Back in 2012, I was doing a journey called "Brave New World" - traveling on West Coast and Southwest (US), meeting and visiting visionary people and initiatives and documenting my journey - and I was doing it in gift economy. I was diving into Charles Eisenstein's work at the time and feeling very inspired (I am still very inspired!). I wrote the following piece as three consecutive blog posts in a rush of inspiration which I still find relevant and worth inquiring today. So I merged them into one integral piece and offer it again as I continue my own explorations and experiments within the gift culture.
Confessions of a broke change agent
April 12, 2012
I am going to be honest with you. Very honest and vulnerable.
It’s about money. Despite my intelligence, vision, hard work and unique gifts, I struggled financially most of my adult life. Especially so ever since I walked out of organizations – corporate or non-profit – which in my experience were limiting, creativity-and-spirit-breaking, ineffective containers of human misery. 6 years ago I said enough, walked away and never looked back. (Here I am referring to my own experience and would like to acknowledge that not all organizations are soul-crashing and there are definitely those more aligned with human-soul, pace and scale and life-affirming out there. Our organizations will transform as we transform)
I moved on to creating what I believed in. I tried to live in alignment with my values and life-calling which is to help us transition to a new story, to a new culture and way of being in the world: life-affirming, wholesome, sustainable, joyful, celebratory.
Over the years I planted many seeds in Turkey; I initiated, co-created and co-hosted many wonderful community building, re-skilling and learning events from permaculture workshops, to film festivals to leadership trainings in the past 10 years. More than half of my work has been gift economy, meaning I offered it from my heart for the wellbeing of my community (myself included) and the world, without expecting any financial return. And there was none for most of it. Because I did what I did more or less in an invisible capacity of a networker, connector, weaver, visionary, often my role and the outcome of my work has gone unnoticed.
Those who know me, know me and appreciate me. That’s taken care of. However when it comes to sustaining one’s self economically, when your work is gone unnoticed, it’s not a good sign. And of course, I investigated into my self-limiting beliefs around money and yes I had a hell of a negative projections around it and I desperately looked for clues for how I bring this onto myself, examining my personal relationship with abundance versus scarcity. This goes on and on. It did occasionally occur to me that I was not cut out for this ‘system’. I always felt alienated and outside of a context where growth and profit possibly could be the only desired outcome.
Being exposed to Charles Eisenstein‘s work, I came to the sobering realization of “this dominant economic system is certainly more flawed than I am” and because we are between two worlds, most of the visionary work that’s been out there has not only been not recognized as service, but it is seen at times as a threat and is resisted against.
“You have to actually need each other. People desire to enact their gifts, and if they were free from money, they would do it. But money is so often a barrier. You know, people think “Oh, I would love to do this, but can I afford to do it? Is it practical?” Money stops..”What beautiful thing would I do? What am I called to do?” Would it be to set up big gardens for homeless people to take care of, and reconnect them to nature? Would it be to clean up a toxic waste site? What would you do? What beautiful thing would you do? And why isn’t it practical to do these things? Why isn’t there money in those things? An economy that embodies the principles of the gift is an economy that is simply grounded in the truth. The task before us is to align money with the true expression of our gifts. It requires a very different mechanism for the creation of money and the circulation of money.”
Money hasn’t stopped me from doing what I am called to do. However it exhausted me and drained my energy and made me worried that takes away some of my creative juju which could have been much better used. It also prevented me from taking care of myself as much as I would like to.
It’s fair to acknowledge that Brave New World journey was only made possible through crowdfunding and the money my community raised, supported me for 4 months. 6 months later I am back to where I started, financially speaking. Although crowdfunding is a great idea, it is not a long-term, sustainable solution.
And just for clarity, I am not whining of complaining here (I already did that a lot on my own). I am seriously curious and intrigued by this conversation.
So I ask you: whose responsibility is to support those of us who commit their lives to this transition and new story in various non-commercial capacities whose work is less visible than others (the mighty social entrepreneurs for example)?
With everything that I did do and continue to do, I would never be considered an Ashoka fellow for example. Because even the system thinkers and game changers are looking for “tangible, measurable, replicable change actions” in most cases. Even the change is measured by the criteria of the old system we’re trying to change.
Sobonfu Some says ”In a context where your gifts are valued, where what you bring is exactly what your community needs, you don’t need to make a living. All you need to do is to be yourself and to live your purpose”.
Based on this wisdom, I might still need to fine tune my gifts so they are exactly what my community needs. Meanwhile I hope there will be soon more seeing, more support and more funding for the kind of ‘less visible’ work that some of us bravely undertake in the world…
I personally can’t wait for this story to change in a brave new world!
