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Being Recklessly Generous
As we move away from transaction, I totally get that we need to cultivate a deeper, wider trust in the larger Life-Force System rather than the economic system. And the seeds are planted now, the fruits of which come much later. Yet, somehow I also need to pay for groceries, and gas, and insurance, and a roof over our heads, etc. Any thoughts on processing this?
First off, I would acknowledge that these are very real issues, that I've had to struggle with as well. And they're frequently raised across the board, in variety of manifestations. We need to grow internally, people to be sensitized away from superficial-utility-maximizing transactions, and we need to build systems that allows generosity to flourish. If you break down these scenarios, though, lots of them end up in chicken and egg situations -- what comes first, when you need both in a regenerative cycle?
Secondly, it's a matter of inner resources, not outer ones. Here are some older thoughts on Surviving Gift Economy and more recent conversation in one of our circles on on Gift Ecology. Essence of it is that each act of giving creates an affinity and after sufficient strands in that matrix, you have a field in which you can give while trusting indirect reciprocity to kick in. And then Boddhisattvas take it to the next level, by extending "indirect" reciprocity to span millennia and dimensions of reality. Their strength comes from their inexhaustible equanimity -- you can see this repeatedly in the life and teachings of sages. Master Hua once said, "If you indulge in blessings, you exhaust them. If you endure suffering, you build merits." Of course, that's a *very* high bar, but we gently work at the pace of our inner capacities.
Thirdly, baby steps are just as good as long strides. I was speaking at a Church one time and a musician on stage was profoundly touched by the message of gift. During Q&A she candidly asked, "I totally dig this. This is what I'm about, but when if I just trust, people will give me a banana for my CD. It's happened before. And gas station doesn't take bananas. So what to do?" Essence of my response was that we don't have any easy pathway -- spiritually, socially and systemically -- in today's world. So that's precisely why we must pave the way for future generations. In the interim, this work summons revolutionaries. Not everyone has the inner or outer conditions to be a revolutionary, but if we are able to be Ruby Bridges or Rosa Parks or Nelson Mandela, then we have to stand up, receive the banana, and walk home. At a subtler level, those who humbly accept that banana are actually getting a Ferrari (let alone gas!) but they may not have the staying power ("blessings") to last until that manifests in the field of matter. So we have to see if we're well placed to be a revolutionary in a particular moment -- if so, move fearlessly with love. If not, support someone else for whom the conditions are ripe. It isn't a binary, all or nothing, do or die, kind of scenario -- we can all contribute our little bit, in particular moments of alignment. For me, that's the essence.
Fourthly, go to bat for generosity. How do we nudge our culture from an industry from commercial consumerism to a community-oriented circle of gifts? It will take revolutionaries. It might take an alignment of exceptional circumstances. But it's possible. We live in a world where they are passing a law on Wall Street to ban free summer internships, because that's seen as taking advantage of the interns. I can totally see the merits of that as a defensive measure against greed. But I'm interested more in an offensive measure for generosity. The ServiceSpace bet is that if we hold onto that flame courageously, the results will surprise us -- because nature ultimately support this. We might die along the way (ie. it may emerge in generations after us), but you know, I'm happy with an epitaph that reads, "Here died a man who tried to be recklessly generous." :)
I haven't met anyone who isn't rooting for this. It's backed by nature. Yet, at the moment, we don't see a clear pathway for such a system to succeed. But hey, I'm from the Silicon Valley -- what is impossible today is all of a sudden possible tomorrow. :)
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