An Economy Based in Love & Service

Someone who does work they love in an alternative field—work they feel is needed in the community—should be paid fairly. Herbalist, craftsperson, psychic, shaman, doula, political activist . . . The work of choice might be in a spiritual, creative, political, or other field.

Dentalia shells were currency in ancient California. Malcolm Margolin wrote that shamans there would imagine sweeping up huge piles of dentalia earned in their shamanic “careers.” This visualization was actually part of their training.

But today many people think loving service and money are innately at odds. They scold anyone in alternative careers for not doing all their work for free or at such a low cost that they cannot live on it. However, the logical conclusion of that is frightening! Unless our economy is about doing paid work we love for people we love, we are stuck in a business world where many people do jobs they hate for people they hate. A marketplace based in paid loving service can thrive and save mother earth.

This can work if we know when to work for free, and to otherwise have love and money both honored in appropriate ways. I DO a lot for free and for low cost. I also charge high prices for other work. There is room – - and need – - to give your gift for free.  No question about it. And you may have certain things you only do for free. That may be right too. That is part of life.

As to EXCHANGING services or goods, it is wonderful. I do it when I can. But, again, some people insist people with alternative careers should always accept a trade. Fact is, trade is just another form of currency. I have a limited amount of energy. I need money to pay for things like a roof over my head. If I trade for all my services and goods, I will not have energy to earn money to pay for housing and the like. So I accept trade when I can, especially when someone cannot afford otherwise.

It seems that many folks who insist that, in a truly alternative culture, we ALWAYS accept trade, are folks with enough money to afford it. In which case, trade becomes part of a class-based economy!

Sacred Exchange Talismanic Power Pendant. This is for anyone who wants to earn a living doing work they love in an alternative field. For more info on the talisman, click on it.

Trade is not a substitute for money yet. When all the economy is trade, that will be another story. But, as I said, a trade-based marketplace could still be class-based, so trade alone is not a solution. It must go hand in hand with the idea that loving service should merit a respectable fee. The argument that, in a progressive economy, we always accept a trade lacks logic: Currently, the logical result of accepting all trade, for most folks, is to be homeless and hungry. That is not a spiritual outcome. :-) Folks who insist on it can often afford high prices for cars, computers, etc., but won’t pay that for spiritual support, hand-crafted goods, or other alternative services. Hmm, what altar do they worship at?  Dentalia (aka money) was a form of respect for a shaman’s help. Giving money in some situations = giving respect and love. Uh–huh.

What is a reasonable fee? That question leads to “What is a reasonable net income?,” which leads to “What income amounts to bounty?” Thorough answers are outside the bounds of this essay, but the following points are relevant. Matthew Fox says, there is enough for everyone to live bountifully, as long as no one is greedy. Some standards of living are just plain old greedy, and create an economy in which one person is wealthy while others go poor. A sane standard of living is needed by anyone who wants to earn their livelihood in an alternative service career.

I took a virtual vow of poverty to do my shamanic work (which is how I earned my income most of my life). It scares me to publically mention this “vow.” For one thing, it is a very private matter. For another, it could easily be misunderstood. Examples: Someone might think I mention it because I am self-inflated, or that I made the vow because I lack the self-esteem to be prosperous. But I risk discussing it because it feels relevant. And with that, the following is what I mean by a VIRTUAL vow of poverty.

I am sixty now, so have a lot of years to look back on. (Note to reader. I am now 62, this essay was written two years ago. Actually, I have been writing it for decades, finally finished a version in 2010.) Many steps along the way, when trying to do what my Gods asked of me, I had to forsake the profitable to be of more service. I never said “I will be poor,” but I chose to risk it to be of maximum service. Net results:
* I usually get by.
* I have struggled awfully at times regarding finances.
* I have had to do without basics at times. I mean BASICS, e.g. necessary medial care.
* I have gotten to do the work I love and be of service.
* I have had an amazing adventure this lifetime.
* I regret nothing. And I do not regret my financial choices.
* I have had enormous abundance. For example, I traveled ‘round Europe for free, I have a fab computer that someone gifted me, and I live in a cozy inexpensive rural home with deer and bunnies and wood nymphs outside my window.

Sacred Exchange Talismanic Power Pendant. The blog explains why I think a talisman to protect, empower, and otherwise support paid alternative workers is needed, and why I therefore set out to invent one, after asking Spirit if it was a correct action. Conceiving, creating the physical design of, making, and selling the talisman integrates more of my so-called “disparate” aspects, in this case into the process of supporting paid community servants. For more info on the talisman, click on it.

I tell you this about myself so that you do not think I speak lightly when I say service and money can go hand in hand. And, keep in mind, perhaps my financial struggles happened because this economy – - including the alternative community – - does not economically support alternative workers enough.

Being paid = I could work full time using a gift that Spirit said I was to use full time. I was given a shamanic gift that has saved lives, made other lives worth living. I have helped trauma survivors, and even many happy high-functioning leaders do what they do a lot better. I do my work to be of service, not just to be paid.

We can build an economy where things done for free are honored, and where trade is pivotal because it is used appropriately. But we also need to build an economy of paid loving service. Remember the shaman’s dentalia. Money and love can be in union. We can thrive financially and spiritually. Let go of conflict. Be in the union of all things. ALL things.

copyright FDG 2010. All contents of this site are copyright FDG

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4 Responses to An Economy Based in Love & Service

  1. Bev says:

    James M. Barrie said, “Nothing is really work unless you would rather be doing something else.” Now this doesn’t mean that just because you are doing something you love it should be devalued. Even if it doesn’t feel like what most would consider “work”, you are offering services that enrich and improve lives. A client may hold you in high esteem for it, they may love you for it, but in my experience, a landlord, doctor, grocery store, etc. are not going to accept esteem and love as currency. Services rendered augment client’s lives, I can see no reason not to request the same in return and if that means helping to pay for the basic necessities, it seems to be an equitable and fair exchange. After all, when all is said and done, a hungry or homeless shaman isn’t going to be in a position to help others when their own needs are not met.

    • Francesca De Grandis says:

      Bev, exactly!! Re Barrie’s lovely statement, yes, yes and, to reiterate what I say above, thinking we shld not be paid for doing activities we love implies we continue an economy in which we can only earn our living at jobs we hate. Love and money must go hand in hand. If someone says they love a person, but is unwilling to back that with money if the person they love is in true need, hmm. Thanks!

  2. Vara says:

    Thank you for sharing this. This is something I have been contemplating deeply as I feel called to offer spiritual services as my life work. I stutter when it comes to fees because most of my current clients are low-income. The line between client and friend is something I intentionally blur right now because I don’t know how to ask for an exchange.

    • Francesca De Grandis says:

      Thank you, I am so glad it helped! I really appreciate u letting me know, it helps me, since otherwise I have no idea if my blogs are useful. Hey, I am feeling moved to be sure you know that, as a shamanic counselor, I can help you with what you posted. For example, we can do inner work to open channels for feeling okay about receiving payment, but also i can channel practical strategies, like how to come up with appropriate prices. More info: http://www.outlawbunny.com/pastoral-counseling/ You keep fighting the good fight of being a healer! And thank you again so much for your feedback!

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