Do you have a four year old mind?
Do you have a four year old mind?
I am on my way back from my North and South America qigong teaching tour. The workshops have been offered on a GFRF basis wherever possible, but I have also left it up to the local organizer to make arrangements as they see fit. This has led to a range of different systems including some where they have had a ‘minimum’ donation and encouragement to GFRF as well, some with a set price and others with a price or option to GFRF instead.
I have had many wonderful experiences meeting generous, thoughtful and conscientious people of high personal integrity. For these people GFRF works well and is a wonderful way to interact. The exchange may be great or small, but the freedom of it has a certain beauty and authenticity which I think benefits all parties involved. Freedom is to be highly valued and I think helps those participating to truly engage with what they are doing on a deeper level and thus derive greater value from it.
Unfortunately have I also had many experiences which were not so good, with people who just decided that GFRF meant something for nothing, or for very little or far less than what they would pay for other things. I find this attitude a little puzzling as if it is really of low value – why would they waste their time on it? I would go further to say that there were several instances where I was used, abused and seriously taken advantage of. There seem to be a lot of people that simply cannot (or choose not to) engage with the concept of GFRF with integrity.
Over the years I have been experimenting with GFRF I have encountered this with increasing frequency. When I began to offer my clinical services on a GFRF basis, for the most part people gave about what they would have previously, with some giving a bit more, others a bit less, or even a lot less due to their circumstances – which is kind of the whole idea of GFRF, with only the occasional person ‘taking advantage’ of the system by giving very little when they could clearly afford much more. And that was to accept a little of the bad with the good, as it enabled me to engage with people in this more authentic and beautiful way. But over time the frequency of these more ‘negative’ experiences increased until they actually started to outnumber the good ones!?!~?!/!?!
The same goes for the online training that I offer. I get so many emails from people saying how they love what I am doing and they are planning on donating soon… … … … … and then they never do. I wonder why they bother sending me the email of their plan to donate if they are not going to follow through? Almost all of those who are going to donate, just go ahead and do it! I then hear from the AFTER they have donated, or maybe not at all.
I have had so many conversations with people in various contexts saying how much they love what I am doing, how high the quality of my services are (whether it be clinical treatment, online instruction, or after a workshop) and even how much better they are than other services that they also use, while in the same conversation they also tell me of the quite large sums of money they are paying for these other services or other things, when they give me a very small fraction of this… Where is the disconnect???
My commitment as part of my working with the GFRF concept has been to accept whatever comes in the form of payment/donation without judgement. This has been very difficult at times to converse with someone calmly without judgement who is blatantly taking advantage of me. Emotionally the ego wants to respond, as the other person is in a very real way undermining my wellbeing. Sometimes it feels like an actual attack on myself and even physically and psychologically painful, which it is in away. They have taken what I have to offer – which is usually my time, skills and knowledge, but really this is no different from taking my physical possessions, and by not giving in return for what they have received they are taking away my ability to provide and care for myself. They are also taking away my ability to continue to provide my services to both themselves and others. What is not cared for and treated with love and respect withers and dies – if not immediately, then eventually. We see this all the time in the world around us – one example being the natural environment… Yet I have been committed to persisting and accepting without judgement.
Learning from bad and sometimes painful experiences
I was having one of these types of conversations with someone after a workshop (for which they gave nothing), staying calm and neutral and trying not to pass judgement, when I felt something ‘click’ in my head. It almost felt like an actual click. There was a specific moment when suddenly something felt different inside. I didn’t immediately understand what it was, but I continued to ponder on it and realized that I had finally opened a new perspective and a new understanding on Giving and Receiving freely.
I realized that this person would not, and in fact COULD NOT receive the benefit from the workshop that they had just attended, because they had not given in return for it.
In my qigong workshops I often talk the laws of physics and that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, for every force an equal and opposite force, as I explain how the exercises work and how we channel and direct these forces within our bodies for our benefit. I am now convinced that there is a Universal law that on a what could be termed ‘spiritual’ level we can not receive what we do not give in equal measure for. If it were not so, the universe would be out of balance and come apart.
The amount given has nothing to do with it, it is the value of what is given to the giver that determines the value what they are capable of receiving in turn. The classic example in the Christian Bible is of the widow’s mite where a poor widow donated two mites (the smallest of coins) to the treasury of the church and Jesus pointed out that relative to here means she had given more than the wealthy who had given large sums of money. This in turn meant that she could receive more. The giving needs to be relative to the means of the giver because it then reflects the value that they are investing on a deep level into the giving. Without sufficient investment they cannot truly receive on a deep level.
Sometimes people seem to think they are ‘giving’ by thinking nice thoughts about something, or by talking about it. But most of the time they are fooling themselves when they do this. They are creating an illusion within themselves that they have given, and so the nature of their receiving will be illusory as well. If they want to receive tangibly, they need to give tangibly according to their means as well.
Focus on the Receiving?
This has given me a new perspective on GFRF. I am currently giving my all, and have very much wanted to focus on this giving without focusing too much on the receiving. But I now realize that for my giving not be in vain I need to also focus on how to have others give sufficiently so that they can fully receive the benefits of what I am offering. I have struggled a bit with this in the past as I have been very aware that by working in a GFRF way, I am reducing the number of people that I reach with my skills and knowledge as so many people are too uncomfortable with the idea of GFRF to engage with it – so they don’t take up my services. And yet I have still wanted to work in a GFRF way to find those who do ‘get it’, and also for what it does for me. It helps me to purify my intent and motives. It means I focus on the underlying real intrinsic value of what I am doing instead of focusing on the sometimes false or distorted financial value. I can do things for the right reasons based on love, instead of for the sometimes wrong reasons based on fear and insecurity.
