Abundance, Sustainability, and an (Actual) Sharing Economy

(Originally published on Medium. I’m trying out some different things. That hasn’t worked so far.)

I admit it. I’ve taken a lot of courses about abundance. I’ve spent time on vision boards and journals, setting intentions for precisely what it is I’m working on. Putting it out there, so to speak. Manifesting, bringing into reality, what have you. By any reasonable measure, I’m a big-ol’ New Age Hippie.

I am also, though, a big-ol’ geek of sustainability. I’ve taken a Permaculture Design Certificate with Starhawk, a two-week program called Ghandi and Earth Democracy with Vandana Shiva and Satish Kumar, and (most of) a Master’s degree in Education looking at the incorporation of Environmental Ethics in Engineering Education. (I stopped when I realized that I was looking for something that wasn’t there.)

I’ve got these pulls: I kind of want more, but I don’t want to want more, because I know that what I’ve already got is more than the earth could support if all 7 billion of us had the same amount. Yet, I don’t feel content. I have too much and not enough at the same time. Too much stuff, not enough time. Too much information, not enough laughter. Too many options, not enough meaning.

And after considerable consideration (ha ha) I’ve realized what people have been trying to tell me my whole life. I can’t fill my spiritual and social needs with material abundance. What I really need is an “abundance mindset” that treats material abundance (warmth, healthy food, sufficient emotional support, opportunities for music, adventure, entertainment, and social activities) as an offshoot of genuine community, not something to be achieved in isolation.

What I want is to be a part of something bigger, but something bigger that includes (prioritizes) taking care of one another.

I want to reconnect with a genuine sense of sharing, that includes deeply valuing the life-supporting activities of life: growing, preparing and serving food, taking care of one another when we are children, elders, and sick, chopping wood, carrying water, and cleaning up after ourselves. The stuff without which we would be cold, hungry, lonely, and sitting in piles of our own filth. And I don’t mean motherhood-and-apple-pie lip service. I mean valuing it in the way that looks like showing up and doing our share.

We’ve moved all these out of the love (gift) economy and into the money economy, and by doing so, we sent ourselves into a realm of scarcity. By trying to make sure that we didn’t have to do those things even for ourselves, let alone for one another, we made it much harder to get them done at all. We each said (were told), “Oh, I shall specialize and then make enough money to pay somebody else to do all of those things.” This creates a world in which the measure of wealth is how much of that work you don’t have to do. But as we’re all trying to avoid it, it flows downhill to the people who lack the power to refuse it. Our abundance is built on a foundation of other people’s scarcity.

We took ourselves out of a realm of exchanges among equals, among families and tribes, and into a stratified world of exploitation, not only of one another, but of the very life-support systems of our planet. Our single-minded, separate pursuit of abundance creates scarcity.

So I’m after something new (old). A world in which we take responsibility for our own stuff, and step up into care. In which we don’t impose our needs upon people who don’t have the power to refuse, but in which sometimes it is our turn to lie on the beach with a guitar, and sometimes it is our turn to clean the toilet. And because we took that turn, somebody else got to lie on the beach. A true sharing economy, in which we, literally, share in both opportunities and costs.

Photo By Geoff Peters from Vancouver, BC, Canada — Dining in the Davie Community Garden, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14638653