Psychology of Giving

We are here to create something beautiful; I call it “the more beautiful world our hearts tell us is possible.” As the truth of that sinks in, deeper and deeper, and as the convergence of crises pushes us out of the old world, inevitably more and more people will live from that truth: the truth that more for you is not less for me; the truth that what I do unto you, so I do unto myself; the truth of living to give what you can and take what you need. We can start doing it right now. We are afraid, but when we do it for real, the world meets our needs and more. We then find that the story of Separation, embodied in the money we have known, is not true and never was.

~ Charles Eisenstein, in Sacred Economics

[UPDATES: This page functions as a current-state documentation. We won’t likely be changing the original text much, but will instead post any relevant updates here, at the top of the page.]

We, literally, live (in) the most fundamental of all GIFTS, day in and day out: life itself. Yet, we often seem completely oblivious of it. We were born into a mind and body so abundant with abilities; and into an environment so bountiful, and so full of fellow, creative human beings. It seems from these circumstances that our psychological setup would naturally be one of giving and sharing; one of gratitude. But lots of the time it is NOT. Rather our thoughts tend to go towards what we DON’T have; what we want to get, what we dream about having. And our actions tend to go towards taking, hoarding, and protecting. Psychologically, we live in an experience of scarcity; an experience of “there is not enough”; an experience of SEPARATION from the wellspring of life, as well as from one another. An experience of fear and tension. Or at least, this has been the case until now…

How is that possible? (Or, should we say: how has that been possible?) When we were born onto a planet so abounding with natural riches, and into a web of life so intimately interrelated with who we are as human beings. When we were born straight into this overflowing gift of life, how can the experience of ALIENATION from it, and our fellow human beings, even be possible?

In agreement with our great inspirer and guide Charles Eisenstein, we have come to the conclusion that it is possible only due to a particular SYSTEM created by humankind itself. A system to which virtually everything in our modern-day lives is tied: the money economy. (Or, perhaps more accurately, due to the consciousness still perpetuating this system, despite the fact that it is severely damaging and destroying people and planet alike.)

Our human existence is (or, perhaps for some of us: has been) so tightly bound to this system that its inherent logic has spilled over on all areas of our lives. It has become deeply ingrained in our psyche and spread all over our consciousness. In simple terms, we find it difficult to even imagine a world where the logic of the marketplace doesn’t apply. We habitually project this logic on all areas of our lives. It is the logic of competition and “survival of the fittest”, in an environment of perceived scarcity, where “the winner takes it all” and “more for you is less for me”. It is the logic of SEPARATION – from the GIFT we were born into: life itself. No matter how much we have, there never seems to be enough. We are constantly busy to get or achieve that elusive “something” that we feel we need. And when we finally get it, there is that other elusive “something” that we feel we need… and so on, and on.

A quote from Charles Eisenstein’s Sacred Economics adds to the picture: “The more monetized society is, the more anxious and hurried its citizens. In parts of the world that are still somewhat outside the money economy, where subsistence farming still exists and where neighbors help each other, the pace of life is slower, less hurried. In rural Mexico, everything is done mañana. A Ladakhi peasant woman interviewed in Helena Norberg-Hodge’s film Ancient Futures sums it all up in describing her city-dwelling sister: ‘She has a rice cooker, a car, a telephone – all kinds of time-saving devices. Yet when I visit her, she is always so busy we barely have time to talk.'”

In the same book, Charles Eisenstein makes another crucial observation, declaring some of the more superficial alternative ideas of today to be fundamentally incomplete: “The systemic causes of the greed, competition, and anxiety so prevalent today contradict some of the New Age teachings I regularly come across – that ‘Money is just a form of energy,’ that ‘Everyone can have monetary abundance if they simply adopt an attitude of abundance.’ When New Age teachers tell us to ‘release our limiting beliefs around money,’ to ‘shed the mentality of scarcity,’ to ‘open to the flow of abundance,’ or to become rich through the power of positive thinking, they are ignoring an important issue. Their ideas draw from a valid source: the realization that the scarcity of our world is an artifact of our collective beliefs, and not the fundamental reality; however, they are inherently inconsistent with the money system we have today. . . . [W]e can’t just change our attitudes about money; we must change money too, which after all is the embodiment of our attitudes.”