It has also given me a new perspective on setting prices. I believe that those people who choose not to engage with my services due to discomfort with GFRF are usually people with personal integrity, but with fear of interacting outside of the normal price based system. They don’t trust themselves to get it ‘right’. They want to respect and value what I do and pay me fairly, but they also don’t want to give more than they should/can, and considering this becomes too difficult, so they just opt out of it all together. I would like to encourage these people to trust themselves more and fear less and give GFRF a try. I think the world would be better for it. But if they will not engage on these terms, then having a price gives them a way to receive value in a way that they are comfortable, but it also perhaps puts a cap on how much value they will receive as they then will usually only give the price set and not more, which in turn stops them from receiving more.
For others having a price can even perhaps work as a kind of Karmic/Cosmic protection. If the upside benefit of receiving is limited by how much you in turn give, then surely there are also negative consequences for those who do not give as they should. Whether this be through carelessness or outright using and abusing, I am sure there are consequences in order for the universe to remain in balance. By having a price and using this to prevent people from using and abusing, in a way you are protecting them from these negative consequences.
These insights are valuable to me as I now feel much more comfortable about putting a price on things if I need to, because with this perspective I can now do this out of love for the other person and with their wellbeing in mind, rather than out of fear and thinking about myself getting enough.
But what then about those beautiful, magical free interactions with people who do understand and ‘get’ GFRF? What about those who only have ‘two mites’ but for them this is a lot? What about those who have a lot and can receive more by giving more?
I wonder if there is a way to have essentially a two tier system. A price for most people, but a way for those that ‘get it’ to interact using GFRF. This might not be so far different from how kung fu and qigong teachers operated in the past, where most students had to pay a set price, but those with a particularly close relationship instead just gave ‘gifts’ reflecting the value of what they learned and their relationship. Over time students could move from one group to the other. Something for me to think about…
It isn’t over
I haven’t given up on experimenting and trying work with GFRF. I am committed to continuing to do as much GFRF as I can through the rest of this year, and particularly as I travel teaching qigong in Europe and other parts of the world. I feel I have more to learn and experience yet. I am greatful for the insights I have received though, because as it stands each leg of my travels so far have cost me more than I have received in return (and I have kept my expenses to the ABSOLUTE minimum), so it is likely that I will need to change how I do things in the future, as by definition something that costs more than it returns is unsustainable in the long run – I simply won’t be able to continue it in this way as I won’t have funds to pay my expenses. I have kept living in hope that I will find enough people who ‘get it’ so that I can continue to work in as pure a GFRF way as I can, but given my experiences to date this seems unlikely. Those who ‘get it’ seem to be outnumbered by those who don’t by… I’d say about 100:1. If any of you reading this are the ones that ‘get it’ I would like to thank you for being you and the GFRF interactions we have had, you are truly a rare and precious individual. There is still time to learn more and find different options of how to do things… I will see what the rest of the year brings.
Writing about negative things
As you can probably tell, the negative experiences I have had using GFRF have built up over the years. I have been hesitant to write too much about these as like most people I prefer to focus on the positive. And I think that is the right thing to do. We draw towards us what we focus on. This sometimes leads people to take a fanciful view of things though. There are many people who just assume that everything is going wonderfully and must be great because I am using GFRF – these are usually also the type of people who say they are going to donate ‘soon’…
But part of my commitment to GFRF is to right about it honestly, so that others can learn from my experience. Even if I don’t succeed, others can gain inspiration from my efforts, or even just lessons on what to do differently. So I feel good about letting people know that it isn’t all moonbeams and stardust, and rainbows and unicorns (the more practical minded already know this, those that do donate tend to assume that the whole GFRF is bloody hard but they at least respect me for giving it a go), particularly now that I can in a sense turn these bad experiences into a ‘good’ through the insights I have had about Universal Law.
Is the universe out of balance, or have I received?
So if this giving and receiving thing is truly a Universal Law, is the universe still in balance? Financially I have not received anywhere near what I need to survive for my efforts in my clinical work, online training, and many of my workshops and travel, but have I perhaps received in other ways? I think I certainly have. I have met wonderful people who I otherwise would not have. I have had many insights about my own qigong practice that I also think I would not have otherwise had. And as I have traveled I have had marvelous experiences interacting with and working with the earth’s energy in different geographies. Some of these experiences I think have come as a direct result of my commitment to giving freely. If this were not the case I think I may have been able to experience the earths energy but not interact with it in the way that I have. This has led to further enhancement of my abilities which I don’t know if I could have achieved in another way. In a way I think this is a gift back from the universe, keeping things in balance. I just hope that somehow financially things are able to come into balance in the future as well.
A bit long and rambly, but this is where things are at with my experimentation with GFRF 🙂 I’m sure I will have further updates in the future.
This guy has a good way of describing some of the fundamental underlying problems with our monetary system and how we think of value.
First Impressions of Charity
What comes to mind when you think of ‘Charity’? I think for a lot of us it is things like people in the street collecting money to feed starving orphans in a far of land, or maybe someone calling you on the phone asking you to donate money to help re-home abandoned animals. Closer to home you may think of things like raising money for your local sports club to help fund building of new facilities, or equipment for youth teams. Closer still you might think of acts of service like cooking a meal for sick neighbour.
A lot of wonderful things are done in the name of ‘Charity’, but I know for many of us ‘Charity’ brings up feelings that are not entirely positive. Negative connotations have somehow also become attached to this inherently good thing.
Why is ‘Charity’ Sometimes a Dirty Word?
I think there are a number of reasons why Charity sometimes gets a bad reputation in our modern society. They come from what I think is a fundamental misunderstanding of what charity really is. I would like to look at some of these distortions before discussing a deeper understanding of the meaning of Charity.
One of the things that sometimes sours peoples attitude to Charity is the practices of organizations and people that acquire funding on their behalf. They can be very persistent and irritating to the point where people feel they are giving not so much out of the goodness of their hearts but because they have been hounded and they just want to get rid of the person.
Then there is the case of the new breed of collectors who will approach people to donate, but then will not accept their offered cash donation because what they are after is a contract for a donation by monthly direct debit. These are usually PROFESSIONAL collectors and they and the organization they work for are paid on commision and these commissions can be high – up to 100% of your entire first years worth of donations. That money you thought was going to your preferred cause may actually be going directly into the pocket of the collector and helping to fund even more pesky collectors. (See this article in the New Zealand Herald about Charity fundraising)
If some of your donated money does manage to get through to your supported organization, then more of that money is used for ongoing marketing and to pay administrative and staffing costs – which can be high, before finally some of it may get to the purpose you wanted to contribute too.
