Can You Dream a Little?

A few weeks ago I read an article in The Guardian, which has given me much cause for thought ever since. The ideas are not new to me and the conclusions don’t quite work for me either, but there is much in it that is worth exploring more about the demise of the nation state:

 

https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/apr/05/demise-of-the-nation-state-rana-dasgupta?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

 

Unknown-1Alongside that sits my ongoing rumination about economics and politics and a need for something altogether different. Economics, from the Greek word, ‘Oikos’ literally means ‘household’ or ‘ecology’ and has to do with how we organise our household or our ecology – worth noting here that both the household and the ecology are ‘living systems’ and not ‘mechanistic’ (a word which describes many of our current approaches in how we think about economics generally). I have particularly found Kate Raworth’s book, Doughnut Economics, to be extremely helpful, along with Charles Eisenstein’s, ‘Sacred Economics’, and Tomas Sedlacek’s, ‘The Economics of Good and Evil’, in helping me reframe how I think about economics and to dream about what else might be possible for us together.

 

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from certianlyher.com

Politics, on the other hand, comes from the Greek, ‘Polis’, meaning ‘the city’ and has to do with how we live together as people. Our current political system is simply not cutting it. I’m actually not out to criticise our politicians. I think many of them are genuinely trying to do a good job. It’s the system that is broken and lacks the ability for true representative democracy to flourish. There is such a weariness with the two-sided braying and mocking, referendums which don’t even come close to talking about the real issues, media control of the arguments and social media manipulation of the mass psyche. Posturing, pedestalling, point-scoring, point-missing and powerful lobbies pulling strings……is this it? Is this the best of us? Is there nothing better that we can imagine? What I’m interested to find is a reimagining of what it means for us to live well together in this global age and hope we can find a way forward together, politically (with a small p) to face up to the major issues of our day.

 

My friend, Steve Lowton, recently did a little vlog series about authenticity and it has made my ears prick up. He stated that there are three things he is listening out for: 1) the sound of people living authentic lives, 2) the sound of the people on the streets (people movements which are emerging) and 3) creative artists/poets/dreamers who can help to open up the imagination of what might be possible. If Rana Dasgupta is right, and the nation state as a concept, is crumbling, we have 100 years ahead of us of some significant turmoil as we try and navigate our way through to a reimagined future. What if, as Bishop Michael preached at imagesHarry and Meghan’s wedding, we reimagined the world based on love?! Is it really that crazy? It is foolishness to those who deem themselves wise and experts in how things need to be run….but there is great wisdom to be found in the ‘self-giving, others-empowering love’ we find in the kenotic source of life itself!

 

Unknown-2More than ever, we need to find ways of having conversations, based on the premise of Albert Einstein, who said that if he had one hour to save the world, he would spend 55 minutes trying to find the right question and then he would only need 5 minutes to solve it. Our temptation is to dive in and fix problems, often based on our own very limited perspective, or piece of the jigsaw, which often leads to finger pointing, blaming and shaming, before we’ve really discovered what the question is that we’re actually needing to ask……The problems before us are complex and the next election isn’t going to fix them! We have an environment which is under significant stress, an economic system which is profoundly dysfunctional, global inequality at every level, major health crises, boundaries and histories which divide us and ongoing conflicts and wars. Pointing fingers and blaming ‘the other’ isn’t going to help us. We must be willing to encounter those totally different from ourselves and find an altogether better way……

 

But if you take the time to listen, there are people of authenticity making a different sound, there are people movements across the globe calling for something new and there are many creative minds, hearts and voices beginning to weave together some dreams of what might be possible……

 

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from animals.howstuffworks.com

Do you think that the caterpillar can ever conceive of becoming a butterfly? And yet….in the cocoon, in the waiting, IMAGINAL cells form – they have the potential to become anything!! It is time for a great metamorphosis, where our imaginations can dream of what seems utterly impossible…..it is time for new creation…..can you see it? Can you perceive it? Can you hear it? Can you feel it? Then be authentic and turn your face into the wind that is blowing…..because together, with love, we can!

Sacred Economics – Gift 2

Eisenstein uses his opening chapter on Gift to set a contrast for the rest of Part 1 of his book. He is introducing us to the notion that economics and the use of our money, in particular, is a sacred thing.

