The “Gift Economy” idea is growing in its appeal to my inner self. I have always struggled with the culturally embedded idea that we must make our living (which means earning money) by certain trade-offs; that we must sell our hours, our skills, and our creativity in the marketplace where we compete with all others for a piece of the monetary pie. At the very best we might be able to find “work” that is enjoyable but nonetheless remains immersed in a scarcity-based economy in which debt and interest on debt drives the engine.
I have been reading and listening to Charles Eisenstein, an appealing figure who writes and speaks about the essential sacred nature of the Earth. I like him, of course, because he articulates ideas that resonate with my own ideas and inner longings. His books and presentations cover a broad range of subjects, but the one I am exploring at the moment is the Gift Economy. This idea is explored in detail in his book, Sacred Economics; Money, Gift, and Society in the Age of Transition.
His book is compelling and well thought-out. But here is the takeaway for me at the moment: Charles uses a website that embodies his vision of one element of a new, spiritual, and sacred economy. Everything, and I mean everything, on his site is available at no cost or, if we choose, by a contribution gift. Even each of his books, which sell for normal prices on Amazon and in bookstores, can be read in an on-line version for a simple donation, OR for no cost at all if we can’t afford or don’t want to donate.
He believes that by offering his creativity with words and insights as gift, he puts in motion the circle of generosity in which we all participate, we all have each other’s backs, and we all belong. When he first started to trust this economy, 90% of people chose to pay nothing and he wondered if he was being terribly naive. But a strange thing happened. As he began to understand his work as gift he started taking it more seriously. He no longer was caught by the constricting idea of, “how little can I do for the maximum gain?” He began to put more and more creative effort into making his words, website, courses, and speeches the best they could possibly be, offering the best intrinsic value he possibly could.
And it worked. His website is one of the best I’ve ever encountered. His work is natural, humble, and authentic. Many still pay nothing, but many become a part of the circle of giving. I am taking one of his courses. I have very little money and could easily justify paying nothing. No one on his end would know or care. Instead I paid $100 – nowhere near what 28-session, top of the line courses would normally charge, but a big reach for me.
That reach feels good. I, in turn,am supported by my own set of patrons who are starting to become a circle of family, people who have my back. I want to have their back as well. I want to pour into my work all of the creative energy, authenticity, and excellence I possibly can. I am thinking of completely redesigning my own on-line approach to more fully sink into this element of a new and evolving “sacred economics.” I can’t offer my traditionally published books for free because they are “owned” by huge publishing houses. But all of my self-published books I can control and find a way of offering on-line versions for donation/gift/free.
This is a huge shift for a published author. Everything about publishing is framed as a “business” and is immersed in the cultural economic paradigm. Why would a person ever pay $5.95 for an e-book or $17.00 for a print book when they can read it on-line for free? I have come to believe that some will, because they intrinsically know that they want to be part of a new economy. They will choose to buy a print version, they will buy an e-book, they will make a small donation that they can afford and read it on-line, – OR – they will read on-line at no charge and simply receive the gift. It will circle around and around and we will all benefit.
I am starting to redesign this website to more fully reflect my desired participation in this new Spiritual Economy. Nancy and I have been greatly blessed by the gifts of friends, patrons, and strangers from afar. We want to return the gift with the best work we possibly can. As a start, I have put a PDF copy of one of my earlier e-books on line. You can read it for no cost or donate a bit if you wish. You can read it here: The Wheel Will Turn mss
I will continue to recreate this site to more fully express my desires to both give and receive in the most creative, natural, and sacred a manner as possible – with essays, books, classes, and whatever else my evolving creativity might birth.
Thank you for being part of a redefined community of humanity.