What is the most important question you can ask?
Change is coming,
but is it a ripple in the water
or a convulsion of our sacred earth,
preparing to mourn our passing?
— Nancy Wood, We Became as Mountains: Poems of the Pueblo Conquest
In such a time of change as ours, what is the most important question you can ask? Charles Eisenstein answers poignantly, “What is the most beautiful thing I can do?”
You can see how he gets to this question, and more of his wisdom, in the post excerpts below. It takes a strong courage and a clear seeing to recognize and acknowledge the deeper failures that are occurring systemically in western civilization. Eisenstein writes on this:
“On a personal level, the deepest possible revolution we can enact is a
revolution in our sense of self, in our identity. The discrete and
separate self of Descartes and Adam Smith has run its course and is
becoming obsolete. We are realizing our own inseparateness, from each
other and from the totality of all life.”
This bit of wild wisdom is the forbidden knowledge the aspens, and indeed all of nature, whispers into our ears as well.
Money and the Crisis of Civilization
…I think we all sense that we are nearing the end of an era. On the most superficial level, it is the era of unregulated casino-style financial manipulation that is ending. But the current efforts of the political elites to fix the crisis at this level will only reveal its deeper dimensions. In fact, the crisis goes “all the way to the bottom.” It arises from the very nature of money and property in the world today, and it will persist and continue to intensify until money itself is transformed. A process centuries in the making is in its final stages of unfoldment.
In the face of the impending crisis, people often ask what they can do to protect themselves. “Buy gold? Stockpile canned goods? Build a fortified compound in a remote area? What should I do?” I would like to suggest a different kind of question: “What is the most beautiful thing I can do?” You see, the gathering crisis presents a tremendous opportunity. Deflation, the destruction of money, is only a categorical evil if the creation of money is a categorical good.
…Where there is no money to facilitate transactions, gift economies reemerge and new kinds of money are created. …this is going to happen anyway in the wake of a currency collapse, as people lose their jobs or become too poor to buy things. People will help each other and real communities will reemerge.
In the meantime, anything we do to protect some natural or social resource from conversion into money will both hasten the collapse and mitigate its severity. Any forest you save from development, any road you stop, any cooperative playgroup you establish; anyone you teach to heal themselves, or to build their own house, cook their own food, make their own clothes; any wealth you create or add to the public domain; anything you render off-limits to the world-devouring machine, will help shorten the Machine’s lifespan. Think of it this way: if you already do not depend on money for some portion of life’s necessities and pleasures, then the collapse of money will pose much less of a harsh transition for you. The same applies to the social level. Any network or community or social institution that is not a vehicle for the conversion of life into money will sustain and enrich life after money.
In previous essays I have described alternative money systems, based on mutual credit and demurrage, that do not drive the conversion of all that is good, true, and beautiful into money. These enact a fundamentally different human identity, a fundamentally different sense of self, from what dominates today. No more will it be true that more for me is less for you. On a personal level, the deepest possible revolution we can enact is a revolution in our sense of self, in our identity. The discrete and separate self of Descartes and Adam Smith has run its course and is becoming obsolete. We are realizing our own inseparateness, from each other and from the totality of all life. Interest denies this union, for it seeks growth of the separate self and the expense of something external, something other. Probably everyone reading this essay agrees with the principles of interconnectedness, whether from a Buddhistic or an ecological perspective. The time has come to live it. It is time to enter the spirit of the gift, which embodies the felt understanding of non-separation. It is becoming abundantly obvious that less for you (in all its dimensions) is also less for me. The ideology of perpetual gain has brought us to a state of poverty so destitute that we are gasping for air. That ideology, and the civilization built upon it, is what is collapsing today.
Individually and collectively, anything we do to resist or postpone the collapse will only make it worse. So stop resisting the revolution in human beingness. If you want to survive the multiple crises unfolding today, do not seek to survive them. That is the mindset of separation; that is resistance, a clinging to a dying past. Instead, allow your perspective to shift toward reunion, and think in terms of what you can give. What can you contribute to a more beautiful world? That is your only responsibility and your only security. The gifts you need to survive and enjoy will come to you easily, because what you do to the world, you do to yourself.
Notes and Links:
Charles Eisenstein is author of The Ascent of Humanity: Civilization and the Human Sense of Self
Money: a Transformative Agent — wisdom from Lynn Twist, author of Soul of Money: Reclaiming the Wealth of our Inner Resources, founder of Soul of Money Institute
The Wisdom of Aspens — An Invitation « wild resiliency blog!11/12/2008 at 6:03 am
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