The mythology of a market society reverses the picture of gift society. In a market society…Getting rather than giving is the mark of a substantiative person, and the hero is the ‘self-possessed’ ‘self-made’. So long as these assumptions rule, a disquieting sense of triviality, of worthlessness even, will nag the man or woman who labors in the service of a gift and whose products are not adequately described as commodities. Where we reckon our substance by our acquisitions, the gifts of the gifted man are powerless to make him substantial. Lewis Hyde, The Gift.
In the opening stages of the Financial Literacy workshop in Berkeley in July 2011, David Martin started with bringing mindfulness to the very ground we stood on. In the very early days of white mans occupation of what is now known as Berkeley, thousands of men were brought from China as cheap labor, to work the gold mines and the building of the railroad. It was slave labor. What they were offered and what they got was vastly different. These men were reduced to mere commodities. We honoured them, and the pain they suffered. We honoured them for the lies they were told.
It was a very profound way to start a journey into the heart and spirit of our current financial system.
I felt their pain. I know well what it is like to be dishonoured in your humanity. To be trivialised. To have your work reduced to a number on a balance sheet. I know what it is like to spend days and years knowing that your unique brand of service does not match the commodification of the market. Of what price is it? How can we charge for this? I know well what it is like to have others dim your light because it does not fit the market model. For many years I thought it was because I lacked intelligence. I was missing the money making gene. Or something like that.
But no. There was no gene missing. I was trying to make my gifts sing in a market that did not have a mechanism to value them. My heart goes out to every person who has a gift, and has spent years nourishing that gift, and years in the struggle of having their gift be seen as worthless. Not because it is worthless, but because a market cannot find a way to put a price tag on it and make it to ’scale’. Or, because something deep in you knows that to commodify everything reduces us, divides us, and keeps us divided.
I know I do not speak to an empty room when I speak of this pain. I do not speak to an empty room when I speak of the distance we find ourselves from the blessing that comes with gifts and gifting. There is a rising human hunger for true exchange. Where I get to know the giver of the gift, and they get to know me. Where the spirit of the gift starts to live beyond itself.
By its own design, the exchange of money for something is devoid of humanity. Once the exchange is done, the deal is complete. No relationship required. Just a transaction. Sometimes this is fine. But if it was all that we did life becomes increasingly barren. We isolate ourselves by our very mechanism of exchange.
And behind all of this is the getting…more…and more…and this, this alone, is the measure of the success of us. More stuff, more money, more fame, more press, more…more…more. Getting. And getting. And not just getting, but keeping. Removing from circulation. Hoarding. Anything contained within a boundary must contain as well its own exhaustion.
What is given away feeds again and again, but what is kept feeds only once an leaves us hungry. We are starving to death. Or starving in our obesity. As many are truly starving, not for lack of food.
I feel the yearning in people from around the world, the deep yearning for connection to our own gift, for honouring of the gifts we have to share, for a way to have our gifts be valued that nourish us on every level.
The noise that is screaming loudly in the current global economic market place is the death screams of a system that is devoid of the very humanness we so long for.
Let us rise from these hollow ashes and engage in a way that honours all of our gifts and releases all people from slavery and hunger, be it of food or soul.
The good news is that we do not have to wait another moment. The path is already there. I invite you to join those who are walking the path.