Mobilizing imaginal cells
April 17, 2012
This isn’t even about how to make money from what we love doing. Don’t we get it, this is still old paradigm thinking and it limits our imagination, creativity and creations - the way we gift ourselves to the world.
I know I am happiest and most fulfilled when I can touch another person’s heart, when I am seen as the gift I am to the world, when I sit around a table of delicious, healthy food with my friends from all over the world, when I can inspire one more person to take a step, maybe the first one, in the direction of their life’s work, soul’s calling, their authentic path. I am most alive when I feel connected – to myself, to people around me and to the Earth and cosmos.
Not when I have more money in my bank account. When I have money in my bank account, it’s relief, not happiness. It’s release of fear, not it-breakes-my-heart-open kind of joy. I know the difference. Money is convenience, money is comfort. It’s not fulfillment, it’s not real power.
Money doesn’t validate me anymore, my relationships do.
Here we are walking a fine line on Earth as humanity – we’ve never been so privileged and connected yet so impoverished, facing an existential threat at the same time. One era ending, a new one beginning. A certain number of humanity has already been activated to see, hear, touch, taste, embrace and co-create a new paradigm, a new story, a new reality.
There are many people out there, millions, ready and willing to embrace both the challenge and the opportunity of creating a brave new world; it’s already happening.
Imagine how many of these people – visionaries, pioneers, edge-walkers, social entrepreneurs, designers, scientists, activists, artists – want to commit their lives to creating a world that works for all and then imagine how many of them have the support – material and non-material -, even the minimum sustenance they need to create what they imagine, envision, are called to create? How many of them actually are able to offer their authentic, unique gifts to the world, which might significantly shift the course of humanity’s journey on this Earth?
I call them imaginal cells. I consider myself an imaginal cell too.
“The caterpillars’ new cells are called ‘imaginal cell.’ They resonate at a different frequency. They are so totally different from the caterpillar cells that his immune system thinks they are enemies…and gobbles them up–Chomp! Gulp! But these new imaginal cells continue to appear. More and more of them! Pretty soon, the caterpillar’s immune system cannot destroy them fast enough. More and more of the imaginal cells survive. And then an amazing thing happens! The little tiny lonely imaginal cells start to clump together, into friendly little groups. They all resonate together at the same frequency, passing information from one to another. Then, after awhile, another amazing thing happens! The clumps of imaginal cells start to cluster together! A long string of clumping and clustering imaginal cell, all resonating at the same frequency, all passing information from one to another there inside the chrysalis.”
And this is how the caterpillar transforms into a butterfly, impressive, isn’t it?!
You can also watch this video - The Evolution of the Butterfly - by Abraham Heisler to dive into this metaphor.
What if we released the imaginal cells of humanity from the burden of ‘having to make a living’ and release their full creative potential to focus on the very thing they were born to create here and now? How would this impact the cultural shift that’s happening around the world? the emergence of a brave new world? What if there was an online platform to fund these imaginal cells on long term rather than short-term project-based crowdfunding model? Crowdfunding for life or for a chunk of time. If the imaginal cells were free to create the beautiful butterfly without having to spend their energy on anything else, I say, the emergence of the new will quicken.
In the first part of the article I quoted Sobonfu Some: “In a context where your gifts are valued, where what you bring is exactly what your community needs, you don’t need to make a living. All you need to do is to be yourself and to live your purpose”.
And while it is true that finding one’s authentic gift is important, it is also important that our communities start seeing the more subtle value-creation happening. Is it true that if the community doesn’t see the gift being offered, that makes the gift less valuable?
Do we perhaps also need to awaken and inspire our communities to see and reward the gifters who are, think, act “outside of the box”?
When we eventually fully shift to the gift culture/economy, we will have the collective eyes, awareness and conscience to see the real gifts offered for the well-being of – a community, of life, of the wholeness. We will also be released from the pressure of monetizing everything, even the most sacred things: water, soil, food, spiritual practices, healing, learning, even birth and dying. When life will be once again more than production/consumption of products & services, more of us will step into our life’s work, service to community and what we’re here to do.
With the awareness of the whole, the collective intelligence will not turn a blind eye to the parts that are serving the whole.
Money as gift vs monetizing our gifts
April 18, 2012
This is an inquiry I have been in for some time. More and more we are seeing the rise of a sharing culture in the world. Thanks to being globally connected now, and facing the same challenges all around the world, we are waking up to the potential of sharing information, resources, ideas, networks, and more. Open source everything is springing up evreywhere, from open source software, to time banks, to skill-share to wikipedia to ride-share.