Now, as implicit in the previous qoute, it must be stated once and for all that it is not money in itself (in a general sense) that necessarily is a bad idea. The problem, as Charles Eisenstein expounds, lies in the specific money SYSTEM that is indeed inbuilt in the form of money we know today. This system, is the system of usury (interest); the system that blindly perpetuates economic growth on a finite planet. During the period in which this system has reigned supreme on Earth, our civilization has become alienated from (and therefore destructive to) every natural system of the planet – including our own human nature. And this is no mere coincidence. There is a logical explanation; a mechanism by which the money system has CAUSED the converging crises our civilization is facing today.

In Sacred Economics, Charles Eisenstein explains this mechanism as follows: “Because of interest, at any given time the amount of money owed is greater than the amount of money already existing. To make new money to keep the whole system going, we have to . . . create more ‘goods and services.’ The principal way of doing so is to begin selling something that was once free. It is to convert forests into timber, music into product, ideas into intellectual property, social reciprocity into paid services. Abetted by technology, the commodification of formerly nonmonetary goods and services has accelerated over the last few centuries, to the point today where very little is left outside the money realm. . . . The imperative of perpetual growth implicit in interest-based money is what drives the relentless conversion of life, world, and spirit into money. Completing the vicious circle, 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.”

And this mechanism, as Charles Eisenstein goes on to conclude in Sacred Economics, is what has led to that: “[T]here is almost no more social, cultural, natural, and spiritual capital left to convert into money. . . . Our forests are damaged beyond repair, our soil depleted and washed into the sea, our fisheries fished out, and the rejuvenating capacity of the earth to recycle our waste saturated. Our cultural treasury of songs and stories, of images and icons, has been looted and copyrighted. Any clever phrase you can think of is already a trademarked slogan. Our very human relationships and abilities have been taken away from us and sold back, so that we are now dependent on strangers, and therefore on money, for things few humans ever paid for until recently: food, shelter, clothing, entertainment, child care, cooking. Life itself has become a consumer item.”

This is the scope of the full tragedy. The wounds that our extremly monetized civilisation has inflicted (and keeps inflicting) on the natural realms, have their counterparts also in the social, cultural, and spiritual realms. They resound fully throughout the RELATIONSHIPS by which human communities are woven. How can we, in a world where people don’t need to (or dare to) ask for each other’s GIFTS – not to mention, as in a true gift culture, actually EXPECT them – form genuinely caring relationships to one another? How can we form truly trustful and cocreative relationships with one another across the invisible, but well guarded, borders of our personal, or nuclear-family, money economies? How can we, when we have almost no time to relax from our anxious money-making, form communities where we dare to RELY ON each other’s natural, joyfully given, gifts of support, skills, and care? The answer is that we cannot. The segregation, isolation, and alienation pervading our modern human societies, is the consequence of a systemically perpetuated problem: money (of the kind we have come to know), and the Story of Separation in which it is embedded.

This is most definitely a very sad story. But, nonetheless, here we ARE. The past is the past, and now is now. What can we do but assume that the “Age of Separation” has been necessary for humankind to mature and prepare to enter the “Age of Reunion“? In Sacred Economics, Charles Eisenstein (the father of the names of human eras used in the previous sentence) writes: “In humanity’s childhood, a money system that embodied and demanded growth, the taking of more and more from earth, was perhaps appropriate. It was an integral part of the Story of Ascent. Today it is rapidly becoming obsolete. It is incompatible with adult love, with cocreative partnership, and with the graduation into the estate of a Giver that comes with adulthood. That is the deep reason why no financial or economic reform can possibly work that does not include a new kind of money. The new money must embody a new story, one that treats nature not only as a mother, but as a lover too.”

What we need, hence, is to grow into a new kind of RELATIONSHIP with Earth herself, including her geosphere (earth), her hydrosphere (water), her atmosphere (air), and her biosphere (where our human society intimately interrelates with all other life forms). Whereas it is natural (as my wife Maya knows) for a baby to suck the last drop of milk out of a woman’s breast, and for a teenager to suck the last drop of patience out of her mind, this is by no means natural for a grown-up lover. Therefore, indeed, if we are to mature into a gift culture, including some form of sacred economics, what we need to develop is the capacity to relate to Earth as our LOVER. Only that will put a definite stop to the way we have mistreated nature around us, as well as within us. For in relating to a lover, what we do to her cannot be separated from what we do to ourselves. If we let our lover suffer, we ourselves will suffer.

