led to the depletion of our natural commons. Competition and the accumulation of more than one needs are the natural response to a perceived scarcity of resources. The obscene overconsumption and waste of our society arise from our poverty: the deficit of being the afflicts the discrete and separate self, the scarcity of money in an interest-based system, the poverty of relationship that comes from the severance of our ties to community and to nature, the relentless pressure to do anything, anything at all, to make a living.”
- Charles Eisenstein, Sacred Economics
As an Artisan in an egocentric world, you have no guarantee that society will welcome your gifts. It’s possible that people will look upon your innovations or your original voice as odd, irrelevant, or crazy, or perhaps as subversive or immoral. Or you might do your work in complete obscurity and frustration, at least for a while. You’re attempting to bring mystery, wildness, deep imagination, and praise of the sacred (the natural) to a society obsessed with security, comfort, material wealth and ownership of things. The culture you live in consists mostly of commodities and objects, while all things you encounter are entities and subjects.
- Bill Plotkin, Nature and the Human Soul, (The Artisan in the Wild Orchard)
Two weeks have gone by since I announced that I was opening my online store in the spirit of the gift economy. Meaning: all products can be purchased with the number zero, if that is the number a person feels is right for them, at their time of purchase. On the flip side, the products can be given more monetary value, if others feel at liberty to show how they value the music in that way.
I did not arrive at this decision overnight. It is definitely a part of a much bigger story, and one that is just starting to unfold.
Probably the greatest epiphany I experienced last year, coincided with rereading Cynthia Bourgeault’s The Wisdom Jesus, and the experience of building our regenerative farm. As we started to witness what farming and gardening like nature can do, it struck me how similar it felt when I read Cynthia’s words about Jesus’ “telltale sign of abundance”. This got me pondering what it would look like if all of our system designs, be they economic, technological, medical, were informed by the sacred geometry and flow of nature.
Read this remarkable excerpt by Cynthia in the chapter entitled, Kenosis, The Path of Self-Emptying Love:
"Ascent mysticism was very much in the air in Jesus's time as well.
Earlier in this book I spoke of the Essene community, that apocalyptic Jewish sect whose visionary mysticism and ascetic practices were probably the most immediate formative influence on Jesus. At the heart of the Essene understanding was a particular strain of spiritual yearning known as merkevah mysticism. Merkevah means "chariot," an allusion to the Old Testament story of the prophet Elijah being taken up to heaven in a chariot. This dramatic episode offered a vivid image of ascent to God, which the Essenes saw as applying both individually and for the entire people of Israel. "The end of the world was at hand," and all eyes were gazing intently upward as Jesus took birth on the earth.
To rise requires energy, in the spiritual realm as well as the physical one. And thus, the vast majority of the world's spiritual technologies work on some variation of the principle of "conservation of energy." Within each person there is seen to reside a sacred energy of being (sometimes known as the "chi," or prana, the life force). This energy, in itself infinite, is measured out to each person in a finite amount and bestowed as our basic working capital when we arrive on this planet.
The great spiritual traditions have always taught that if we can contain this energy rather than letting it leach away—if we can concentrate it, develop it, make it more intentional and powerful—then this concentrated energy will allow us to climb that ladder of spiritual ascent. This ancient and universal strategy is really at the basis of all genuine asceticism (that is, asceticism in the service of conscious transformation, not as a means of penance or self-mortification). And there is good reason for this: the strategy works.
Through the disciplines of prayer, meditation, fasting, and inner witnessing the seeker learns how to purify and concentrate this inner reserve and to avoid squandering it in physical or emotional lust, petty reactions, and ego gratification. As self-mastery is gradually attained, the spiritual energy concentrated within becomes strong enough and clear enough to sustain contact with those increasingly higher and more intense frequencies of the divine life, until at last one converges upon that unitive point. It's a coherent and powerful path of inner transformation.
But it's not the only path. There's another route to center: a more reckless path and extravagant path, which is attained not through storing up that energy or concentrating the life force, but through throwing it all away—or giving it all away. The unitive point is reached not through the concentration of being but through the free squandering of it; not through acquisition or attainment but through self-emptying; not through " up " but through "down." This is the way of kenosis, the revolutionary path that Jesus introduced into the consciousness of the West."
