“Anatomy of Sharing”
There are many of us on the Earth at this time who sense something new, something different and exciting, something unlike what we’ve become accustomed to believing to be the Truth about Life’s purpose and meaning. The search for answers to age-old questions is accelerating at an enormous rate and it certainly seems as though what appears to be ‘evil’ is expanding as quickly as what appears to be ‘good.’ Some believe, as I do, that seeming ‘evil’ is driving the emergence of what we call ‘good.’ We could say that the ‘negative’ is actually a prod to progress. If this can be accepted as a truism, then we can most certainly expect the dawning of great goodness in our midst. I can see it!! I have great hope and faith which I attribute to the presence of a Presence beyond my human comprehension. When I allow myself to become still and attune myself to this Greater Presence that I shall refer to as ‘God’ (any word could be substituted here), I can quite readily ‘feel’ this Presence as actual physical sensations that are quite pleasant and reassuring. I know also that many others also ‘feel’ this ‘Presence.’ I am writing this with the realization that this Presence wishes to speak through me as a conduit to convey a message to all who desire to receive it.
If you sincerely embrace the belief in ‘God,’ then you also believe that all of Creation is of God, and that there could be no other force in this Creation that God is not aware of, and does not allow to be. And if you believe that God is Love, then it must also be true that Love is your own nature. And if this God/Love permeates Creation, then we exist, have our being in this vast field of a Presence capable of transforming any condition that seems to be other than loving. Certainly our known human history is filled with examples that reflect the consequences of our choices to act in ways that are unloving. So where does this concept of Sharing enter in? How can sharing change what seems to be Reality?
That’s what this book shall attempt to clarify. This little book will attempt to awaken within you a vision of ‘what could be’ if and when Sharing is accepted as Reality, as a way of living together on this planet.
This concept of sharing being referred to herein goes far beyond what most of us have experienced. We’ve all grown up being taught a reality that is based upon the acquisition, ownership and control of persons, places and things. This concept of reality is the ‘cement’ that binds us to a life of ‘getting for ourselves.’ With some exceptions of course, we tend to ‘share’ as a matter of convenience, only when we’ve acquired sufficiently to cover what we perceive to be our own needs first. We share our ‘excess.’ We know of no other way, and often wish we could give more. But there is a way of being that creates enormous wealth, but it requires a profoundly radical way of seeing past our current conditioning and stretches the imagination to far-reaching limits.
In the 60’s and 70’s, I think most people who heard the word ‘commune’ immediately thought of hippies, and all they were associated with at that time, much of it true. I am a survivor of those times and spent a good portion of my life deeply involved in the communal movement. Now, 40 years later, I’ve been revisiting those experiences as objectively as possible, asking myself what
In 1968, fresh out of high school, I left home and joined a newly formed communal group in the San Francisco area. Many young people did at that time. There seemed to be an explosion of alternative lifestyle experiments coming out of those tumultuous times, and the Bay Area seemed to be at the heart of political, social, spiritual and economic changes that caught the attention of the entire world. Many or most of these groups assumed roles as counter-culture factions ‘opposed’ to the system of capitalism and the ‘evils’ of war, greed and the exploitation of the earth and its people. So many were ‘reactive’ instead of ‘pro-active,’ against something rather than for something. Many that survived to this day, and many that have formed since, consider themselves to be in service to the world-at-large. Many clearly demonstrate that a cooperative, sharing form of economy has many advantages that most of us only dream of having, i.e. a sense of belonging, extended family, reduced consumption, rich social environment, leisure time for the arts, shared responsibilities, support groups, abundant opportunities to share skills and knowledge, etc. etc. I would love to be a part of that kind of project again. There is so much to share as far as experience, insights and practical skills. Are you progressive minded, adventurous, bold and committed to making the world around us a better place, even if only a little better?
The communal lifestyle makes good economic sense! The way we live now, each of us needs a car, frig, computer, TV, phone bill, utility bill, wood stove, power tools, stereo or whatever, and we buy our food in little cans, bottles or boxes instead of in bulk. Ten people go shopping in a vehicle, go home and prepare 10 separate meals and 1 person can easily wash dishes for 10. One person can easily go shopping for 10 as well. And 10 people don’t need 10 refrigerators, half full, each burning electricity.
When those ten people come together and make an inventory of what they have in the way of skills and material things, they might discover that amongst them they have enough musical instruments and equipment to set up a music studio, start a performing group, or even a recording studio. Perhaps these 10 people have enough woodworking tools to set up a fine shop to produce wooden children’s toys, small furniture, picture frames, or whatever.
Or perhaps amongst these ten people there are some passionate gardeners with all of the knowledge and equipment to build some greenhouses and start up a nursery and organic farming operation which could tie in with a landscape service, recycling yard debris, grass and leaves for composting, OR a gardening operation could dovetail with a Café/Salad/Juice Bar operated by the same 10.