In other words: The called-for shift in our ways of relating to Earth, primarily comes down to a shift of our STORY of who we ARE, as individuals, as humanity, as Earth herself. It is primarily a shift in consciousness; a PSYCHOLOGICAL shift – which will, most definitely, have all kinds of structural consequences in society, including a new type of money.

In the psychological setup needed to be a lover of Earth, lies the entire Psychology-of-Giving that is needed for humankind to step out of the “take-and-monetize culture”, and mature into a gift culture. The old-story growth economy will not survive this shift, and neither will our old-story sense of a separate self in an indifferent universe. But, now, hold your horses. The stepping out of the millenia of conditioning that underlie the crisis of civilisation we witness today, into a completely different mindset, does not happen overnight. Even though we may intellectually understand and laud the psychological shift needed, we also have to take the ACTIVE step of starting to apply it in OUR OWN LIVES. Only then, does our journey to mature into true Givers begin. Only then, does the definite metamorphosis of our psyche start. And as every journey, this one too starts with a first step.

Maya and I have just taken that first step. We have set out on our journey of Living-in-the-Gift. The business I first started back in Sweden in 2006, and then restarted in the Netherlands in 2014, has recently metamorphosed into being fully gift based. I feel absolutely joyful about that; it feels totally right all the way down to the depths of my heart and back up again. I am, however, also aware of being a pioneer, challenging the entire mindset of the money economy that we all have been raised with. This is a mindset telling us that “more for you is less for me”, whereas the mindset of a gift culture is “more for you is more for me”. The contrast is fundamental, and to operate one’s business on the principles of Giving, is radical.

Once again, I let Charles Eisenstein add to the picture with a quote from Sacred Economics: “Because gift mentality is so alien to us today, doing business in the gift sometimes requires a bit of education. I’ve found that if I advertise an event as ‘by donation,’ people sometimes treat it as a throwaway, thinking, ‘It must not be very valuable or very important if he isn’t charging for it.’ They’ll come late or not at all, or they’ll come with low expectations. Paying a fee is a kind of ritual that sends a message to the unconscious that ‘this is something valuable’ or ‘I am doing this for real.’ I and many others are still experimenting to find better ways to invoke the benefits of payment while staying true to the spirit of the gift. We are at the beginning of a new era, so it is going to take some practice and experimentation.”

It is exactly this kind of practice and experimentation that Maya and I are entering by offering you this website. We are beginners. We are experimenting. We are learning. And we invite you to join hands with us. For ours is a journey into a new form of COMMUNITY, where the psychology of giving will establish and express itself only as we walk our talk. If you wonder where we are going, we will tell you that we are walking straight into the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible. This is not an idealistic utopia. It is a pure necessity if humankind is going to keep coexisting with Earth, at all. Do you want to come walk with us?

The transition we are in does involve a complete metamorphosis of our psyche. This has many aspects. For one thing, it seems to us that it involves the softening and letting go of the instinctual separation between the private and professional spheres of our lives. This separation has grown out of the ever-increasing monetization of society, and the resulting need of safeguarding some sense of sacredness – if only in our privacy. With the realization, however, that in a gift culture EVERYTHING (including money) is sacred, the separation between business relations and private relations will fade away. We will simply be relating from human to human, giving and receiving.

Even though it may be awakening intense (and possibly resisted or feared) emotions along the way, the GOOD NEWS is that the metamorphosis of our psyche is, in essence, merely a a return to its NATURAL STATE. For we were, after all, born onto this bountiful planet to do what we LOVE to do – whether we think of it as work, or simply as life. Essentially, what we are feeling alienated from today, is this natural state of ours. But deep down, we KNOW that nothing else will ever satisfy us. Nothing other than living a life where we GIVE FREELY of our unique natural gifts, will ever satisfy us. And thus it is that we, humanity, stand today at the brink of the “Age of Reunion“.

In the same spirit, Charles Eisenstein writes: “Sacred Economics envisions a world where people do things for love, not money. What would you be doing in such an economy? Would you be reclaiming a toxic waste dump? Being a ‘big sister’ to troubled adolescents? Creating sanctuaries for victims of human trafficking? Reintroducing threatened species into the wild? Installing gardens in inner-city neighborhoods? Putting on public performances? Helping decommissioned veterans adjust to civilian life? 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. To be fully alive is to accept the guidance of the question, ‘What am I here for?’ Most jobs today deny that feeling, since we are evidently not here to work on an assembly line or to push product or to do anything complicit in human impoverishment or ecological destruction. No one really wants to do such work, and someday, no one shall.”