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Why Poverty?

Howdy,

Earlier this week I landed on the Arte TV-channel here in Germany that had dedicated that day’s programmes to the theme ‘Why Poverty?’ Having studied economics at Erasmus University Rotterdam, I guess I could answer this question using economic theories and would probably come up with some kind of an accepted answer. But watching young Chinese adults reluctantly engaging in a struggle for survival, either by trying to get accepted by some top university (thereby ruining their family’s monetary reserves to cover for the cost) or by trying to find whatever job that is available amidst countless competitors, made me sick. And those are considered the lucky ones.

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The Language of Mattering

Hi y’all out there!

Again I came across an interesting post by Umair Haque (I guess you might think by now I’m following him or something) , here it is: http://bitly.com/PIZdeh He makes a point of finding out the meaning of our life or better: of allowing meaning to find us. And to be open to Love. Big love not small love. It seems we have become deaf to the language of mattering, numb to the real meaningful things (which most of the time aren’t things anyway) blind to the meaning of our life, closed off from a life with meaning. And why? Is it the overload of stimuli telling us to care about having stuff, to see the world around us in terms of stuff and stuff only? It must be why most people I know are dissatisfied, whether they are regarded successful or not.  Constantly living in a state of profound exhaustion, perpetually fuelled by fear. Fear of being hurt, disappointed, turned down, fear for showing up as who we really are, imbued by the fear of not being good enough. Well, if it helps, let me tell you: you are good enough just the way you are. We all are.

It takes courage to see and more so to embrace what our life is about. Too often we get caught up in a complex structure of rules and supposed expectations we think we need to fulfill. letting go of that feels like giving something up, without us being able to see how it holds us back, how it limits our talents, how it prevents us from living wholeheartedly. Freedom is more than just an academic notion, being born in a discussion to which none of the participants are really present. It comes from disciplined action based on self-knowledge and with detachment from the results. So the invitation is to go out there and get dented, bruised scratched in allowing meaning to find you. And in that process to love and be loved. Love yourself for starters and see what comes from that, see how different the world becomes when you do so. Have conversations that matter, with anyone that matters. We think we’re alone but once we dare to step out from under our glass dome, we quickly find out we’re not. Initiate these conversations, go out and seek the experiences that are meaningful to you and not necessarily to others. Experiences that bring you closer to who you are and what it is that you, and only you, are here for. All are craving for contact, for sharing experiences, for having conversations that matter. For being open to the language of mattering. Allow those conversations to happen so you can help others on their way as they help you continue your journey.

Love and Blessings,

 

Geert

 

www.geerthofman.com

I’m just wondering

Hey!

I’m just wondering these days as I read about politicians and civil servants, doing their best to erode the system they are depending on, if they are actually aware about what they’re doing. Or is it that they just play a predetermined role as puppets on a string or as pawns in an ancient Greek drama? I find it rather funny (well, is that really the word here) to see how supposedly grown-ups around the world are fighting to be the leader (ahem) of the pack and regardless whether they succeed in becoming so, the least they will do is to secure their own private interests. Sometimes by securing the economic future of an entire family dynasty, sometimes far more petty by claiming a few euros too many for their expenses. But also, like right now in Holland, by putting together a coalition agreement after the elections without having properly thought it through. And then, in an act of utmost disrespect for parliament (and all of society for that matter) kind of toss it over the fence in order for it to be discussed in parliament. (where the majority belongs to those parties having put the agreement together, so guess what the outcome of the discussions will be) To me it makes the case that we’re basically done with the old-fashioned way our institutions are run. (Umair Haque wrote an interesting post about it as well: http://bit.ly/PIZdeh) How long do they think we’re going to put up with that nonsense? How long are we still going to?

It seems to fit a larger picture as we’re moving into a new era. A new era that will eventually be characterised by global consciousness, people living their life, to which they’re called, in individual freedom, with a sense of belonging (and contributing) to a local or regional community. So it is clear that in this society there is no need for the malfunctioning institutions of our day. There’s this dialogue in my novel ‘The Glass Dome’ (http://www.geerthofman.com/glass-dome) between the elderly Italian gentleman Romano and Peter Woudenberg, the main character following an accident Peter had been involved in. They talk about the upcoming changes.

“Do you have any idea what is awaiting us?” Peter wanted to know.

“As I said before, current structures and practises will fall apart and new ones of a different nature will emerge. I believe that the secrecy, which has governed us for a long time will subside in order for transparency and openness to prevail.”

“What would happen if the way forward would not be taken? For instance because the current establishment manages to stay in power.”

Romano smiled and continued in his characteristic calm way.

“It just won’t be possible.”

“That’s what you hope,” Peter countered.

“It’s what I hope and also what I choose to believe to be true,” he sighed, seemingly getting somewhat agitated.

“A critical mass is growing around the world, bringing this energy to the tipping point. I’m not saying we’re there yet but for me it’s clear that a growing number of people are questioning the way they live their lives.”

“Isn’t that a bit of a luxury?”