What I’m showing you here is how the principle of synergy works when applied to a communal lifestyle. When you look at what is needed to support 10 separate individuals and compare that to what is needed to sustain 10 sharing individuals, it all begins to make good sense. Only a few examples to illustrate the efficiency of communal living have been given here, but the concept of sharing can be applied across the board. A group of ten people (I’m choosing an arbitrary number, could be more or less), if they were committed to making it work, sort of like a marriage or any relationship, could create a stable and secure unit with increased opportunity for personal grown, a richer social life with more leisure time to explore other interests, the benefits are probably too numerous to mention and are limited only by the imaginations of the people involved.
Some people are great organizers, some are great with kids, some love to build and fix things, while others manage money well. Some people would spend all day growing food if they could, while others love to cook and bake. Some people are caregivers, doctors, dentists, while others love to maintain automobiles and things with engines. Some people like to make clothing and some love to sing and play music. We need all of these creative people, and any that weren’t mentioned (all that are Earth-friendly and non-violent, of course.)
When you get all of these people working together in a sharing fashion, there’s really no limit to what can be built and accomplished. Once you make the shift in your mind, in your way of looking at things, once it ‘sticks’ you begin to see that sharing opens up the way to unlimited possibilities. Keep looking at it. Allow your imagination to go wild. What could it be like if we began to believe that this world and everything in it were truly intended to be shared for the good of everyone, where no person was left out, and yet the Earth did not have to pay the price for our consumptiveness.
We don’t need to concern ourselves with the whole world though. The world only changes when each of us changes. Most of our work needs to be done within ourselves. The choices we make as persons as to how we live each day determines our effect upon our world. Yes, it’s good to get involved in social change at the political level, but if one’s consumption supports the very things we would like to see change, then essentially we feed the problem with one hand and fight it with the other. The way that we spend our money speaks louder than our words.
When people are divided into small nuclear family units, they consume more of the Earth’s resources. An easy way to illustrate this concept is to imagine the packaging materials to deal with when you buy 50 one lb. boxes of rice as compared to one 50 lb bag of rice. Same amount of rice, not only less expensive in bulk, but look at the reduction in the waste stream. Again, apply this concept across the board and get an idea of the tremendous efficiency of a sharing economy!
Is it any wonder that so many people use drugs and alcohol as a means to try to escape the stresses of what we’ve come to accept as the real world. This so-called real world demands of us that we throw away (or at least put aside for a time) our childlike qualities, our sense of wonder, awe, innocence and insatiable curiosity and enter the process we call education where we are taught, by those who’ve gone before us, what those people say will prepare us to enter into the ‘real’ world and compete for our piece of the pie.
So here we are! Trying to make the best of a situation we were born into, ignorant of the possibility that there are any other options available.
The importance of honest and open communication cannot be stressed enough. Communication is like the lubrication that allows for the free flowing growth and movement of feelings and ideas that keeps everyone in touch with what is going on. A communal family should be seen as, and treated like, one body. Each person or each function of the group can be seen as a separate organ, the heart, the lungs, the eyes or ears and so on. Each organ has a separate and unique function but could not do it’s job without the rest of the body. The body can only function in a state of good health if the energy flow, the nerve signals and the arterial system are not blocked.
Communication is the essential flow of Love, first of all coupled with ideas, inspirations, feelings and support. In an ideal world perhaps we would only experience so-called ‘positive’ or ‘good’ feelings and never feel anger, worry, fear, doubt or frustration. But who can say with any real honesty that this range of feeling and emotion has been put to rest within themselves? I certainly can’t. And if I can’t, would it be fair to expect others to have it all together emotionally? Honest communication must allow for the expression of these so-called negative feelings. If they cannot be aired and heard without judgment or blame, then they must be stuffed inside and repressed, and there is nowhere to put them but somewhere in the physical or emotional body where they become an affliction. Most of us actually feel embarrassed or guilty at the idea of admitting that we have/feel any thoughts or feelings/ desires that are less than loving. I don’t think that any of us really want to be controlled by anger, fear, frustration, not our own nor anyone else’s! So what can we do to take the edge off of the potentially dangerous and destructive elements of our humanity? I think that here’s where we look at the mechanisms of denial, avoidance and self-sabotage. The first step to neutralizing or finding a solution to any seeming problem is to acknowledge its presence
It’s like a gremlin lurking in the shadows. As long as we don’t know it’s there, it can cause all kinds of problems and we, who are confused and bewildered, keep pointing the finger at what we believe to be the cause of our problems, and repeatedly missing the mark. The gremlin’s job is to divide and conquer. It keeps sending it’s little messages like: ‘He doesn’t really care about me,’ ‘ …what does he really want?’ Or … ‘Don’t trust her, she’s only our for herself!’ Or ‘This relationship is too hard, life should be easy.’ This metaphorical gremlin is us, it’s that part of each of us that we are afraid to look at, afraid to admit to ourselves. The only weapon we have against our gremlin is Humility! It comes from the same root as the word Human. To be Human is to be Humble. Both words come from the word Humus, meaning soul, so to be a Humble Human would be living close to, or down to earth.
