Utopian dreaming

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.

Utopian/Dystopian Visions

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.

Historic/Fictional Precedents

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.

My ‘Give Freely Receive Freely’ Experiment Update – June 2012

Well its been almost two months since I began my ‘give freely receive freely’ experiment, so I thought it was about time I posted an update about how it has been going.

To re-cap, I am trying this experiment with my clinical work (Traditional Chinese Medicine, Qigong Therapy, Massage and Lifestyle Advice).  You can read the explanation that I first posted about this on my clinic website here: http://developyourqi.com/?p=468


Since that time I would guess that maybe about 40% of my clients have paid a bit more than they would have in the past, about 40% have paid about the same and maybe 20% have paid a bit less.  So overall, I think I am a bit ahead in terms of the money I have received for my clinical work compared to what I would have under my previous set price approach.

I have not had a huge rush of people booking in for treatment as some people thought I would with this pricing approach, and I think there are two reasons for that.

1. I think that still not a lot of people know that I am using this ‘give freely, receive freely’ exchange idea.

2. People are unfamiliar with the idea, and maybe a little uncomfortable about it.


This is not surprising at all as it is an unusual idea and one which is quite different to what we are used to in our normal day to day transactions.  Some people have actually done some research into this kind of exchange – referring to it as ‘pay what you want’.   You can read about some of this research here: http://www.economist.com/node/21554218

One of the key findings from the research was that less people would buy something paying whatever they want for it (even though they could pay nothing if they wanted to) than would buy something with a low set price.  I believe that this is because most people have an innate sense of what is a fair exchange, and only want to engage in exchanges that feel fair to them.

I believe this is a very good thing – even if it does not maximize income.  My aim in experimenting with this type of exchange is not to maximize the money I receive, although I certainly wish to have enough to pay for my needs my main aim is to engage in a more free type of exchange with people that encourages them to think about and recognize the true value of what they are doing.  This requires thought and can be quite difficult when people are not used to considering economic transactions in this way.  It is also to make my services affordable to everyone, not matter what their economic circumstances may be.

Therapeutic Value

From a therapeutic point of view I believe that this type of exchange can be beneficial because it causes the patient to consciously think about the value of the treatment they receive.  All to often we go through life not thinking about the reason or value of what we are doing.  By consciously thinking about this it helps to open the way for the patient to actually ‘receive’ the benefit of the treatment.  In the end while I as a practitioner will have an effect on the health of my patients, most of the work is going to be done by them.  It is their cells that will have to repair themselves, it is them who may have to do remedial exercises, it is them who may need to make changes to eating habits, lifestyle and thinking patterns.  Conscious engagement in assigning value to the sessions they have with me can help to create commitment on both a conscious and unconscious level to follow through on what they need to do to become well.

This type of conscious engagement can then spill over into other areas of their lives as they learn to recognize value in what they do.  They will hopefully continue and do more of the things that are truly valuable and find themselves doing less and less of those things that have little value or even take value away.

It has been interesting over the last few weeks as I have shared this ‘give freely receive freely’ idea with people.  I have found myself eager to see a new client or one I haven’t seen in awhile, as much to share this concept with them as for any other reason.  I have seen many smiles, nods of agreement and a few laughs as people have heard or read about the concept.  Some people have been excited and enthusiastic, others self conscious and maybe a little confused.  No-one has been outright negative.  One client who was not very happy with his work situation told me that what I am doing had inspired him to investigate a new joint venture opportunity that was coming up.

The Experiment Continues

It is early days for the experiment yet.  I plan to keep it going for now, and maybe permanently.  I am actually already thinking about how I might be able to viably use this concept for some of the other services I offer.

I do hope that as I continue people will become more and more comfortable with this concept.  ‘Give freely, receive freely’ does not mean that you suddenly have to pay more for something to show that you fully value it, it does mean that you have to engage with your role in an exchange and deal with concepts of value, integrity and fairness.  I hope that people will remember that what is ‘fair’ for them to give in an exchange has a lot to do with their resources.  Those who have little should not feel bad that they can only give little.  Those who have a lot should feel good that they are able to give a lot.  And those people somewhere in between (which is probably most of us) need to be realistic about what they can give in an exchange – so that they are satisfied and feel good about the exchange, both what they have received and what they have given.

(Those who are scripturally inclined might like to check out these links Mark 12: 41-44, Mosiah 4:27)

I know that this is challenging and maybe even confronting when you are used to having the price of something set for you.  But I think there is real value for both parties to exchanging in this way.

I have quite a lot more that I would like to write about ‘give freely, receive freely’ and the way it can change our perception of the world around us and our relationships with others. That is why I have set up this blog.  I think the idea has potential, and I am sure I will learn a lot more about it as I experiment with it in practice. I realize that to some of you this whole concept seems very strange, but I hope that you will continue to read this blog as I post more about my ideas and experiences with this concept, and maybe it will still seem strange to you, or maybe it will start to make sense.  At the very least I hope it will give you some food for thought and maybe even some entertainment.