The Abundance Vortex

Before leaving on my spectacular (rideshared) roadtrip to Paris for the OuiShare Fest (more about that soon), I had the chance to meet and hear the philosopher Charles Eisenstein speak. I’ve posted about Charles before; his book Sacred Economics has been a major source of inspiration.

At the event, someone asked him: what is your role? And he said: I’m here to remind you that you’re not insane for believing in the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible. That’s the title of his new book, flying wonderfully in the face of the publishing world’s conventions on titles, like one of those really large bumblebees, the physics of whose flight don’t seem possible but, obviously, are.

Charles Eisenstein & his hosts in Berlin

Before he spoke, I headed to the bar in the venue to buy myself a drink. There were two men ahead of me, being served by a frazzled young woman who clearly was not used to serving a crowd of the size that Charles had drawn. The second guy pulled out a 100 euro note to pay for his 2.30EU soda, and she was like: “seriously?!” So I said I’d pay for his soda and my beer with a smaller note. The guy looked at me in surprise and said, “No, no! I’ll pay for her [my] beer and his too, as well as my soda, and we’ll round it up to ten to make it easy on you.” I can’t recall the last time I experienced this kind of random generosity. Maybe back in the Bay Area, someone ahead of me on the bridge paying my toll, although that was generally an act of flirtation (i.e., had the expectation of a certain kind of response attached to it), whereas this drink buying moment had none of that energy.

Charles spoke for three hours, following instinct rather than notes or a plan. Later someone would say that it was too chaotic and unstructured, but I loved the experience. He reflected on the Sharing Economy, along the lines of: “recently people have criticized it for really being a Renting Economy… but to me it’s just a step in the process. When you think about how people felt about their stuff, especially expensive stuff like cars or homes, just 10 years ago, so few people would think about letting someone else– a stranger!– borrow it. Now that’s become more and more normal. The next step is for people to question ownership– private property–possessions.”

He linked possession to the drive for control that has been so much a part of humanity. Needing to control everything outside ourself is a result of the fear that comes with the fundamental foundational narrative that Charles (among others) calls the Story of Separation. When we think of ourselves as separate from the rest of the world, all that is Other, we fear the Other, compete with the Other, and try to control the Other. That old story is underneath all human systems from our national borders to our economic system.

Like David Korten calling for a new cosmology, Charles Eisenstein calls the new foundational narrative the Story of Interbeing. When we realize we are all connected, that what’s good for you is good for me, we distribute resources such that everyone’s needs are taken care of. We no longer have to clutch to possessions.

“Changing the narrative is the deepest level of change. Because this narrative underlies our systems, it’s deeper even than system change.” Yes. Yes. Yes.

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