“At face value it may seem a luxury. But what I see is that they want to have a meaningful and fulfilling life based on their calling or personal destiny. Your unique identity and personal destiny form a totally different driver for human evolution than a supposed need for endlessly fulfilling material desires do. Amongst others because it leads to us viewing our individual existence as non-conflicting with that of all others.”

“So what you’re trying to say is that when more people start living, how shall I put it, their authentical life, human life on the planet will start changing because of that,” Peter rephrased.

“That’s a way of putting it,” Romano reflected. “But of course, first parties on all sides will take up their positions and fight each other about this until the bitter end. Therewith only helping the process of de-institutionalising or disintegrating the current system to speed up.”

So yeah, I choose to believe that our society as we know it has begun to change in a radical way. Its very roots will change.  Interesting to see how the institutions get help from the inside in being dismantled and interesting to see what comes in their place as some coordination of us living together seems desirable.  And also: what institutions will be affected by it….. Any thoughts?

Love & Blessings,

Geert

www.geerthofman.com

It’s (not necessarily) all about the money

Hello Again!

As you know by now, I find this discussion regarding money quite fascinating. As I’ve mentioned in my previous post, due to its nature you can’t ever get enough money. Unless you take a conscious decision that enough is enough, you’ll always want more money. And yeah, well, what can you do with more and more and more money? Buy stuff? Buy more expensive stuff? Buy political power? Why? To get tax breaks that result in you having even more money? So, now that our current way of interest bearing debt based and (money) growth driven economics is coming to an end a question becomes relevant:  what kind of prosperity would we get if we’d stop monetizing each and everything on the planet? What would it mean if we’d collectively step out of the money game and enter the human game?

In this video featuring Umair Haque addressing a conference  http://bit.ly/OmCcA7, he introduces the idea of eudaimonic prosperity. Well, using ancient Greek words always sounds impressive so I looked it up. In Wikipedia I found this:

Eudaimonia or eudaemonia (Ancient Greek: εὐδαιμονία [eu̯dai̯monía]), sometimes Anglicized as eudemonia (play /juːdɨˈmniə/), is a Greek word commonly translated as happiness or welfare; however, “human flourishing” has been proposed as a more accurate translation.[1] Etymologically, it consists of the words “eu” (“good”) and “daimōn” (“spirit”). It is a central concept in Aristotelian ethics and political philosophy, along with the terms “aretē“, most often translated as “virtue” or “excellence”, and “phronesis“, often translated as “practical or moral wisdom.”[2] In Aristotle’s works, eudaimonia was (based on older Greek tradition) used as the term for the highest human good, and so it is the aim of practical philosophy, including ethics and political philosophy, to consider (and also experience) what it really is, and how it can be achieved.

So it is about good spirit….. Several Greek philosophers have different interpretations of it, though. Roughly they vary from just having a good time (Epicurus) or being active in a life aimed at achieving excellence (arete) in virtue as Aristotle and Socrates suggest. I guess by now we’ve ticked the box of living a life of (superficial and empty-headed) pleasure which does not prove to be enough for sustainable happiness or fulfillment as the senses require constantly new stimuli in order to remain satisfied (sedated) or have at least the illusion that they are so.

Then this video by Charles Eisenstein came to mind. Here it is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EEZkQv25uEs From 09:26 onward he talks about Adulthood. We’re moving out of this childhood phase, where we played around with our talents without connecting those to our true purpose, and entering the phase of Adulthood where the gifts and talents we’ve developed will now be aimed at our purpose. The first step then being healing, a massive amount of it, to heal what we’ve made sick. And that requires that we act, apart from having a changed set of attitudes, a radically changed view of ourselves, of the universe and hence how we relate to that. We need to act collectively, based on our radically changed view of the universe, naturally allowing each of us the freedom that is indissociably ours. Sitting around and thinking about the healing is not enough. And: the acting is not a tick-the-box exercise either. It is a change process by itself through which we will learn to see the beauty of life again, and to honour our habitat at large, including everything that lives in it.

Being active and not just sitting around is also something I find on the cover of my pocket Bhagavad Gita:

“Freedom lies not in renunciation or retreat, but in disciplined action performed with self-knowledge and detachment”

As I’ve also mentioned in my novel The Glass Dome (www.geerthofman.com-glass-dome) one of the conditions that seemingly need to be met is the dissolving of current rigid structures in all fields of our society. And that I expect that not to go peaceful most of the time. Hence interesting times ahead but I’m getting more confident that we’ll be able to make the jump thanks to our collective wisdom, once that gets properly mobilised.  With contribution from people like Umair Haque and Charles Eisenstein, but also John Renesch (https://www.facebook.com/TheGreatGrowingUp) and many more, not all hope is lost!

Any thoughts? I’d like us to explore our road ahead.

Love and Blessings,

Geert

http://www.geerthofman.com

Money and the illusion of separation

Drowning in never enough money

Bonjour!

