A Small Medium at Large

GALEN CHADWICK Nov 22

A Small Medium @ Large

“Freely floating exchange rates are inherently unstable; moreover, the instability is cumulative so that the eventual breakdown of a freely floating exchange rate system is virtually assured.” (George Soros, The Alchemy of Money)

“What would be the result in heaven itself if those who get there first instituted private property in the surface of heaven, and parceled it out in absolute ownership among themselves as we parcel out the surface of the earth?” (Henry George)

Happy Thanksgiving!  

All Blessings in Peace.  May hunger for the Divine fill your heart, may love for all Creation guide your soul.  This, of all holidays, best affirms our interdependencies; we pause to reach into each other’s lives with appreciation of times past.  We remember the generosity of the Native Americans and their culture of sharing. 

In the early autumn of 1621, the 53 surviving Pilgrims celebrated their first successful harvest.  The Wampanoag tribe led the way with “many of the Indians coming amongst the rest . . .  their great king Massasoit, with some ninety men.”  That celebration is remembered to this very day as the First Thanksgiving in Plymouth.  For 297 years this event remains a defining moment in our history.

Yet this Thanksgiving also presents me with a personally challenging enterprise.  That is, to present in a fresh and agreeable way, something to orient the mind of the modern reader to the imperative of restoring food and energy autarchy to our communities.  The first requirement is not a written handbook of instructions, even one as flexible and practical as the FRC 20 Year Plan, but a willingness to come together in a spiritual sense of living in an intentional community.  

Let’s take it as a given that if we already knew how to do this, Thanksgiving itself would have no exceptional meaning, but be just one more pleasant day in the course of normal living.  Required now is something profound, a general will to undergo a type cultural metanoia- a repentance if you will- back in the direction of those pilgrims whose day we’ve gathered to celebrate. The Pilgrims, fleeing religious persecution, broke away from the Church of England because they felt the Church violated biblical principles of true Christians.       

I cannot convey the origins of that sentiment better, or state it more clearly than the following quotes from Charles Eisenstein, which might also be taken as the quintessential freedoms of those Native Americans who broke bread with our ancestors so long ago.  With the echoes of Acts 4:32 in mind, and in step with the spirit of this day, consider reading, after the Blessing, this following excerpt from his writings in Sacred Economics: Money, Gift and Society in the Age of Transition: 

“We have lived in an age of separation.  One by one our bonds to community,      nature, and place have dissolved, marooning us in an alien world.  The loss of these bonds is more than a reduction of our wealth, it is a reduction of our very being.  The impoverishment we feel, cut off from community, and cut off from biology, is an impoverishment of our souls.  That is because contrary to the assumptions of economics, biology, political philosophy, psychology and institutionalized religion, we not in essence separate beings having relationships.  We are relationship.”

“The modern self, in contrast, is a discrete and separate subject in a universe that is Other.  This self is the Economic man of Adam Smith; it is the embodied soul of religion; it is the selfish gene of biology.  It underlies the converging crises of our time, which are all variations on the theme of separation- separation from nature, from community, from lost parts of ourselves.  It underlies all the usual culprits blamed for the ongoing destruction of ecology and policy, such as human greed or capitalism.  Our sense of self entails ‘More for me, less for you’; hence we have an interest-based money system, embodying precisely that principle.  In older, gift-based societies the opposite was true.”

“The urge to own grows as a natural response to an alienating ideology that severs felt connections and leaves us alone in the universe.  When we exclude the world from self, the tiny, lonely identity that remains has a voracious need to claim as much as possible of that lost beingness for its own.  If all the world, if all the earth is no longer me, I can at least compensate by making it mine.  Other separate selves do the same, so we live in a world of completion and omnipresent anxiety.  It is built into our self-definition, this is the deficit of being, the deficit of soul, into which we are born.”

“Trapped in the logic of me and mine, we seek to recover some tiny fraction of our lost wealth by expanding and protecting the separate self and its extension: money and property.  Those who lack the economic means to inflate the self often inflate the physical self instead, which is one of the reasons that obesity disproportionately afflicts the poor.  Addictions to shopping, to money, and to acquisitions are from the same basic source as to addictions to food: both come from loneliness, from the pain of merely existing cut off from what we are.

“Looking out upon the strip mines and the clear-cuts and the dead zones and the genocide and the debased consumer culture, we ask, “What is the origin of this monstrous machine that chews up beauty and spits out money?”  The discrete and separate self, surveying a universe that is fundamentally Other, naturally treats the natural and human world as a pile of instrumental, accidental stuff. The rest of the world is fundamentally not self.  (1) Why should we care about it, beyond our own foreseeable utility?  So it was that Descartes, a powerful articulator of the modern sense of self, articulated as well the ambition to become ‘lords and possessors” of nature.  As the latter word implies, the idea of property occurs quite naturally to the separate self.”

“Our rigid, narrow self/other distinction is coming to an end, victim of its own premises.  As the mystics have taught, the separate self can be maintained only temporarily, and at great cost.  And we have maintained it a long time, and built a civilization upon it that seeks the conquest of nature and human nature.  The present convergence of crises has laid bare the futility of that goal.  It portends the end of civilization as we know it, and the instauration of a new state of human beingness defined by a more fluid, more inclusive sense of self.”

“One theory of the origin of property associates it with the notion of autonomy, or self-sovereignty, that emerged slowly out of our tribal communal past.  Charles Avila describes the logic this way:  “If I am my own, and my labor power belongs to me, then what I make is mine.”  (2) Here then is an ideological prerequisite for any concept of property, that “I am my own,” which is by no means a universal precept in human societies.  In other societies the clan, the tribe, the village, or even the community of all life may have taken priority over the individual conception of the self, in which case your labor power does not belong to you, but to something greater.  (3) The institution of property, therefore, is not the root of our present malady, but a symptom of our disconnection and isolation.  This book, therefore, does not seek to abolish property (for to do so would address the symptom rather than the cause) but to transform it as part of a larger transformation of human beingness.”

All-righty then!  Feeling Separate?  Should a new Ozark culture rise from the ashes of collapse it will because somewhere a clan, a tribe, a village, or watershed farming community took priority over the individual conception of the self.  So many young people are seeking the embrace of authentic community.  They look for tribe, but the feathers and crystals and sweat lodges don’t work because they still feel the disease of separation and loneliness, even if they lack all words.  

It is a healthy impulse, I think, to come together in ways that seek to transcend all our proprietary, religious and political divisions.  When it really sinks in, that the inner devastation of the Western Psyche matches exactly the outer devastation it has wreaked upon our planet, then we can bring the heartburn of misalignment to an end together, i.e., metanoia. 

Then the good news of the Farm Resettlement Congress 20 Year Plan, as a gift freely given, becomes clear: Let us walk together, talk together, play together and work in the spirit of an understanding heart, balanced mind and equal vision.  To restore the basic relationships that make community life a joy is within our hands.   

For a brief review of the underlying me/not me mechanics of perception, how we separate, check out the early Small Medium @ large articles including exercises that quide the mind to dis-create long-standing feelings of alienation. These appeared in the April 5, 12, 19 and May3rd editions.  There’s much more to this topic; I’m thinking about adding other self-guided exercises to this practicum but you should note: they work better with a partner and determined practice.   

Once again, today’s book review is excerpted from Chapter 4, “The Trouble With Property,” as it appears in Sacred Economics: Money, Gift and Society in the Age of Transition, by Charles Eisenstein and available from EVOLVER EDITIONS/North Atlantic Books.