The reality is that Charity has become big business, and like other big businesses they will try to squeeze every dollar they can out of their audience – even if it sometimes means annoying and hounding them. And also like any business, many people enter the sector with an eye to how much they can get for themselves personally while working there rather than what they can contribute.
This doesn’t mean that all large charitable organizations and their employees operate like this. I am sure that there are many who do great work in a highly ethical way, but the fact that some do can leave people feeling taken advantage of and suspicious about giving to any cause. There are ways around this which we will get to later on in this post.
Dependency And Weakness
Another aspect of the common conception of Charity that sometimes gives it a bad name is the idea that Charity is a hand out. Something for nothing. A lot of people instinctively dislike this idea, and I think for good reason. Sadly when people regularly get something for nothing they often become dependent on these hand outs and rather than helping these people to lead better lives it can make them weak and unable to take care of themselves.
This causes people to not want to give to charities because they don’t want to be contributing to a handout mentality which creates dependency and weakness in the recipients. It also makes people not want to receive from charity as this would indicate weakness on their part. Almost no-one wants to be considered a ‘charity case’ as the implication of weakness damages peoples sense of self esteem and sense of worth.
What is Charity Really?
So we can see a few issues with Charity as it is often thought of and practiced in our society today. There is bad mixed with good, and this can cause people to have understandably mixed feelings and attitudes towards it. Do we have to accept the bad with the good though? Or can we find another understanding of Charity which is only good, that there is no need to have mixed feelings about, something that we would like to do all the time without hesitation because there is no downside?
Out of interest I looked up a dictionary definition of Charity for reference. Here is the definition I found at www.thefreedictionary.com
char·i·ty (chr-t)n. pl. char·i·ties1. Provision of help or relief to the poor; almsgiving.2. Something given to help the needy; alms.3. An institution, organization, or fund established to help the needy.4. Benevolence or generosity toward others or toward humanity.5. Indulgence or forbearance in judging others. See Synonyms at mercy.6. often Charity Christianity The theological virtue defined as love directed first toward God but also toward oneself and one’s neighbors as objects of God’s love.
[Middle English charite, from Old French, Christian love, from Latin crits, affection, from crus, dear; see k- in Indo-European roots.]
Looking at this definition we can see that the first three items refer pretty much to what we have been discussing in this post so far, but as we go further down the list I think we start to get closer to a true understanding of what Charity really is.
Charity at its essence is PURE LOVE, the giving and institutions referred to in the first three items of the definition and the earlier part of this blog post are simply imperfect human expressions of this love. By digging deeper to find the true meaning of Charity we can find better ways of expressing it.
We All Need Charity
As we come closer to understanding the deeper meaning of Charity, it quickly becomes apparent that Charity actually affects all areas of our lives and there is no shame whatsoever in receiving it. All of us can benefit from benevolence and generosity (item four in the definition) and forbearance in judgement (item five) from time to time. At our core, all of us need to love and be loved.
Charity is not just something for the poor but an inner attitude that is expressed in all of our interactions with the people and the world around us.
Integrating Charity Into Our Lives
So how do we best express this PURE LOVE in our interactions with others? Well, people are going to have different ways of doing this and the giving and institutions mentioned earlier can sometimes be a good way. But there are lots of other ways to do this as well that I think can often hit their mark a bit more accurately. I found this interesting post on Freakonomics that shares one guys ideas of how to effectively express charity in your local community (read it here). Basically there are many opportunities around us in our local communities where we can express charity effectively.
Give Freely Receive Freely and Charity
For myself, I think it is a shame to reserve our expressions of Charity to special instances of giving. Wouldn’t it be great if we could incorporate this pure love into every interaction we engage in, including our day to day business?
I think ‘Give Freely Receive Freely’ has potential to do this quite well. It allows us to provide what we do directly to those people who want or need it. When we do this we are making no judgement as to whether someone is rich or poor or a ‘charity case’, because we expect them to give in return what they can or are willing to for what we have provided. We respect their contribution whether great or small, and in so doing encourage them to respect themselves and to continue to make the effort to contribute what they can in return for what they receive and in so doing contribute to the greater good of society.
This giving is very efficient as we can provide what we do best (you do work at what you do best don’t you?) to those most in need (rich or poor) without having to deal with any additional costly marketing and administrative structures to facilitate the giving. It is just part of our day to day activity and business.
As we give in this way it also makes us very aware of our own need to receive, because if we do not we receive we are unable to take care of our own needs let alone continue to give to others. It breaks down our barriers to receiving graciously. In short it encourages us to be more liberal in both our giving and receiving of love.
My experiment with GFRF has been interesting so far. I can’t say it has been a resounding success, but it hasn’t been a failure yet either. It has helped me to see the potential of interacting in this way and it has helped me to learn more about myself and how I view others and the world. My experience so far encourages me to keep trying. I am just new at this and to be perfectly honest I am probably not very good at giving freely yet, I am also probably not very good at receiving freely either. The receiving really is a challenge, I find that it takes a lot of trust to give not knowing what you will receive in return. It also takes a lot of humility to receive what is given.
I think that little by little GFRF is helping me to change for the better. It encourages me to give more, receive more, love more and trust more. As I keep experimenting I expect that I will learn a lot more both about myself and about how to give and receive freely and effectively.
I hope that you will continue to follow along on this journey.
Is everyone familiar with the term ‘mates rates’? Its the idea that you give your friends a special deal on whatever you are selling/service you are providing because they are your mate (colloquial for friend).
I think that on the surface there is a lot of positive feeling behind this concept, the idea that you will give someone a really good deal because of your friendship – because you always want to help out your friends right? and thats a good thing.
I’d like to take a little bit of a deeper look at this idea though and how it fits in with the Give Freely Receive Freely Concept.
Who is my friend?
