I was sitting at one of the quieter bars downtown in Asheville last night with my good friend Ron.
The meetup group we both attended had just wrapped up and we stuck around to continue the conversation together. The topic that night?
I know. Sounds boring as hell, right?
No worries. It was anything but boring. Even though the topic is old and gets replayed over and over again, especially in our progressive city, we had one of the most engaging conversations that I thought was worth sharing.
If you’ve ever spent time discussing economy, money, state of currency in a group setting, you probably have debated things like corporate evils, big government, powerful over the powerless, great divide between haves and have nots, the 1% vs the 99%, and the list of hot points go on.
Fortunately, we committed to stay out of political debate on the topic, and focused more on our participatory roles in the revolution of change that is so desperately needed. And something magical happened…
We Find Our Role in the Gift Economy through Strengths, Stories, and Calling
Vocation is where our greatest passion meets the world’s greatest need. ~ Frederick Buechner
As we shared around the table during the main meetup session, we heard the stories, passions and intentions of the hearts of each individual. The beauty that was opened up was almost overwhelming. I sat there mesmerized with chills down my spine, as one individual shared about her passion for animal rights and species on the brink of extinction, and as another shared about her involvement teaching kids at a local public school. Another opened up about his battle with bi-polar and his role in just keeping himself alive for the sake of his family that loves and depends on him, and his passion to work with others with similar afflictions. My friend Ron shared about how our economic problem is really a spiritual problem in disguise, which seemed to sink in deep and resonate with everyone around the table. I shared my experiences in growing up with my father being the local TV/VCR store (sales and service!), and how I watched the economy within our own family go up and down as the large box stores started cropping up in the late 80s and early 90s. This personal experience led to my passion for helping small business, creative entrepreneurs and artists to come alive in what they do, and stand a chance to compete in the economy we have to work with.
So, how is it, that when we talk about fixing the economic problems of our world, that the solutions that were shared were individuals offering strengths, gifts, and purpose to a local (and global) community, a TRIBE?
There is absolutely, beyond a shadow of a doubt in my mind, a link between the very spiritual fabric of our identities, and the way economy is meant to work.
We were meant to live life fully alive, offering our gifts to the communities and TRIBES around us, and receiving the gifts of others in those same circles.
Greed, power, and corruption have made a mess of things, and have distorted things to the point that many don’t recognize “the way things ought to be” anymore. It has become normal to throw ourselves into a corporate cube, running on fumes and chemically inducing ourselves to put in 60-80 hours so that the machine can keep running.
I think of the human batteries in “The Matrix”, and how those humans were alive, but really dead. Their spirituality and the very things that truly made them alive were imprisoned and kept contained. Physically, the heart beat was there, and they served their purpose in the machine, but there was no consciousness of what was really happening. Sound familiar?
Brainstorming on Gift Economy
“And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,” Acts 2:44-46
So after everyone had left, Ron and I grabbed a table, and started brainstorming.
Ron is an expert in sustainable community and collaborative environments. As you can imagine, with the focus of my blog being TRIBES, Ron and I have had much to talk about over the last year that we’ve known each other.
We got out a pen and a blank piece of paper and began mapping out what a revolutionary implementation of a new economy would look like. This new economy would be one in which each participant would be free to live and be fully alive in who they are, by offering their gifts to the TRIBE. Small TRIBES with common interests would gather, and create amazing co-collaborative space for partnering and working together. And those small TRIBES would have opportunity to collectively pour into other TRIBES and exchange services, gifts and talents.
The Gift Economy would enable you to come as you are, offer your gifts to the TRIBE, extend out through cross-collaboration and partnership opportunities to other TRIBES, and allow your needs to be known so that others within the TRIBE can also serve you. Why should anyone have unmet needs? Everyone has gifts, strengths, beauty, and a role to contribute. So there is no reason for unmet needs, and yet we have so many in the current economy.
This is a radical concept, and it isn’t really new. The beautiful people that inhabited our great lands here in America before we invaded so violently had similar community and tribal based economic systems. The original PotLatch Events (where we get our term potluck) were community gatherings and celebrations where the harvest was shared, gifts, crafts, arts would be traded and shared openly. The idea was to bring what you had, and take what you needed, so that not a single need was unmet. At the same time, the people gifted in crafts and arts, or the farmers gifted in producing fruits and vegetables, were able to do what they loved and contribute to the greater good of the TRIBE.
Your Role in the Gift Economy
This is an open brainstorm. Ron and I did not solve all of the world’s problems and unfortunately did not yet construct the perfect gift economy model in one night. The conversation is open, and is only the beginning. I invite you to participate and share below in the comments. A few questions to consider and answer below:
- What does a gift economy or a new economy look like for you?
- What role can you play in the revolution?
- What gifts can you offer to the TRIBE and what needs do you have that you would you like to be met?
My Name is Jason Spencer and I Build TRIBES.