Anyway, an extended family, communal family, needs to reorganize the absolute need to establish a mechanism, a ritual, a forum for a kind of communication that embraces the full range of feeling, emotion, ideas, inspirations in order to have any change at succeeding as a healthy functioning body!
Probably each of us knows someone who is always giving, but who will never accept anything from anyone. To me this is a very disturbing dynamic. I think what this ‘one way’ person doesn’t realize is that they are actually denying people the same kind of feeling of pleasure that he or she feels when giving. By refusing someone’s offer of help or a gift or whatever, to me it feels like some kind of control being displayed. I don’t really fully understand this other than the conditioning we receive that says that we are stronger when we don’t need anyone for anything. I do know that this mentality would not last long in a communal family wherein giving and receiving are valued equally!
I’m trying to practice what I call discriminative awareness. I’m sure it’s not an original idea. To me discriminative awareness is about being able to distinguish between what is truth and what is illusion, or knowing if the mood you are in takes you where you desire to go, or if you’re on a side road that leads to a dead end, or goes off a cliff. Life has been described as a journey, not a destination, which means that we can train ourselves to be in this moment making discriminating choices that determine the conditions of the next moment. We cannot make choices in the past, but we can choose to view the past from a different perspective. We can choose to free ourselves in this moment from the burdens of regret, guilt, shame, things we shall never be able to change in the Past. We can, and probably should, learn from what we perceive to be past mistakes and endeavor to apply our new and ever increasing awareness to make more responsible, discriminating choices NOW.
Sometimes you come up against a situation where something is bothering you, or let’s say someone approaches you with a concern, and you are not in the mood to listen to this person, or offer insights or advice if it is being sought, what do you do? How do you deal with this in a sharing way? I mean, we’re all going to find ourselves on one side or the other, probably numerous times in our lives. I know we’re living in a society where the common response to “Hi, how’s it going?’ usually amounts to ‘Oh, I’m fine.” How often is this an honest response? Truth is, as I see it, a lot of people, when making the inquiry, don’t really want to know how you’re really doing, what might be weighing on your shoulders, so “I’m fine” is usually an appropriate response. This needs to change when people enter into intimate relationships, especially in the kinds of interdependent relationships that are required in a communal family. My suggestion? When you don’t feel like listening to a friend in need when your friend seems to need you, make sure you explain yourself in a kind fashion and promise your friend that you wi8ll make yourself available as soon as you can lend him or her with your ears, and your heart.
Let’s just imagine for a few minutes that world conditions, the economy, global weather changes, natural disasters and so on have actually left us with only two choices, two options to pursue if we are to survive. The one choice is to arm ourselves to the teeth, build fortresses, and attempt to horde whatever material, life-sustaining supplies we can acquire by any means we can devise. The other option/choice would be to bring together, without immediate nuclear families, friends, neighbors, etc. all of our individual possessions and talents/experience and focus our combined efforts on creating security, safety and sustainability for ourselves and whoever close, to join with us.
As I see it option #1 is a fear-based response to an apparent or imagined threat, and option #2 is a faith or trust-based response.
If you were faced with such a choice, which would it be? I’m guessing, since you have come this far in the book, that you’re a #2 kind of person.
I don’t wish to convince anyone that communal living is some sort of utopian dream come true. Although, if the depth of commitment is there, and if the foundation is solidly established, if the people involved are dedicated to persevering through times of difficulty, the rewards can almost be guaranteed.
Communalism, as I understand it, and have lived it, is a lifestyle based on ‘holding all things in common.’ It is a life based upon the principle of ‘All for one, and one for all.’ It has no rich or poor members. It is an economic system that can only be lived successfully if each and every person involved can make a radical shift toward cooperation.
To paraphrase the words of Gandhi, “I’ll take your Jesus, but you can keep your Christianity!” How many really know the full scope of what he was trying to teach us, and the real reasons why he was such a threat to the ‘establishment’ of his day? I was raised in the Catholic Church, mass every day before school and on Sundays, thousands of sermons, but never once did I hear any reference to the passage in the Book of Acts, chapter 4, verses 32-35 that described the equitable distribution and SHARING of wealth that Jesus advocated. If you know that in his time taxes were levied on income and the ownership of private property, as they are now, would it add a new perspective to your thinking regarding his work, and the threat to the ‘powers that be’?