How do we decide who our friends are, or who to be friendly to? Personally I prefer to be friends and friendly with everyone. If I truly am friends with everyone, how then do I choose who to give a ‘mates rates’ deal to? Shouldn’t I be giving mates rates, or a great deal to everyone?
This reminds me of something that happened to me awhile ago. I went to a friends shop (where I had visited him a number of times before), I chatted for a bit and then told him I had come to check out one of his products I was interested in buying. There was an instant subtle change to our interaction. It was obvious to me that in that moment in his eyes I went from being a friend to being a customer and he changed into a salesman. He was trying to make a sale and get money from me. I did end up buying something from him, but the whole thing made me feel a bit uncomfortable and our relationship has always seemed a bit different since then.
I don’t hold it against him, he was just trying to run his business the best way he knew how and this included him introducing an element of distance and coldness between him and a customer so that he can make the money he needs. But isn’t there a better way, a way that would allow him to interact with friends and customers in the same warm way? (and have his friends as customers and customers as friends).
Business Owners Are Always Wealthy
I think part of the problem is entrenched in the idea that the business owner is always in a position to discount, and a true friend should get a deal that means the business owner is making no or very little money from them.
Anyone who has owned a business will tell you that they are not always able to discount. There are many costs in running a business that are not obvious to an outsider or someone who has not run a similar business. You can only run a business at break even or a loss for so long before you are no longer able to operate. And if you were to give everyone such a deep discount that you don’t make money off them how would you pay your expenses? how would you be able to feed yourself and your family?
I think this is one reason why business people feel the need to create distance between themselves and customers. They feel uncomfortable profiting from friends, so they create a distinction between friends and customers so that they can profit and have the money they need to run their business and live. In fact I think this affects all of us to some extent in our dealings with money, even with friends and family (theres even research to back this up, I mentioned it in a previous blog post here).
The Less Expressed Side of Mates Rates
I think the solution comes in the other less expressed side of the mates rates equations. I had never heard this other side of the equation until a few years ago. It was after I had written and published my first book (you can see it here 🙂 ). A friend said that he would like to buy a copy, and during that conversation he told me that “you don’t support a brother by asking for a discount, you support a brother by paying full price”. He did buy a copy of my book, and he did pay full price – which I appreciated, but I think I appreciated even more this new idea he gave me in that conversation. The idea that it is not always about getting a cheaper price because you are a friend, but sometimes the effect of the friendship flows the other way in paying full price because the buyer wants to support a friend.
Give Freely Receive Freely
I think that GFRF elegantly combines both sides of the ‘mates rates’ equation. If a friend does not have a lot of money or other resources, the business owner gives it to them at a rate they can afford (decided by them). On the other hand if the friend has plenty of money or other resources they can pay the business owner what would be “full price” or even more if they choose to support them in their efforts. Price ceases to be a barrier and there is no need to create emotional distance between you and your customers. Everyone becomes your ‘mate’, as you are treating each other the way a true friend would.
I know that for me, the relationship I have with customers and clients that pay on a GFRF basis feels different than the relationship I have with customers and clients that pay on a fixed price basis. It is a closer and friendlier relationship. I like this way of dealing with people better. As I’ve mentioned before in this blog, I would like to have all my business dealings with people on this basis, I’m just figuring out how to do it as the idea is unusual for most people. I am trying to figure out how to do it in step by step way so people can get used to it and so that my business will not collapse due to unfamiliarity or other reasons – as that wouldn’t help anyone.
Already I offer quite a lot of what I do on this basis, but I have quite a way to go before offering everything this way. Its been an interesting process so far. I have learned a lot, and I know that there is still a huge amount to learn yet. I hope you’ll continue to follow this blog as I write about my experiences along the way.
On a side note related to this, I recently went to a vegetarian food outlet (the term restaurant would probably be a bit of a stretch in this case) and really enjoyed the food, so much so that I am already planning on going back there. Well this morning in my email was a deal for meals at this place at less than half price.
My first instinct was to buy several of these deals to use with my friends. But as I thought about it more, I didn’t really feel good about that. I know how these deal sites work – the food outlet would end up receiving even less than the already extremely cheap deal. Even at half price it would still be too cheap, they would probably be giving me my meal at a loss to them.
I was already planning on going back there… and after thinking about it, I would rather pay full price. I don’t know them personally as a ‘friend’ but I like what they are doing and would rather support that by paying a fair amount for my meal. I would like even more to be able to pay on a Give Freely Receive Freely basis… but theres not that many of us operating this way yet. I’m not sure how much I would pay when left to figure out the value for myself, but I would try to make sure it was fair and reflected my appreciation of what they are doing.
I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about different aspects of the Give Freely Receive Freely concept and how it applies to our current economic and political system, and how it can address those problems at a fundamental level. As I’ve thought about all the different applications of GFRF I have been planning in my head a whole series of blog posts discussing the different issues, how the GFRF relates to dominant recent political models such as communism, socialism and capitalism, why previous attempts to live in ways similar to this have generally been unsuccessful and what I think needs to be tweaked in order for this to be successful in the future.
I have been really interested in the wider implications of groups of people choosing to interact in this way and it has been an interesting experience thinking about these wider issues. But when I think about writing all the blog posts they seem to stretch out before me infinitely, each one takes a long time to write because there are quite complex issues to address (and even then I am only really giving them a very superficial treatment, I currently have a half written post about greed being the basis of our financial system and why this is not a good thing), and there are MANY different fundamental issues to be looked at. It seems like it will take me so much time and effort before even getting in to the really valuable stuff, which is my experience with actually trying to make it work in the current environment.
I have just realized that I had fallen into the trap of focusing on the negative instead of the positive. When you focus on the negative you see endless problems which take infinite work to deal with. On the other hand, when you focus on the positive, the path becomes clear and simple. This is what I want to focus on from now on in this blog.