- Cynthia Bourgeault, The Wisdom Jesus
What we see in Jesus is the giving of gift upon gift, and the receiving of gifts (some of them, sensual and extravagant, as with woman and the alabaster jar). Travelling without a wallet or a staff to generate the need for connection. Healing without asking for payment. Feeding thousands in the posture that there is enough to go around. Exorcizing the occupying forces of oppression (Legion), and awakening inspirited presence, instead of trademarking some drug to help the afflicted to blend in better.
Annie Dillard’s piece of advice about writing has played a role in my commitment to showing up for songwriting (and writing every week). And I am beginning to see it on our farm, and in the way we are doing community, and certainly in economics. Reaching from across time, all of our prehistoric ancestors are singing to us, that this is, as Aslan might have called it, a “deep magic”, informed by the beauty of decay, and what we can’t bring with us.
What does this have to do with adulthood and abundance? Well, first of all, it is being clear about what kind of abundance I am speaking. It is really about creating systems that ask us to trust each other, and that teach us to share. This is not “manifest your own personal destiny” language. This is more about putting the spotlight on the guilt of our own abdication of serving the future.
This is why we see our children making statements that appear more altruistic and wise than many grown-ups. And we’re still so ready to abdicate being in service to our people, that we weakly say, “ah good, the children have got this”.
No. WE STILL NEED MENTORS AND ELDERS! But we, the mentors and the elders must take a fierce inventory of our lives. We are supposed to become mutual lovers of the earth now.
We grown ups are behaving like Flint, the chimp in Jane Goodall’s documentary, Jane, who was of an age when it was time to integrate away from his mother. Flint would insist on riding his mother’s back, and would insist on suckling. And when his mother pushed him away, he would cry and scream and show violence. His mother was getting tired, and he was getting too strong with his force. It’s like he had watched too many anti-aging commercials, and was in agony at the thought of getting older.
Charles Eisenstein says humanity is “entering a coming-of-age ordeal”. That it is time to view the earth as we would a lover. The parent-child relationship, is necessarily give-take. But at some point in adolescence, we fall in love, and lose our bearings, and, if given the right example, have to reorient ourselves into a more reciprocal mode of relationship, that is give-give.
The reason our children are protesting on the streets, is because they instinctively know it is time for people to fall in love with the earth at a reciprocal level. We need to show our love now. Not just receive love. Our receiving of our mother’s love has turned ugly, and has become a devouring force, which, let’s face it, ain’t cute anymore.
I like this idea, because real, grown-up love, carries no self-righteousness or possessiveness. It is about vulnerability, yes, and trust and service. It is about finding what Bill Plotkin calls our “delivery system” to serve the world, and having a sense of nurturing gladness for others, when they find theirs. It is not about quick solutions... it is about intimacy.
Most initiation rituals into adulthood, throughout history, have had something to do with fasting, and then upon arriving back (across the threshold), something to do with serving food to your people, before you break your own fast. It delivered the message that now is the time to be in service to the whole. (And that includes the future.)
To live in a grown up state of abundance is to recapitulate into a new kind of oneness with our planet.
It is about learning to mimic the way she gives.
In other words, there is a distinct difference between living in consumption, and living in abundance. We are behaving like our childhood gets to go on forever. It doesn’t.
We are a part of the life/death cycle, and to live abundantly here, is to savor, and to nurture, and care for each other, and our beautiful Lover Earth, and to pass back into her, as one of her dear companions.
Hoarding, or not knowing how to share, and saying “mine!” is part of building ego in early childhood, and with tender guidance, children learn that there is enough to go around. But it also depends on the system in which they are guided. To survive, the system we are in, desperately needs us to remain overgrown tantrum throwers. To continue, it needs us to be abdicators of responsibility.
As Iroquois Peacekeeper Oren Lyons says, "The Bill of Rights should have been the Bill of Responsibility."
How terrible that at the very time when the people’s story has reached the end of adolescence, we’ve almost all but lost memory of initiatory rites. We don’t know how to let this chapter die.
Anyway... this is why I choose to build my store within the gift economy… taking it to the symbolic level, and to the very brink of a sort of wild abandon… similar to a squash plant reaching out in every direction, recklessly offering sustenance. Modelled after the self-emptying path. And foolishly trusting that the wider ecosystem that surrounds me, and that I'm a part of, is also joining in the cacophonous throng of life.
May life live on.
Alana Levandoski is a song and chant writer, recording artist and music producer, in the Christian tradition, who lives with her family on a regenerative farm on the Canadian prairies.