This past January 14th Br. Chris and I attended a daylong workshop with Charles Eisenstein here in Vancouver. I can't recall where I first came across Eisenstein's work (I think at the website Reality Sandwich), and I wasn't real familiar with it going in, but what I'd seen had intrigued me enough to take a deeper look. It was an interesting and at times powerful day, and I'm glad I went. I was impressed with Charles' calm lucid presence, and I resonated with a lot of what he had to say.
At some point during the day I struck up a conversation with the folks seated behind us, and came to meet the local Vancouver filmmaker Ian Mackenzie. It turns out that Ian is working with documentarian Velcrow Ripper on a new film called Occupy Love. Last week Ian contacted us at Beams and asked if we'd be interested in co-debuting his own new short film called Sacred Economics, based around the work of Eisenstein. After viewing the film we said we'd be happy to take part. Before we get to that screening, I asked Ian a couple of questions via email to set the context a little for the film, and that exchange is printed below. Following the video Chris will share a few reflections based on his reading of Eisenstein's two books. Enjoy the film.
Trevor- Can you tell me a little about this short and how it came into being, and how it fits (or doesn't) with the larger project of the Occupy Love film you are making with Velcrow Ripper? And lastly, what has moved you personally to take part in this project and make these films?
Ian- This short, Sacred Economics, is related but separate from Occupy Love. It started after I read Charles Eisenstein's book of the same name, where he talks about the idea of "destroying money." What he means by that is if you have surplus wealth, you should "invest" it in projects that truly better your community and world. I had a bit of extra time, and enough money to buy a plane ticket, so I called up Charles and asked if I could fly out to make a short film about this book. He agreed.
I spent a week living with his family in late October 2011, the result of which is this short film. My ultimate goal was to help share Charles' key ideas in film, which is a medium that is spreadable around the "noosphere" - the human sphere of thought that envelopes our globe. By accelerating his ideas, my aim is to further catalyze the paradigm shift that calls us on to re-imagine all our institutions, including money.
Charles also speaks about the "return of the gift economy." His book was such a gift to me, that I had no choice but to gift back.
In that light, let's see the film.
For more information, the website for the film is here.
Editor's Note Chris: My contribution to this piece follows.
I've read both of Charles Eisenstein's books: The Ascent of Humanity and Sacred Economics: Money, Gift, and Society in the Age of Transition. I've found them both deeply cogent texts. I hope this contextual introduction gives some bigger picture background to the beautiful film you just watched.
The first, Ascent of Humanity, outlines two worlds: the world of separation and the more beautiful world our hearts tell us is possible. The book is a nuanced look at both worlds. On the side of separation Eisenstein describes how technology, language, culture, science, politics, and economics have brought humans to a place of deep separation--from our deepest selves, from one another, from the earth, even from The Divine. According to Eistenstein, the world of separation is built on the flawed notion of the separate self--a self based in fear and disconnected from its origins.
The book then goes on to describe a vision of the more beautiful world our hearts tell us is possible (what he calls The Age of Reunion). I've found this frame of the more beautiful world very powerful. By invoking the heart and its intuitive capacities, Eisenstein opens up a space for what we've discussed here at Beams as a spirituality of the future, and the creative impulse.
Eisenstein describes how at first humanity had a relationship with "Mother Earth." The age of separation involves separating from the mother--the consequences of which are the ecological chaos all around us.
Yet while Eisenstein is very critical of the age of separation, he sees it as a necessary step in the process. Dialectically, he calls for our next step to relate to Lover Earth, rather than a return to Mother Earth. Our age of separation is like an adolescence. We humans, as a species, are arrogant; we don't think about future generations. The move in to Lover Earth is one of (young?) adulthood--falling in love, gifting, and forming committed bonds of mutual care.
This leads us to Eisenstein's most recent text, Sacred Economics: Money, Gift, and Society in the Age of Transition, a deep and complex book. I'm glad to see this video beginning to open up its ideas to a wider audience. Sacred Economics takes as its starting point the notion that while money isn't the only problem we need to solve, it's involved in the all the problems we have. No solution set is going to come into existence that doesn't address money. I find this an extremely astute point. He seeks a way to "redeem" money (pun intended). Money serves whatever values and interests it's set to serve. The book asks us whether we can imagine a world in which a different set of values is cultivated to which money would then serve.
The book lays out how money operates in the world of separation and how it might operate in the more beautiful world our hearts tell us is possible (aka The Gift). Eisenstein makes a very important point when discussing The Gift. Our spiritual traditions often suggest we should give in a completely selfless way. Eisenstein, quite wisely in my view, suggests this is a very limiting view and we should talk much more openly about the benefit to the giver as well as to the receiver, that this mutuality in gifting creates connection, even, dare we say it dependence (a notion that separated self loathes and fears).
The book then lays out a number of prescriptions and policy recommendations for helping us in our contemporary Age of Transition.
I mention all this because the logic of the flow of the two texts is very important and powerful. I think the big picture is very crucial. For me the more most powerful pieces are: the deep explorations of the Separated World and The More Beautiful World; the practice of tuning into our hearts to listen to the call of the future; the articulation of the society of The Gift. There's plenty of points to potentially critique I'm sure--certain reads on history, specific economic policy prescriptions, and the like. I'd just hate for the conversation to get immediately bogged down in those us versus them, nitpicking discussions, while missing the value of sitting in the wisdom of what is being offered.
All images (except cover of Sacred Economics book) courtesy of Ian MacKenzie