From now on I want to refocus on my own efforts to live in this way and my experiences with it. I think spending time thinking about the wider societal implications was a useful experience for me, and in a way maybe something I needed to do to convince myself that what I am doing is good and would actually be good for everyone else if it was adopted on a wider scale, because if it wouldn’t work on a wider scale then I probably shouldn’t do it small scale either. I am satisfied now that I have thought things through far enough to know that it could or would work on a large scale, and if it did, it would create a utopian society that most of us have not even dreamed of (lots of standard capitalist theory indoctrination to work through to get to this point). I feel like I can now with good conscience put those thoughts aside and focus more simply on my own efforts in the here and now to live as close to the ideal as I am able to. I may refer to these wider issues from time to time as I go, but at this point I want to set aside all the problems and focus on the solutions which is living based on love, compassion and sharing instead of greed and selfishness.
This is a big shift, and one which I think has been enabled by my experience trying my best to give freely and receive freely. Little by little I think actually experiencing this has started to change my perspective and reshape me as a person.
I think the true power of GFRF is to change the individual, I want to live this way regardless of the society around me, so I’ll stop worrying about those social problems and get on with living my own life in my own way.
I think I can feel my life getting simpler already 🙂
‘Give and take’ is a commonly used phrase in our culture. I think there is a lot of truth in this concept and it sounds similar to the idea of ‘give and receive’, so I thought I’d take a closer look at the similarities and differences between these two ideas.
To start with they both describe some form of exchange between more than one party. This may be an exchange of any sort, it could be of labour, information and ideas, money or goods and so on.
Inherent within the phrase ‘give and take’ is an implied compromise. In the case of exchange of ideas it implies that you will take on board at least some of another person’s ideas in order that some portion of your ideas will be accepted. This is something that goes on in politics all the time, and part of what can make it difficult for a politician to keep their integrity as they can be placed in situations where in order to progress ideas (legislation) that they believe in they are faced with making compromises that progress other peoples ideas (amendments, or other pieces of legislation) that they may not believe in. I don’t envy politicians the difficult decisions they must sometimes make in these situations.
On a smaller scale this happens in our everyday interactions with the people around us all the time. Going out to dinner with friends, different members of your group may feel like different types of food and others may not really mind what they eat. In order for the greater good or happiness of the group, several group members may compromise on what they want to eat, agreeing on something that is not their first choice but is acceptable to all so that the group may happily share in each other’s company for the meal.
In terms of exchange of labour, money or goods, there is an implication that both parties will not get everything they want out of the exchange, but will give something up that they want in order that they can get something else that they want or need more. At its extreme you could take this as implying that each party would rather not give up anything in order to get what the other person is offering, they would rather keep it for themselves AND have what the other person is offering. Thus what they put into the exchange is ‘taken’ from them as they would rather not actually give it up, even if they do agree to the exchange.
For example if I were to go out to buy some donuts, the donut vendor would put a price on his donuts that he will take for them, lets say $10 for a dozen. In a ‘give and take’ relationship there is an implication that I would rather keep my $10 and have the donuts as well, but because I want the donuts more than the $10 I give up the money, so that I can take the donuts. The converse is true of for the donut seller. The exchange is free in that we both agree to it, but not completely free in that there is a set price required in order for me to obtain the donuts. I don’t have the option of paying $5 for them, or giving no money at all. Equally it is unlikely that I will pay $20 for them because in these types of exchanges we tend to give as little as we can so that we can keep more for ourselves. Thus the idea of give and take tends to imply and reinforce the idea of a world of scarcity.
Compulsion – Take and be Taken From
Because the idea of scarcity is implicit in ‘give and take’ exchanges, it means that parties to the exchange cannot all have everything they want. They have to give up something they want in order that they can have or share in something that they want more. This means that there is always a certain begrudging tone to the exchange, both parties have agreed to the exchange but they would rather not actually give up what they have agreed to if they can avoid it – it must be taken from them. This implies a certain level of compulsion in the exchange, and this is the case with most transactions in the world today, there is either an implicit or explicit contract which means that if one party gives up certain things they are entitled to ‘take’ certain things in return as part of the transaction contract. Failure of one party to supply what they agreed can lead to the contract being enforced against them so the other party can take what was agreed, possibly including penalties and using external enforcement agencies such as police, courts and so on.
In a sense because the exchange is a two way exchange, and each party is entitled to ‘take’ what is agreed from the other party, ‘give and take’ is actually ‘take and be taken from’. This leads to great conflict in the world, as each person ‘fights’ for their own best interests.
I know this sounds like an extreme interpretation of the situation, and I certainly think that ‘give and take’ and its implied negotiated agreement of exchange is far preferable to ‘take what you want’ or ‘might is right’, but I hope that this interpretation will make more sense to you as we look more into an alternative view of exchange and we discuss more issues surrounding our current exchange environment in future blog posts. When we have become used to a certain way of viewing and interacting with the world it tends to become embedded in our thinking to the extent that its underlying assumptions become invisible to us. When we really examine our view in depth we can sometimes be surprised by what we find lying underneath it.
Not convinced that being ‘taken from’ is a common implied part of our normal day to day exchanges? Have you ever had to dispute a bill or invoice you disagreed with? It takes considerable effort, and the company in question may try to ‘take’ what they think they are owed through various types of enforcement. Have you ever tried not paying your taxes? The tax department will find ways to take those taxes from you or enforce penalties against you.
Turns both into ‘Givers’
Ok, so lets turn our discussion from ‘give and take’ to an alternative concept of exchange ‘give and recieve’. The key difference is of course the substitution of the word ‘take’ with ‘recieve’. This has quite significant implications for the exchange relationship. Each party to the exchange effectively becomes a giver rather than a taker. They each give what it is that they want to give and receive in return what the other party wants to give. There is no compulsion in the exchange, as each party gives only what they want to and the other party has no right to demand more or something different as the giving was not conditional on what would be received – there are no rights to ‘take’.
This implies that each party is willing to give things up even if they receive nothing for them in return, this in turn implies a world of abundance where each party can have what they want without worrying about getting what the other party has from them.
