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!
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.
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.
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