Lovingly Crafted Video of “What is the Next Story”

by | Jan 22, 2023

Hi everyone, I want to share with you this short-film version of my recent essay, What is the Next Story. Crafted by Tonika Todorova, I think it is a good way to introduce people to the basic concepts I have been working with for 20 years. I appreciate the thought she put into selecting the images. A beautiful meditative piece. Also, here is a podcast recorded a while ago that I think has some similar basic concepts. Its title is “Being authentic in a time of universal deceit.”

I really like it when people take the iniative to incorporate my words into creations of their own. In The Ascent of Humanity I made a fairly detailed critique of intellectual property, and since then have made my work available for anyone to use without permission or payment. Even attribution is not required, when it may interrupt the flow of the creation, although I think it is generally good practice in gift culture to make a gesture of respect toward those prior to oneself in the circle of the gift.

One of the cognitive lenses I use is to ask, of any practice or institution of the present time, What is its incarnation in a new story? In the case of asking permission, I think it is requesting a blessing. When people ask if they can use my words for something, I say that permission is not mine to give, but I will give you my blessing. (There are some exceptions. There are pyramid schemes that use the Sacred Economics video for marketing. They do not have my blessing.) The reason that permission is not mine to give, is that “my” words aren’t really mine. They are the product of myriad conversations and relationships and inspirations, all of which came from outside myself.

My critique of intellectual property comes from this understanding. As Lewis Mumford said, “A patent is a device that enables one man to claim special financial rewards for being the last link in the complicated social process that produced the invention.” In past times, troubadors, singers, artists, and poets freely borrowed from each other. That was how culture evolved. Today the legal system puts huge barriers athwart this flow of cultural development. Most people instinctively recognize the injustice of cordoning off intellectual property, which is why they feel little shame about “stealing” songs or movies by copying and sharing them. Their lack of shame is no sign of ethical backwardness, but an impulse toward the recovery of the cultural commons.

These thoughts on intellectual property exemplify the application of the Story of Interbeing to a specific topic. When we understand ourselves as relational beings in essence, then we know that no creation is our own. The concept of property itself also becomes incoherent. What might be the successor of the notion of property? Even Marxist proletarian revolutions do not do away with the notion of ownership, but merely transfer it from individuals to the corporate body of the state. I think the successor would be a socially recognized special relationship that a particular individual or group entity has with a particular area of land or other form of capital. (That in fact is what property is already, though we don’t normally think of it that way.) When we make that understanding explicit, then we can talk about the nature of that social agreement. Questions of “capitalism” always come down to this. Capital, after all, is but a social agreement. Money, property… these have no meaning outside of human relationships. The question of capitalism then, is what is the nature of these agreements and how might we change them.

In Sacred Economics I elaborated on these ideas in 400 page depth. But the motivation of that book is childishly simple. It comes from certain signpost experiences of generosity that opened for me a portal into a truer aspect of human nature than the self-interest maximizing individuals of standard economics. I’ll share just one image. May it remind you as well of something simple and true. It happened in the year 2000. I was very careful not to give my children too many sweets, but sometimes I gave them fruit leather as a special treat. It came in strips. I gave one each to Jimi, age 4, and Matthew, who was not quite 2. Matthew gobbled his up right away. Jimi was eating his more slowly. Matthew looked sad because he had none left. So Jimi tore his in two and gave one half to Matthew.

Those moments reach in past my mental defenses, past my reasons why the world cannot change, to tell me that actually it is all quite simple. Such moments connect me to the more beuatiful world my heart knows is possible. It’s right there!

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