The giving instead of being due to obligation or fear of repercussions becomes an expression of gratitude and possibly of concern for the wellbeing of the other person. The focus instead of being how much you can get from the other person and how little you can contribute in the exchange, switches to appreciation of what your are receiving, and thinking about how much you are able to give freely in return.
Even if the exact same amount of money, information, goods or services are exchanged in this way as would be exchanged in a ‘give and take’ relationship, the net result is different. Because of the freedom of the exchange, there is no room for begrudging the other party which can occur when things are ‘taken’. Instead as parties to the exchange think about the welfare of the other person when deciding what and how much to give, this can create positive feelings towards each other. The inherent gratitude underlying the exchange means that the focus is put on what each person has, instead of what they don’t have. This is a powerful change of mindset and can help each party to recognize the abundance in the world and be happy and contented with what they have, instead of always seeking for more (whether or not they actually need it).
In terms of information exchange, to give and receive freely implies that there is no need to compromise your personal views when exchanging ideas with other people. Both parties to the exchange give their ideas freely without any expectation or need for the other person to take on those ideas. Each person is free to take on as much or as little from the other person as they want to. I think as a society we are coming closer and closer to this ideal. Whereas in the past people tended to easily become suspicious or uncomfortable with people who thought or acted differently, many of us are now completely comfortable living alongside people with very different views and lifestyles to our own, and in many cases even enjoy and celebrate the diversity.
To refer back to the dining out example used earlier in this post, giving and receiving ideas freely is a bit like being able to eat at a foodcourt or buffet where everyone can get exactly what they want. No-one has to compromise their personal tastes to enjoy the meal with others. The fact that someone else chooses to eat something different to you doesn’t detract from your enjoyment at all and in fact may give you the opportunity to try something new that you would like – but only if you want to.
In terms of exchange of goods, people only give what they want to. The never feel compelled to give up something that they don’t want to, and they never feel compelled to give up more than they want to. This means that they enter into the exchange with a very different set of expectations. This has big implications in the areas of job satisfaction and work/life balance.
Give and take has a lot going for it. I think this concept encapsulates some of the significant progress we have made as a society over the years, but the ‘take’ part of it has it’s downside as this can imply compulsion and no-one likes to be taken from. I think ‘give and receive’ could be another step forward for our society bringing greater social harmony and appreciation of the amazing abundant world we live in.
I may have overstated, understated or expressed poorly some of the ideas in this blog post. I’m really just trying to figure a lot of this stuff out myself. As mentioned in the post, these ideas are given freely and you don’t have to take any of them onboard if you don’t want to. I do hope you’ll stick with me though as I continue to explore these ideas and further refine and develop them. The idea of a world of free exchange raises many intriguing questions which I intend to explore in future blog posts, as well as continuing to post updates on my own practical experimentation with these ideas.
I thought I would write this post about my broader vision for the potential of giving freely and receiving freely. The main reason I am experimenting with ‘give freely receive freely’ is because it is something I want to do. Somewhere deep inside it is something I feel almost COMPELLED to do. In short it is something that I want to try and see if am able to do regardless of whether or not anyone else does it. But I think there are many factors behind these feelings to do with the current economic environment and wanting to interact with my fellow people in the best way I possibly can, and I think a lot of other people are having similar thoughts and feelings. This leads me to wonder about the possibilities of what could happen if entire communities operated on this basis…
No Offence Intended
In my upcoming posts on this blog I will continue to write about my experiences with GFRF (I think I might use this abbreviation from now on to make it faster to type), and any new developments and also anyone else I find doing similar things. I will also write about theory and underlying concepts behind GFRF. As I do this I don’t want to offend anyone. I will write about ideas for a system of exchange that is very different from how our world now operates. In order to do this I will point out some of the shortcomings of our current system and may make reference to particular professions and industries. I don’t want people in those industries to think that I am leveling criticism particularly at them. I actually believe that almost all people at their core are GOOD PEOPLE and they want to do things for the good of both themselves and others, but our current system shifts the goal posts and means that people feel that they need to put their effort into things that in the bigger picture aren’t that useful. It is the system that has shaped these actions, not necessarily the inner motivations of the people involved. In fact within the current system people involved in these professions ARE very useful and can do a lot of good for people if they choose to, but what I am thinking about is a very different system from what we have now where much of what goes into maintaining our current economic system is no longer necessary.
Hippy Weirdo Fanciful Dreaming
As I write about some of these things, some people will ‘get’ them straight away because they will already be thinking along those lines anyway or it may even seem completely obvious to them like “Duh – of course its always been like that”. Other people will struggle a bit and may think that what I’m talking about is crazy hippy weirdo fanciful dreaming nonsense that doesn’t acknowledge the ‘realities’ of the world. I must admit that I probably fit more into the second category than the first. Like all of us I am a product of my environment, I have been born and raised into our current system of economic control and it has become ingrained in my psyche. In addition to this my undergraduate degree was in Finance (straight A average from the top ranked university in New Zealand – I’m kind of proud of that) and my postgraduate study was in Marketing. So I know the theory of the current system pretty well, and for most of my life have taken it just as a given fact. But deep down I think there has always been something about it which has made me feel uncomfortable. It has taken many years for these feelings to come to the surface into a form that I can begin to understand, and I am still dealing with my past programming as I begin to think and act in different ways. I often still have this incredible doubt and a voice shouting at me ‘that’s crazy’ as I think about trying new things with GFRF, because it cuts against almost everything I see in the world around me and against the aspirations and patterns of behaviour of the population at large. But I think maybe there is a better way, and I want to try and see if I can find it, whether I do it alone or with a community of like minded people.
We Are Powerful As Individuals
In terms of addressing the ‘realities’ of the world and how things work, I have a few thoughts about that. What is it that makes up the ‘system’ as we currently know it? It is the collective action of all of us that contributes to this system. What would it take for the ‘system’ to change. Well the actions of each of us makes a difference, it is up to each individual to decide how they will act, and this in turn affects the whole. Often we think that we can’t change the world, there is no point in trying to change the system because it is too big. But the reality is that each one of us makes up part of the system, as we change how we think and act the system of necessity has to change. This is not a new idea.
