HomeLearnModule 7💝 Giving

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    • 💝 Giving
    💝 Giving
    "The task before us is to align money with the true expression of our gifts." - Charles Eisenstein

    Here's the secret to telling executable economic stories which can be used to program harmonious incentives: don't guess what "the world" needs, ask what beautiful things you would do if there was money for it, and then write the code required to give that value.

    Hacking Generosity

    Hacking Generosity

    The Gift

    Gift exchange is an ancient practice. Many modern people have attempted to set up their own versions, with varying degrees of success - from Burning Man to various blockchain projects. Often, this kind of thinking is accused of being simplistic, but such criticism is really about the implementation, not the underlying idea.

    As we've highlighted throughout this program, in order to understand gift-giving properly, you need to hold in mind its complementary opposite: manipulation. When I give you a present, you can either interpret it as a gift, pure and simple; or as me trying to hold one over on you, create a social debt, outdo you with a show of generosity, etc. This is to say that the act of giving does not create the gift: it is only when it is received in good faith that a gift truly exists.

    The fact that gifts are only created when received in good faith illustrates the strange power dynamics at work in most charities, or any platform which tries to craft explicit incentives to give. As William Bryant Logan says,

    “Real help comes from living with people, helping them to make their lives steadier, not by prescribing progress for them.”

    This module is not about how to give more efficiently and transparently: it is about how to live well with one another in continuous circles of reciprocity, giving and receiving in each moment in the same way in which we breathe in and out, or take the world into our body, and share our body with the world. The structure of gifts goes deeper than simply giving.

    Prompt: Giving does not automatically create a gift. It is only when it is received in ____ _____.

    Reveal reminder

    good faith.

    Didn't remember
    The Web of Nakamoto Consensus

    Think about it this way: Tim Berners-Lee made hypertext freely accessible, because the web would not have been world wide otherwise. He realised that, for it to become what he knew it could be, he had to give it away. Satoshi Nakamoto did the same thing. For Bitcoin to be what it is, the source code had to be given away, for free, to everyone.

    💡 Such protocols don't encourage giving; the protocol is the gift.

    Are you here to give a gift to the world, or to take what you believe yourself to be owed; be it acknowledgement, status, wealth, or power? What if web3 is not about status at all, but about service? Would you still be interested in pursuing this particular avenue?

    Prompt: Satoshi ensured that what was made freely accessible in order to kickstart a true digital gift economy?

    Reveal reminder

    Source code.

    Didn't remember

    The Speed of Trust (57-58, 76-77, 83, 86, 93-104 especially)

    Sacrifice Scarcity

    The psychology of giving reveals fascinating aspects of human consciousness. This is because the idea of giving gifts runs counter to the scarcity we must navigate in order to survive and, in denying that scarcity, gift-giving is and always has been a profoundly meaningful act.

    Prompt: Gifts are meaningful because they act against what fundamental human survival concern?

    Reveal reminder


    Didn't remember

    While we feel that some of his work may come across to many as idealistic, we think Charles Eisenstein poses a genuinely fascinating question:

    💡 Can we co-create sacred economic environments?

    The sacred is that which is bigger than 'me' and simultaneously something in which one can participate, of which one is intimately a part. The sacred simply gives meaning to our lives; nothing more, nothing less. This is why the most potent gifts - sacrifices - are always at the heart of sacred ritual and initiatory rite.

    💡 What if we imagined smart contracts as ceremonial transactional space?

    Art, pure science, education, healing and many other critical aspects of life are all things which do not fit well within our current economy. So, if we care about them, we need to develop institutions or practices which convert 'real' money into gift money.

    Recycling the money high in the drainage is different. The goal is not to take money from some people to give to other people. The goal is to increase the wealth of the entire system.

    Receiving Gracefully

    It's worth re-emphasising this point:

    💡 The act of giving does not create gifts: it is only when it is received in good faith that a gift truly exists.

    By virtue of the way this course is presented, it attracts people predisposed to giving: people who like to serve others, help where they can, and who want to imagine better ways we can all live together. This is an admirable trait, and something we actively look for and help cultivate in every Kernel fellow. However, like everything, it has its shadow side.

    Often, we seek to help others because we do not wish to look closely at the aspects in which we ourselves feel lacking. Serving others can distract us from our own perceived inadequacies.

    Much like we cannot improve the world if we do not wish to improve ourselves, we have to know how to receive with grace in order to really understand what it means to give unconditionally; to give the very source of our gift away and trust others to use it for good.