Charles paints a picture using the natural world around us to challenge the perception that evolutionary biology is a cut throat, competitive business , which is all about survival of the fittest, driven by our “selfish genes”. He argues that in nature, “headlong growth and all out-competition  are features of immature ecosystems, followed by complex interdependency, symbiosis, cooperation and the cycling of resources.”

The violent, competitive, growth-driven, accumulative, oppressive, marginalising and hoarding economic of today is an aberration. It is time for humanity to enter a new phase of life. It’s grow up time! “Money may not disappear anytime soon, but it will serve a diminished role even as it takes on more of the properties of the gift. The economy will shrink (do not fear this!) and our lives will grow!”

It is crazy that money was originally a means of connecting gift with need. Yet now we often find ourselves in deadening jobs out of economic necessity, with crazy phrases like “I can’t afford to do that,” or “the cost of living is so high.” But CE goes to town on this! “Our purpose for being, the development and full expression of our gifts, is mortgaged to the demands of money, to making a living, to surviving. Yet no one, no matter how wealthy, secure, or comfortable, can ever feel fulfilled in a life where those gifts remain latent. Even the best paid job, if it does not engage our gifts, soon feels deadening, and we think, “I was not put here on earth to do this.”

The day of falsely separating our world out is over. There is no sacred/secular divide, everything we do and touch is sacred, because life is sacred and we need to start viewing both work and economics as truly sacred things. In the next blogs I will explore what Charles calles the ‘Economics of Separation’, its main components and how it has landed us in the mess we find ourselves in.

When we stare the beast in the face, we will see that we are tired of its ugliness and want to be part of a movement that is far more creative and beautiful. Surely, we do not want to align our lives with something which causes devastation and destruction but rather that which perpetuates life in all its fullness. We are tired of being commodities, we want to be gifts. The way we use money will form a part of this story, as we recover together a new economics for a reimagined future of reconciliation and peace. If we begin to choose to enter the economy of gift then surely every mountain can made low and every valley raised up – an economic level playing field, where lambs can play with lions!

Sacred Economics – Gift

As a preface, let me just say that, in these short blogs I cannot do justice to Charles Eisenstein. I’m going to keep the posts to around 500 words to make them readble in small chunks. But, read his book! It’s even free on line and you can give a gift afterwards to him or someone else! Also, this is my own take on what he says and he may not agree with all my points!

His first chapter begins with these beautiful and profound words:

“In the beginning was the Gift”

Life itself is given. Ancient religions tell the stories of God making the world and giving the world to us, not to dominate over, but to steward. And if life is given, then our default state is one of gratitude. Gratitude knows that we honour or dishonour a gift by how we use it. Charles argues that having received a gift, it is a natural response or desire of gratitude to  want to give in turn. And this is the basis of sacred economics.

“Even after all this time 
The sun never says to the earth
“You owe me”
Look what happens
with a love like that,

It lights the whole sky” – Hafiz

Today’s economic system rewards selfishness and greed and has the appalling undergirding message that “more for you is less for me”. But this does not have to be true. Charles asks us what an economic system might look like that rewards generosity? What if “more for you is more for me”?! In community, gifts circulate and all lives are enriched as a result.

If human beings are made in the image of God, we have either greatly misunderstood divinity or taken a long journey away from it. In fact, we are so far away from it that we live in a world where “ruthless sociopaths rise to wealth and power and disempower the multitude”. We have to be realistic about our current state and that such tendencies can exist in everyone somewhere within us. We have until now been journeying with an economics of separation, of usury and scarcity (maybe controversial for some!). It is time to discover together an economics of reunion, of reconciliation, of gift, of hope and resource.

Economy is so much more than money, and money at its core can be a beautiful thing. It is, in its simplest form, a token of gratitude. It has been allowed to become something far more terrible, but it is not beyond us to reimagine its future.

As earlier posts on this blog to do with the subject of ‘Kenarchy’ show, I believe that gift is the very nature of God. God has always been one who gives of himself, who pours himself out in love for humanity and the world and calls us to become like Him in that. And as we pour ourselves out in love, we recover what it means to be truly human. There are dreadful theologies that paint God as some kind of far off Imperial dictator, who gave us the world to master it and dominate its resources. Domination and stewardship have nothing to do with one another. If we are to find a new future, we must recover our humanity, to become like God, and be those who become gifts to the world around us and use our money in that vain – to bring life and as much beauty as possible!