Yet, when it comes to money, we are still fearful, we are still hesitant. In most cases we’re willing to share our time, our ideas, our presence but not so much the money. There are still such complex social and emotional codes, even taboos around it. It’s almost the pinnacle of our attachment to our separation, a kind of primitive survival fear and all the social construct – assumptions and beliefs – around money:
If I have money, I am powerful. If I don’t have any, I am a failure.
The crowdfunding phenomenon definitely opened the pathway to evolve & heal this pattern and offered us a way to support one another financially in creating stuff. But it needs to go further than project-based crowdfunding. It was only the beginning of what’s possible…
At the edge of the new world, while we’re still in between worlds, instead of deconstructing money and mainstream economics, even the edge-walkers coming up with new principles and structures to shift systems of all kinds, tend to monetize the brain-power and innovative services. Some feel that they have to, to survive. Some, I guess, just love monetizing.
I am not against money, I don’t think money is evil. I don’t have problem with people going that direction, or monetizing their services as long as they are in alignment with the wholeness of the Earth and life. But when I look at the world, where we are and what we are facing as humanity, monetizing is not my primary concern. What calls our attention is huge and we are called back to the essentials of living and co-existing with other beings on this animated Earth in a radically different way. In the modern world, we have been continuously diminishing our ability to sustain ourselves and the organism that give us life in the first place.
At the critical point where we stand, the pendulum can swing in any direction, and the new story is really up to us. I do not choose to monetize my gifts to the world. I offer and will continue offering my gifts regardless, whether they are considered ‘monetizable‘ or not. I will only fine-tune my gifts based on increasing my joy in offering those gifts as well as to be in greater service to the whole. I will not fine-tune my gifts to “monetize” them.
Nick Jankel, founder of wecreate shares:
“My own experience of 8 years on the edge of the transformation (personal and global) is that meta-innovators have a tough time unless they are institutional. Money will flow to social entrepreneurs who have a sexy, one-line projects (crowd-funded or foundation-funded) but these projects almost invariably manage the symptoms and avoid tackling the origins and deep causes. The world needs us deep layer be-ers / do-ers but the economy doesn’t know how to value us. Neither does anyone else! That is fine if you made it to MIT, the New Yorker or the billionaire club in a former avatar. But for those of us who wake up early in life, – and literally cannot work for the system that kills anymore – it is a long, long, long looooooong heroes journey. I am just grateful that I get to walk at all – and with such exemplary folk. Bright light ahead – I sense the sea change is a-comin’ and networked thinkers and agents of transformation will become valued above all else. As Sartre urged – whether this is true or not matters less than if we act from this place.”
To shape things to monetize them, in my humble opinion, is repeating the old pattern of an old economic system which is not really about providing for needs but concerned about growth and profits. Charles Eisenstein puts it nicely in this article:
“Economic growth turns social reciprocity and gift relationships (two components of Gross National Happiness) into paid services. It converts pristine ecosystems into sources of timber or minerals. It converts silence into noise, starry skies into urban lights, kitchen gardens into supermarket purchases, mom’s cooking into fast food takeout. It replaces the village storyteller with the TV cartoon, mothering with day care, outdoor play with video games. A society that still has these former things intact, and meets its needs without much money, is called, by economists, an “undeveloped market.” The process of liquidating social and natural capital is called “development.”
I am more interested in designing and creating what will sustain me, you, us, and next seven generations.
My interest in this conversation here is how we can share/re-distribute wealth/abundance/resources in a way that will accelerate the clumping & clustering of imaginal cells as well as enhancing the well-being and capacity of the individual imaginal cells.
I am not interested how to measure the capacity and authenticity of imaginal cells, whether or not they will deliver something of a benefit to the funders or not, etc. And why anyone should gift anyone if they are not getting a return. And why not? There are millions of good reasons. I am convinced and don’t want to argue why it is not possible. I am past that point in the conversation.
What I am suggesting here is, whether we can create a container to create a flow of resources – including money – from those who have excess and are looking for venues to invest (not only for their own benefit or return) as a gift based on trust, dare I say, intuition, imagination. Can we build friendships, relationships, partnerships, networks across the globe based on gifting, abundance, trust, co-creation that will mobilize a generation of people that will turn things around?
I believe in gift culture and in gift economy. Well, at the end of the day, whether you and I believe in it or not, it will save our bottoms, when shift hits the fan. I am pretty sure about that!