    There are two keys to receiving gracefully. In Better Questions, we said "don't be afraid of letting others teach you; it does not degrade you, it uplifts you. The ego doesn't always acknowledge this simple truth". The same applies to receiving: don't be afraid to receive from others, and don't be afraid to express your gratitude. Saying "thank you" and really meaning it only seems hard until you actually do it and see the effect it has on another human being to be truly acknowledged. This is the first key.

    The other is becoming comfortable with the fact that you have needs. It's OK to need. It means you're human. If you're aware of your needs, you can begin to develop an internal language to understand and express them clearly, which will help you share them with others wholesomely. It is only when we are comfortable with our own state of neediness that we can communicate it honestly to others without projecting the expectation that they will necessarily satisfy us. Here, in truth, is the rock bottom foundation of all courageous, honest, horizontal, long-term conversations.

    One method for developing an internal language of need is prayer. 'Prayer' is an expansive concept: it points, in essence, to the kind of intensity of awareness of which we spoke last week. This awareness of our self and the world, both meditative and contemplative, dancing and still, human and divine, is what makes it natural to forgive others and give of yourself.

    “To sit or kneel in prayer [...] coheres with the secret structure of existence and reality, namely that we have a right to nothing. Everything that we are, think, feel and have is a gift. We have received everything, even the opportunity to come to the earth and walk awake in this wondrous universe [...] We weight the notion of prayer with burdens of duty, holiness and the struggle for perfection. Prayer should have the freedom of delight. It should arise from, and bring us to, humour, laughter and joy. Religion often suffers from a great amnesia; it constantly insists on the seriousness of God and forgets the magic of the Divine Glory. Prayer should be the wild dance of the heart too. In the silence of our prayer we should be able to sense the roguish smile of a joyful God who, despite all the chaos and imperfection, ultimately shelters everything [...] Prayer issues from that threshold where soul and life interflow; it is the conversation between desire and reality. It is not to be reduced to the intermittent moments when we say prayers in words. Prayer is a deeper and more ancient conversation within us [...] In a similar sense, one could consider prayer as the soul-narrative of a people issuing from that threshold where their desire negotiates the constraints and suffering of their history.” - John O’Donohue

    Prompt: What are the keys to receive gracefully?

    Reveal reminder

    Cultivate gratitude, become comfortable with your own needs.

    Didn't remember
    The Gift of Help

    "If you can just appreciate each thing, one by one, then you will have pure gratitude. Even though you observe just one flower, that one flower includes everything. It is not just a flower. It is the absolute, it is Buddha himself. We see it in that way. But at the same time, that which exists is just a flower, and there is no one to see it and nothing to be seen. That is the feeling we should have in our practice and in our every-day activity. Then, whatever work you do, you will have a continuous feeling of pure gratitude" - Shunryu Suzuki, talk 6

    Further Afield

    To name the world as gift is to feel one’s membership in the web of reciprocity.

    The revelation in that word [i.e. “min”, the word for “berry” in the Potawatomi language] is a treasure for me, because it is also the root word for “gift.” I can’t help but gaze at them, cupped like jewels in my hand, and breathe out my gratitude.

    In the presence of such gifts, gratitude is the intuitive first response. The gratitude flows toward our plant elders and radiates to the rain, to the sunshine, to the improbability of bushes spangled with morsels of sweetness in a world that can be bitter.

    Gratitude creates a sense of abundance, the knowing that you have what you need. In that climate of sufficiency, our hunger for more abates and we take only what we need, in respect for the generosity of the giver.

    In a gift economy, wealth is understood as having enough to share, and the practice for dealing with abundance is to give it away.

    "Serviceberry teaches us another way to understand relationship and exchange. With a serviceberry economy as our model, it prompts the opportunity for articulation of the value of gratitude and reciprocity as essential foundations for an economy."

    Reciprocity is the complementary opposite to scarcity, not abundance. Abundance is co-opted by those who would deny important material limits - the kind of "resistant materials" which make love both difficult and meaningful. However, reciprocity see the same limits as scarcity does, but chooses to respond with generosity rather than fear and anxiety. In this sense, to give what you yourself need is the "highest" of human acts. Not even God can do this, as God is - by definition - beyond need.

    Since competition reduces the carrying capacity for all concerned, natural selection favors those who can avoid competition. Oftentimes this is achieved by shifting one’s needs away from whatever is in short supply, as though evolution were suggesting “if there’s not enough of what you want, then want something else.” This specialization to avoid scarcity has led to a dazzling array of biodiversity, each avoiding competition by being different. Diversity in ways of being is an antidote to scarcity-induced competition.

    The gift is multiplied with every giving, until it returns so rich and sweet that it burbles forth as the birdsong that wakes me in the morning.

    What use does the tree have of berries other than as a way to make relationships with birds?

    Module 7
    🏊 Scale-ability