“Be the change you want to see in the world” – Mahatma Gandhi
The truth is that the world and society is always changing, it has changed massively in the last 100 years and even in the last decade. Many of the things we do now and the ways we interact of many levels (socially, legally, economically, technologically) would have be near inconceivable a mere century ago. The world and society will continue to change and it is up to each of us as individuals to decide how we will act which will in turn shape the future direction of our world and society.
What does the future hold? Well science fiction often points towards a dystopian future of one kind or another, or if it does imagine a utopia it is almost always a utopia with rotten core – the facade of a utopia on what in fact is a dystopia.
Some classic examples:
And there are many many others. There is an underlying theme to be careful of wishing for or dreaming of a utopia because it may not turn out to be what we expect. There is this idea that there needs to be conflict, struggle and suffering in order for us to be truly happy. This is classically explained by Agent Smith in the first Matrix movie.
There is also an idea amongst fiction writers that there needs to be this conflict in order for things to be interesting. I personally do not believe this – I think its just a habitual way of thinking we have got into. I see no reason why things can not be interesting without conflict and suffering. I think as humans we need to learn and to grow in order to be fulfilled, but I think we can receive sufficient stimulus for this development in positive ways without the negativity of conflict and suffering.
We Move Towards What We Focus On
It is a fact of life that we tend to move towards what we think and dream about. When steering a boat you look towards the horizon where you want to go as this will keep the course of the boat steady. From time to time you may zig and zag and get blown off course, but if you keep your eyes on where you want to go, that is where you will head. While we continue to believe that it is a requirement for us to have conflict and suffering in order to lead fulfilling lives, that is what we do. While we continue to believe that any possible utopia will actually be a dystopia, we will self-fulfill that expectation.
Why Not Dream of Utopia?
Wouldn’t it be an interesting challenge to imagine a TRUE utopia? To create fiction that depicts this utopia in an interesting way so that it seems compelling and exciting? To look consistently towards this end, even while understanding that we will probably be blown off course frequently and go up and down over many waves along the way? If we could do this as individuals and as a society, maybe that’s where we would end up instead of in one of the dystopias that is currently portrayed in much of our fiction.
I think its interesting that there are common threads that run through much of this utopian/dystopian fiction. The fundamental flaw is often to do with greed, excessive consumption, subjugation of personal freedom and so on. In my blog post I will write about how the GFRF concept addresses these problems and how it can create system wide change right to the core of a society, I think that maybe it can dig out the rot and uncover the true good core of humanity. I know that from a social perspective a lot of what I will write may seem like science fiction, but I’ll put my thoughts out there anyway. I don’t have all the answers by any means, but I do have ideas and I think those ideas are worth sharing, they might spark other ideas in other people which together can add up to something good. I will also document my own experiences with trying to implement these ideas – you’ll get to find out the results, good or bad. I expect a fair bit of trial and error, a fair bit of being blown of course and having to get back on it.
As I mentioned earlier, this is something I want to experiment with by myself anyway, but I will also share with you some of my dreams of how this could effect society as a whole if it were to spread and grow. In my dreams this could lead to a TRUE UTOPIA.
Is there precedent for this? Do all our stories and histories involve conflict and suffering? I can think of at least a couple of examples that describe groups of people who have achieved a true utopia in their society. They are scriptural accounts from LDS scriptures and I think they offer some insights into what contributes to a true utopia. One of these groups is the people of Enoch (referred to in the bible, but there are additional insights into their history and society in the LDS scriptures) who built a city called Zion. The people of Zion were “of one heart and one mind and dwelt in righteousness; and there were no poor among them” You can read about Enoch and his people here
Another group were the people living on the American continent shortly after the time of Christ (The Book of Mormon is a book of scripture from the people of the American continent that describes the occurrences in that part of the world and a visit by Jesus Christ to these people) These people are described as:
“there were no contentions and disputations among them, and every man did deal justly one with another. And they had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift… And there were no envyings nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of laciviousness; and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God. There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in one.”
These people “did build cities” and “did multiply exceedingly fast, and became an exceedingly fair and delightsome people”.
Now that sounds like an interesting time to live in! According to the scriptural account this period lasted for almost two hundred years. You can read about this time and the eventual breakdown of this society here
Now these accounts are from LDS scripture, there are probably others in other scriptures, or maybe even in works of fiction (Shangri La? – I’m not entirely familiar with that story). If you know of others perhaps you can mention them in the comments below. The stories point to the possibility of true utopia and some of what made the society that way. I think this is interesting to think about, dream about and work towards.
You’ve probably heard the saying “The love of money is the root of all evil”. It comes from the bible in 1 Timothy chapter 6 verse 10. It’s quite a bold statement, identifying a single cause as the root of evil. But is it true? and if so why?
I think to understand the statement we need to look at it carefully. It doesn’t say the love of good food is the root of all evil. It doesn’t say the love of fast cars is the root of all evil. It doesn’t say the love of houses, clothes, fashion, jewelry, holidays, entertainment, international travel or art is the root of all evil. It specifically identifies love of MONEY as the root, not these other things which we sometimes associate with money implying perhaps that it is possible to love these other things without it leading to evil – but not money.
Whats wrong with money?
So whats wrong with money? Well money is pretty useful in many ways, it is hard to imagine a means of exchange that would allow the for efficient movement of goods and services without some form of money, whether that be printed pieces of paper, chunks of metal, beads, or more recently recorded electronic data. It would be hard to obtain many of the wonderful things we have available to us today if we had to directly trade goods and services with each other for everything we wanted. I am not sure what Lenovo would want from me in exchange for this laptop I’m typing this post on, and I have no idea what I would trade directly with my internet provider for their services which I will use to upload this post to my blog. Money allows us to participate in exchange for a wide variety of goods and services whether or not the provider of those goods and services wants anything we can provide because as long as we can exchange what we provide what someone else wants we can use money as a common denominator and medium of exchange.
