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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sacred Economics Economia Sacra

Humanity is only beginning to awaken to the true magnitude of the crisis at hand. If the economic transformation I describe seems miraculous, that is because nothing less than a miracle is needed to heal our world. 

My intention is that by identifying the core features of the economics of Separation, we may be empowered to envision an economics of Reunion, an economics that restores to wholeness our fractured communities, relationships, cultures, ecosystems, and planet.

It is said that money, or at least the love of it, is the root of all evil. But why should it be? After all, the purpose of money is, at its most basic, simply to facilitate exchange—in other words, to connect human gifts with human needs. What power, what monstrous perversion,has turned money into the opposite: an agent of scarcity?

Money is woven into our minds, our perceptions, our identities. That is why, when a crisis of money strikes, it seems that the fabric of reality is unraveling, too—that the very world is falling apart. Yet this is also cause for great optimism, because money is a social construction that we have the power to change. What new kinds of perceptions, and what new kinds of collective actions, would accompany a new kind of money? 

The realization that property is theft usually incites a rage and desire for vengeance against the thieves. Matters are not so simple. The owners of wealth play a role that is created and necessitated by the great invisible stories of our civilization that compel us to turn the world into property and money whether we are aware of doing so or not. 

When I ask people what is missing most from their lives, the most common answer is "community." But how can we build community when its building blocks- -- the things we do for each other-have all been converted into money? 

The imperative of perpetual growth implicit in interest-based money drives the relentless conversion of life, world, and spirit into money. The more of life we convert into money, the more we need money to live. Usury, not money, is the proverbial root of all evil. 

The impasse in our ability to convert nature into commodities and relationships into services is not temporary. There is no more room for the conversion of life into money. Postponing the collapse will only make it worse. We need to shift our perspective toward what we can give. What can we each contribute to a more beautiful world? That is our only responsibility and our only security. 

The lie of separation in the age of usury is now complete. We have explored its farthest extremes, and have seen the deserts and the prisons, the concentration camps and the wars, the wastage of the good, the true, and the beautiful. Now, the capacities we have developed through our long journey will serve us well in the imminent Age of Reunion.

As our sojourn of separation comes to an end and we reunite with nature, our attitude of human exceptionalism from the laws of nature is ending as well. A new economic system is emerging that embodies the new human identity of the connected self living in cocreative partnership with Earth. 

The personal and planetary mirror each other. The connection is more than mere analogy: the kind of work that we force ourselves to do is precisely the kind of work that despoils the planet. We don't really want to do it to our bodies; we don't really want to do it to the world.

The metamorphosis of human economy that is underway in our time will go more deeply than the Marxist revolution because the Story of the People that it weaves won’t be just a new fiction of ownership, but a recognition of its fictive, conventional nature. 

The deep link between money and being is good news because human identity today is undergoing a profound metamorphosis. What kind of money will be consistent with the new self, the connected self, and a world in which we increasingly realize the truth of interconnectedness: that more for you is more for me?

I have long been impatient with “sustainability,” as if that were an end in itself. Isn’t it more important to think about what we want to sustain, and therefore what we want to create?

Sacred Economics envisions a world where people do things for love, not money. What would you do, freed from slavery to money? What does your own life, your true life, look like? Underneath the substitute lives we are paid to live, there is a real life, your life. 

Local currency is often proposed as a way to revitalize local economies, insulate them from global market forces, and re-create community. There are at present thousands of them around the world. So what's the catch? 

The new exchange systems blur the boundary between the monetary and nonmonetary realms and therefore the standard definition of the "economy." How would we measure it in the absence of a common unit of account? Ultimately, underneath money, is the totality of what human beings do for each other.

The transition I map out is evolutionary. It does not involve confiscation of property or the wholesale destruction of present institutions, but their transformation. As the following summaries describe, this transformation is under way already, or incipient in existing institutions. 

The transition to sacred economy is part of a larger shift in our ways of thinking, relating, and being. Economic logic alone is not enough to sustain it. As we heal the spirit-matter rupture, we discover that economics and spirituality are inseparable. On the personal level, economics is about how to give our gifts and meet our needs.

It is true that accumulation adds at least some measure to our security, but not for long. The mentality of accumulation is coincident with the ascent of separation, and it is ending in tandem with the Age of Separation as well. Accumulation makes no sense for the expanded self of the gift economy. 

Etymologically speaking, to invest means to clothe, as in to take naked money and put it into new vestments, something material, something real in the physical or social realm. Money is naked human potential -- creative energy that has not yet been "clothed" with material or social constructions. Right investment is to array money in sacred vestments.

Sacred Economics: Money, Gift, and Society in the Age of Transition Charles Eisenstein

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