I believe that Jesus was proactive, that he taught the people an economic system, a way of living together that we refer to today as ‘communal.’ Having lived this lifestyle myself for nearly 15 years, I understand that the disparity between the rich and poor disappears and true Social Security is established. Interdependence replaces Independence, and wasteful consumption is replaced by an efficient system that eliminates duplication of efforts. Communal economics makes good sense and works beautifully, creates abundant living, promotes peace, health, prosperity, and all those good things. But there’s a catch. We’ve all been brought up in a world that teaches us from the time we’re born that it’s every man and woman for himself; that ‘success’ is measured by ‘net worth’ and that ‘sharing’ goes against human nature. I don’t believe it for a minute. I think it’s crucial that we change that kind of programming and commit to a different paradigm. What do you think?
Global warming is occurring in direct proportion to human consumption. Finding ways to reduce consumption would reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. If we take a hard look at the conditions under which the greatest consumption occurs, we need look no further than at our own society in which competition and independence are so highly valued. Independent persons consume more than interdependent persons. True independence can never be attained. All of us rely upon the goods and services provided by others. This push for independence has nearly eliminated our neighborhoods and communities.
The system under which we currently live profits only by keeping us separate and needing one of everything. It’s keeping us buying small units or cheaply produced commodities designed to serve for a limited period of time before we need to replace them and send them off to the landfill. Some of us are born into this world in relative safety, cared for, fed and nurtured and loved, clothed, and housed, taken care of in times of illness, but on the other hand, many of us are born into a world where all we know is lack and deprivation, disease and hunger, cruelty, and ‘death’ as our only salvation. Can anyone who believes in a loving God say that this is all happening in accordance with a Divine Plan? If we knew what the Divine Plan was and knew that our coming into alignment with this plan would abolish the pain and suffering in our world, would we have the love in our hearts and the courage it would require to make whatever personal and collective adjustments it would take to correct these deplorable conditions that so many of us now experience?
All of the things we use in everyday life can be traced back to the basic natural resources that existed when Humanity arrived upon the scene. Our clothes, our homes and vehicles, our electronics, food, fuels, whatever it is, has come about as a result of imagination and the creative manipulation of minerals, ores, oil, plants, water and gases.
Let’s look at an automobile as an example. Let’s begin to consider how each and every component that goes into an automobile goes from being a natural resource in its raw state to the one we see before us. We’re looking at materials, plastics, glass, rubber, paint and upholstery, carpeting and so on. Each of these components are combinations of other components, all of which can be traced back, all of which needed processing, refining, etc to get them to their current state. All of these changes have occurred at the hands of humans in labs, refineries, factories, and at every step in this process, energy has been expended. When you look at a Hybrid car and think ‘How much more energy efficient compared to a 1970 Chevy Van,’ we’re not looking at a big picture! New cars are being produced in large part by recycling old cars a process which requires huge amounts of energy to crush, transport, melt down, and recast the metals for the new cars. Imagine the energy it would take to process all of the old cars in the world into new more fuel-efficient cars. After considering how much ‘energy’ we would expend to accomplish this, how long would it take to realize a net savings? How many more cubic tons of carbon and how much more greenhouse gases would be added to the atmosphere in this effort to reduce emissions.
As long as we believe in the “independence” paradigm, we will not be able to significantly reduce consumption. Interdependence is a given, a law that is evident throughout the natural world, as well as throughout the universe. Small fragments of our world (nations) cannot be isolated from the rest and still exist. We’re all standing on the same chunk of real estate, all breathing the same air, drinking the same water, all warmed by the same sun and gazing out at the same heavens!
Why are we so obsessed with our differences, so proud of our diversities? Why can’t we make the shift to being proud of our commonalities? After all the things we have in common are so much bigger than our little differences. All of us need food, water, air, affection, a reason to get out of bed each day, a purpose! This whole idea of being different, set-apart from individuals, independent islands, is why we are consuming the planet’s resources faster than they are being replenished.
As far as we know for sure this planet has never been predominantly communal. There are myths and legends about the Golden Age, or the Garden of Eden, and we know of smaller tribes of indigenous peoples who had no words for ownership in their languages, but by and large our ‘civilizations’ have been exploitive, dominating, conquering, adversarial and divisive. Our measure of worth and success has been based upon individual and nuclear family holding; land, businesses, precious metals and gems, monies, livestock, along with the ability to employ the means to guard and protect these things and pass them down through our ‘entitled progeny.’
Unless one believes in one loving God (whatever you wish to call that which defies definition) this whole notion of sharing and Oneness would probably seem like a fantastic fairy tale! But if we could ask God some big questions and actually get real answers, would we listen, or dismiss it all as being too idealistic?
Perhaps each of us who believes in God could ask this question…
God… who are we, what are we here for, how would you have us be?