When you think about it, money is actually pretty wonderful, so what is wrong with loving it? I think the problem becomes apparent when we dig more into what money actually is. Essentially money is ‘made up’, there is no intrinsic value in the electronic bits of data that represent money for most of us today. If you try to eat it, you will gain no nutritional value. If you try to use it to protect you from the weather, you will gain no shelter. Money is an abstract representation of underlying value, BUT it does not truly have any value itself.
How does a money focus obscure or detract from true meaning and value?
I think when we begin to love money, we begin to separate ourselves from understanding and loving REAL things with REAL VALUE in our lives. Essentially we start to miss the point and love something that is not real which leads us no longer understand the true value of things.
There are many examples of this in life which are easy to identify and for us to understand.
When an artist decides that they will create their art with a primary focus on how much money they will make from it, most people consider that this in someway debases and devalues their art. It no longer has the depth of meaning, beauty and integrity of art that has been produced with some other primary motivation. A classic example of this are the Hollywood movies where the decisions have made by executives with only money in mind, they may still be quite entertaining, but they end up being a bit bland and generic compared to a film where someone has been allowed to express their own authentic creative vision. Somehow they seem to lack soul.
The extreme example of this would have to be prostitution where sex is bought for money. While this is becoming legal in more and more parts of the world, most people still consider that this cheapens the experience of sex as it becomes separated from emotions of love, commitment and so on. What physically takes place may be exactly the same, but because the motivation is money, somehow the meaning changes.
I think this general principle carries over into all areas of our lives. Whatever we do purely for money is somehow cheapened and not as highly valued as the things we do for some other reason.
Of course there is no reason why you can’t earn money from doing the things you love, and I think this is true of the happiest people in this world. They have found things that they love and feel good about doing, and found a way to be paid the money they need to get by in this world while doing it. But if you asked them why they do what they do – they would not say it is for the money. You might get answers along the lines of that they are following their passion, they like making a difference in people’s lives, it makes them feel good, they have a creative vision they want to fulfill and so on. In fact you would likely find that these same people would be doing the things that they do even if there wasn’t any money involved because they appreciate the intrinsic value of it and happily they also get paid to do it.
The problem comes when money becomes the prime motivator, and this can occur even in areas where the individual previously had a non-monetary motivation. When the focus shifts to the money, the value and meaning of the activity goes out of focus. This often results in people doing things they don’t really want to do – for money. They feel they just have to. How many people work at jobs they hate and which seem to have little meaning for them, but they do it for the money? It is likely that the job has value, and that they may even enjoy the job if they were able to reconnect with that value as their motivation; but the money focus takes the meaning out of it.
Also how many people would take food away from hungry people, or take someones house from them? Very few, when these things happen there is usually an outcry because people sense the injustice of the situation and do not wish others to be harmed. But how many people will allow someone to buy a product they cannot afford, or charge fees for services at a level that people who need them cannot pay? Many people do every day. Somehow the layer of abstraction and separation from meaning that money provides makes these things much more palatable as the effect on the other person is not as obvious.
And then of course there are those people who actively embrace their love for money and make it their prime objective. Are these people happy? They can seem that way at least for a while as they achieve a measure of success within their own definition. But what are the things that really make us happy in this life? The exact details are probably different for different people but I would guess there are a few common factors: good food, adequate shelter, good health, loving relationships with family and friends, a means of expressing yourself and believing that what you do has purpose and meaning. I think all too often those who put money as their goal find at some point that they have sacrificed one or more of things in their pursuit of money.
How do we overcome this problem?
So how then do we overcome a love for money? I think we need to connect or reconnect with the value and meaning of our actions. When we do this we are more likely to act with integrity, compassion and passion. I am sure that many people are able to do this within an ordinary job or payment system, but for many of us it is a real challenge as the constant need for ‘money’ even just to pay for the basics of food, shelter, clothing etc can cause us to take our eye off the real value of things.
Various religious orders have addressed this issue by swearing vows of poverty, renouncing all property and wealth and living only on the donations of others. In this way they can be sure that their actions are not motivated by money. These same religious orders tend to isolate themselves from the rest of the world so that they can concentrate on their prayer and meditation.
I think the ‘give freely, receive freely’ concept can give these same benefits without the same need for religiosity or isolation from the world. In fact it encourages us to engage fully with the world around us and focus on giving as much of value as we can to the people we interact with, but as we do not know what we will receive in turn, it helps us to keep our focus on the true value of what we are doing isolate this from the exchange of money which may or may not take place as a result of this.
I know for myself as I have begun to experiment with giving and receiving freely in my clinical work I have found that it is easier for me to focus purely on the client and the treatment they are receiving. I do not feel the same need to keep track of time, to make sure I don’t go overtime or equally to make sure that I fill the whole appointment time up so that they will get good ‘value for money’. Instead I am able to focus more on exactly what they need. If I have done all I feel is best for them at the moment and there is still time left, I don’t need to pad out the treatment – as they are only going to pay me what they want to anyway. Equally I no longer have to think of my ‘time as money’ and make sure the client doesn’t take too much of it either. Of course I still need to keep track of time from the point of view of scheduling and allowing the client to get to other appointments they may have as well, but not having a set price somehow removes this strong association between my time and money.
I really like that aspect of it. Time really isn’t money, it is far more precious than that. Removing money from the time equation makes each moment of life more alive and meaningful.
So is love of money really the root of all evil? I think there is a really good case for saying that it is, especially if you put it into context as robbing actions of their true meaning and value as the root of all evil.
Does this mean we have to forsake money and all the good things we can obtain with it in order to overcome evil? I don’t think so. I want the good things in life, and I think it is healthy to have them, money makes exchange so flexible I think it can make it easier for more of us to obtain those good things. They key is to find a way to be connected with the meaning and intrinsic value of what you do and not let the abstracted value of money take your focus away from what really matters in life and what really makes you happy.
I have painted a few things in pretty broad brushstrokes in this post. I may have got a few things wrong, and hey – I’m just new to this concept of exchange myself, I’m sure there is a lot more I will learn as I continue to experiment with it and my views on things may change. But what are your thoughts on this topic? Please feel free to leave comments below.