I learned many wonderful things from my mother and one that has always remained loud in my consciousness is her teachings around money. She said to never give it more importance than its due, that it is only a means of exchanging value for value and nothing more. I am relatively sure this teaching has everything to do with my felt sense around money and I believe that it is likely one of the reasons I am and have always been, very comfortable with the practice of bartering. I am not only comfortable but also successful and not in the slightest way, disillusioned after at least 30 years of this practice. I have exchanged my skills and services for everything from shoes to dental and chiropractic work and have many memories and wonderful objects I would probably not own as a result.
In talking to others of this idea it is very often met with resistence or a story of how it had somehow been a failed experiment for them. I cannot speak to anothers experience but I can open up the conversation at a different and more critical time in our evolution. Timing is everything and change is certainly in the air. We are witnessing, living and participating in life at a time like no other in our recent history. We watch and act as the old paradigm falls away and a new one is birthed. It is still early in this shift but the message is clear. The foundations upon which we have built our structures are crumbling, no longer serving we the people and there is nowhere for these structures we know as our institutions to go but down. The old must die to make way for the new. We see people in many parts of the world, acutely aware that they are no longer being served by the structures, taking to the streets in a mass outcry for change. We see communities of people forming all over the world built around sustainable livelihoods, de-centralization and de-growth. It is a time to be pro-active as opposed to waiting for the other shoe to drop. Is it radical? Indeed it is and so aren’t the issues we face. I suggest it is better to be prepared for change, especially around how we obtain what we need, than to be caught like deer in the headlights. This is a proposal to begin to do it differently. The issue of money is extremely personal to each of us and one of the 3 issues that partners disagree on the most so obviously, highly volatile. This is an idea that is 30 yrs. in the making for me so I am merely throwing out the gauntlet and would love to have feedback. Is there anyone else out there thinking about another means of having their needs met?
Our economic institution, as we know it, has been on a roller coaster ride for years and though I am the furthest thing from an economist, it is not rocket science to figure out that continued economic growth as we know it, is not the solution. As time goes by and life accelerates we continue to try and squeeze every last drop of resources out of a finite supply as fast as possible. He who dies with the most toys wins. It is easy to feel powerless at this time in history but consider the small ways one can impact the system. What if we used money less while building a stronger community? What if we spent more time with family and others because we obtain certain needs in exchange for something we have to offer? Each of us has something, skills, time to give, things we no longer need. Unfortunately we ourselves don’t often recognize what we know or have as something of value. This is a human foible that could possibly be remedied through a practice such as this. We might come to see just how much we have to offer that we otherwise take for granted or consider as having no value. It could also be a way to engage our children and for them to have the first hand experience of understanding their own unique value.
I propose that we establish a means of communicating both our goods and services that we have to offer as well as that which we ourselves need? Thirty years ago, just as I was leaving Massachusetts to build a new life in Nova Scotia, friends of mine had begun this with a small paper that was installed in every mailbox in the county. It was simple, 2 columns, one for offers and one for needs with contact info. It is then up to individuals to work out the details of this exchange. Each of us would do this differently though some guidelines could certainly be established at the outset. What happens as a by-product of this arrangement is that communities are nourished and built around new relationships, shared interests and well…….fun. This definitely has a fun component. Some of my very best memories are those around starting or completing a large project that requires many hands. There was a barn raising and more notable, the finishing of the Ark at Souris PEI before Trudeau’s helicopter set down for the grand opening. I remember feeling like I was one ant in a colony of extreme focus as I looked around at the many bodies hustling to get the job done. There is a satisfaction in accomplishing things together or in doing something differently, in another way, one in which we can claim some independence from a system that no longer satisfies or fulfills our needs. This has the potential to empower individuals as well as communities. Will it always be successful? Not likely. Much of the question around this lies in how it is approached by the individual. It requires a certain amount of faith and an ability to feel into your gut in every situation. Are you able to speak your truth and value what you have to give? Can you intuit a situation and then do what is right? Can you retain the larger picture?
It is my sense that something powerful and wonderful could come out of people reaching out to others in this manner. Many of us desire to help others or share what we know but we have lost the connections and we have stopped asking for help. Maybe it is a simple matter of reconnecting the individuals that make up the community and to express it in having needs met.
It is my hope that this begins some dialog among people. I appreciate all input, ideas and feedback. Meanwhile I will carry on with this wonderful way of doing business.