"If you're in a bad situation, don't worry, it'll change. If you're in a good situation, don't worry, it'll change."
-- John A. Simone Jr.
S means Savings Through Which We All Win. John Lydon; Anger is an energy! Anger is an energy! So is money. It is the water cycling through our economic ecosystems, the electric currency powering the prosperity of our communities. Life is a big ‘ol square dance of energy exchange.
Money is kind of funny because it has value only because we agree that it does. It’s not food, shelter, clothing and certainly not sex. It is a means to an end. What end? In the “West” we tend to focus on personal prosperity. In the “East” there is still often a strong element of familial piety that creates large amounts of savings and distribution within large, extended families. Both models work and both can become highly dysfunctional. Their relative levels of success depend on where we stand in terms of scarcity and abundance.
Scarcity leads to contraction, hoarding, and win-lose competition for what are perceived as limited resources. Abundance demands we expand our sense of “me” to “we” and our sense of family to include community. In a scarcity driven world we save money out of fear and distrust. With an abundance mindset we save money because of its potential to benefit us and the community that sustains us. Scarcity leads us to the false choice of “either/or.” Abundance challenges us to be big enough to hold “both/and.”
To spend money we have to save money. Saving is good. It builds up a reservoir of energy. What we need to consider is, “What are we saving it for?” How can those savings be best used to sustain us and that which sustains us?
Another key consideration is value. Some of us are highly skilled at accumulating money but are terrible musicians and would soon whither in the extremes of a 1st grade classroom. Currently schools throughout the US are significantly underfunded yet scarcity minded, yet professional sports salaries continue to climb. Koyaanisqatsi, koyaanisqatsi.
Collectively we have the talent, resources and means to create communities of abundance. Our biggest obstacle? Our selves. What are we saving it for? What are we waiting for? What can we create-together?
I is for Inter-relations and What It All Means: John Lydon: Swimming in the slurry, burning in the heat, wind blown is the weather, I eat what you secrete. Nice thought that-and true. Breathe in, breathe out. You’ve just contributed to global warming. We are butterflies individually and collectively creating chaotic change with each flap of our bright, store bought wings. That means that literally everything we eat, drink, acquire and otherwise consume comes with a complex history of relationships, costs of production often hidden and externalized (The Story of Stuff is a delightfully depressing ode to this process.)
Things stay with us for a brief present (sometimes less than a minute of use) and then can persist in some degraded form for hundreds of years. Take a look: take 10 minutes and start making a list of all the various relationships in which you became enmeshed through the last bottle of water you consumed. I doubt you’ll uncover them all, but please, don’t let me stop you. Imagine going through this process with everything single thing you buy. Not going to happen, is it?
So, as concerned but time-pressed consumers how can we take control of this complexity? Here’s a high impact start:
- Buy local. Less complexity, more direct effect through shorter value chains.
- Practice all 6 R’s: Reduce consumption. Reuse whatever possible. Recycle diligently. Repair what can be fixed. Refuse what you don’t need. Redesign how you live to accomplish the other five.
- Rethink plastic: It tastes terrible, over 80% of it isn’t actually recycled, a staggering amount of it is unnecessary.
- Create community: share stuff instead of buying what already exists in the neighborhood. Grow and share food. Share knowledge & experience. Share time.
- Consider creating smaller families: The effects of over-population are not pleasant. Think famine, increased conflict and suffering, increased pressure on dwindling resources leading to large amounts of general unhappiness.
Yoda: Do or do not. There is no try.