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Making Do with More

Economy: Old and New

Making Do with More
Monday, November 25, 2019

Charles Eisenstein is a fascinating public speaker, author, and advocate for gift economies. At a rather young age, he walked away from a thriving business career, recognizing that our cultural models of success simply weren’t working for him. Drawing on his background in business, mathematics, philosophy, and spirituality, he turned his attention to some of the largest problems facing the world today, including climate change. Here he writes of a future in which material limitation actually delivers a greater sense of wealth: 

A world without weapons, without McMansions in sprawling suburbs, without mountains of unnecessary packaging, without giant mechanized monofarms, without energy-hogging big-box stores, without electronic billboards, without endless piles of throw-away junk, without the overconsumption of consumer goods no one really needs is not an impoverished world. I disagree with those environmentalists who say we are going to have to make do with less. In fact, we are going to make do with more: more beauty, more community, more fulfillment, more art, more music, and material objects that are fewer in number but superior in utility and aesthetics. . . .

Part of the healing that a sacred economy represents is the healing of the divide we have created between spirit and matter. In keeping with the sacredness of all things, I advocate an embrace, not an eschewing, of materialism. I think we will love our things more and not less. We will treasure our material possessions, honor where they came from and where they will go. . . . The cheapness of our things is part of their devaluation, casting us into a cheap world where everything is generic and expendable. . . .

Put succinctly, the essential need that goes unmet today, the fundamental need that takes a thousand forms, is the need for the sacred—the experience of uniqueness and connectedness. . . .

We are starving for spiritual nourishment. We are starving for a life that is personal, connected, and meaningful. By choice, that is where we will direct our energy. When we do so, community will arise anew because this spiritual nourishment can only come to us as a gift, as part of a web of gifts in which we participate as giver and receiver. . . .

When I use the word spiritual, I am not contradistinguishing it from the material. I have little patience with any philosophy or religion that seeks to transcend the material realm. Indeed, the separation of the spiritual from the material is instrumental in our heinous treatment of the material world. So when I speak of meeting our spiritual needs, it is not to keep cranking out the cheap, generic, planet-killing stuff while we meditate, pray, and prattle on about angels, spirit, and God. It is to treat relationship, circulation, and material life itself as sacred. Because they are.

As I often say, when it is true, it is true everywhere, even in economics. In my opinion, Eisenstein seems to be describing the reality of the Universal Christ, though I do not even know if he is a Christian. There are so many insights worth sharing when we recognize that we live in a Christ-soaked world.

Reference:
Charles Eisenstein, Sacred Economics: Money, Gift and Society in the Age of Transition (Evolver Editions: 2011), 27-28, 425-426.

Image credit: Le Denier de la Veuve (The Widow’s Mite) (detail), James Tissot, between 1886 and 1894, Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: As long as we operate inside any scarcity model, there will never be enough God or grace to go around. Jesus came to undo our notions of scarcity and tip us over into a worldview of absolute abundance. The Gospel reveals a divine world of infinity, a worldview of enough and more than enough. The Christian word for this undeserved abundance is “grace.” It is a major mental and heart conversion to move from a scarcity model to an abundance model and to live with an attitude of gratitude. —Richard Rohr
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