I talked about Charles Eisenstein and his book Sacred Economics in my previous blog (www.sacred-economics.com). Now, I’d like to address another phenomenon enhanced by money: separation. It starts with a view that everything in the universe which you don’t recognise as ‘you’ is separate and hence alien. At best you and it are indifferent about each other but chances are that you, as a human being, see it as something to be afraid of, something hostile. And that asks for control. But how can we control nature? We do impact it but can we control it? When you don’t feel part of the universe, part of nature, you may see it as things, or ‘a bunch of stuff’ as Charles Eisenstein labels it in this video (http://youtu.be/EEZkQv25uEs). It becomes a bunch of stuff you can get hold of, process it and then sell it back to the people to whom it belonged in the first place, leaving you with more money than before. And with that money you can buy stuff. I find it interesting that renting out storage space has become a market of its own, at least in the US and in several European countries. We buy so much stuff that we can no longer store it in our homes. I like to believe that most products we buy, are not bought because of their functional qualities but as a kind of sedation. An attempt to lift the loneliness and void our money driven lives have given us. Who was it that said: ‘the best things in life most of the time are not things?’. How can a bag cost several thousands of dollars or euros? And hold the stuff it’s supposed to hold indescribably better than a, let’s say two hundred dollar bag would? Of course I’m aware of the underlying psychological patterns of the buyers. But really: a 10cm square cm strip of leather with a Luis Vuitton ring to it should cost over a hundred euro’s? I’m wondering if anybody has researched the sustainability of the psychological well-being of a person as the result of owning exorbitantly expensive luxury goods, that can be produced at only a fraction more of what it costs to produce commodities. And commodities are what most of the things  are that we use in the first place. Or is there anyone out there believing he’s the only one with an iPhone? Of course I’m not saying we should move to a state controlled plan-economy where everything we can buy is of poor quality, not sufficient in quantity and as standard as it gets. The point is that I believe (and agree with Charles Eisenstein) that we have come to the point that we’re reaching the end of economic growth as we have been taught to have it. And hence a different, arguably far more limited role of money is required. I predict that the focus on human needs will grow. To experience meaningfulness, significance and hence get out of the money game. How much more stuff do we need to have in order to feel happy? Fulfilled? Satiated? What is finally enough? Of course the emerging economies around the world provide the last profitable stretches in this dead-end street. Indeed this was mentioned in my first novel (www.geerthofman.com/glass-dome)  I lost track of how much coca cola the average chinese is drinking, how much Cartier and Rolex watches they own  and how much Mercedes, Porsches, Beamers and Ferrari’s have been sold more to China than last year? More expensive stuff won’t fill the void. More expensive stuff doesn’t feel the rather basic human needs of wanting to feel fulfilled by deploying our talents where they’re needed and where they make sense. Naturally, without being forced to serve whose ever bottom line.

It is time we start seeing and experiencing the connection again. It is time we leave the money game behind us and enter the human game, which is played on a global scale with fairness and access to the planet’s richness for all. Charles Eisenstein refers to this as the coming of age ordeal. Now it’s time to individually and collectively reconnect to our purpose and direct the deployment of our unique talents exactly in that direction.

All love and blessings,

Geert

www.geerthofman.com

It’s all about the money

Hi!

As you probably know by now. I’m quite fascinated (and terrified from time to time as well) by the transformation of mankind and our consciousness which I choose to believe we are facing. Recently I came across the works of Charles Eisenstein (http://charleseisenstein.net) and more in particular his latest book Sacred Economics (http://charleseisenstein.net/books/sacred-economics/) Although I have some idea of how the “new world” would eventually look like, I am looking for clues as to how exactly we’ll get there. It’s clear to me that many of our current practices and institutions will no longer have an added value as they are grounded in an era that is coming to an end. I also found that I like talking about the transformation with both like and not-like minded but that it stays on a somewhat abstract academic level, suggesting that it’ll happen but we won’t notice it that much. Well, by now I’ve started to feel that we’ll notice it very clearly. All of us, as it is inevitable that our current practices, which include a certain way of thinking about ourselves, the world we live in, how we relate to that, our economy etc, will come to an end. Charles Eisenstein’s book Sacred Economics depicts a scenario of how it, or part of it, will come to this end.

The main point he makes is that our economy is driven by money and it is based on interest carrying debt, which necessitates perpetual growth. This has led our society to become (almost completely) monetized, which in its turn forms a natural limit to the possibilities for further economic growth. The system in his view: Banks create money in the form of interest bearing debt. In order to pay back the money a bank lends you (plus interest), you have to make more money. And banks will lend money to those who give them more in return. That’s called a solid business proposition. They won’t give money to people who don’t give it back to them because they would use it to clean up a piece of wasteland for instance. There’s no money in that.

From an individual viewpoint, making more money than you borrowed from the bank, may boil down to working a few extra hours to get some more work done, to find some more clients and/or to change something about what you’re offering (innovation). Nothing wrong with that, it’s how our parents got started and probably their parents as well. But from an aggregated standpoint it means that, as more money needs to be paid back than was borrowed (because of the interest), economic growth continuously needs to be realised. The easy way would be to just increase the price of the offering. But that’s called inflation and will not bring economic growth. So growth is realised by finding new markets for existing products and services and by inventing new products and services. Eventually, this has led to almost everything in our society being monetized. And everybody competing with everybody for scarce money. Our governments like that as they want everybody to engage in paid work as it increases the GDP and their budgets via a.o. sales, profit and labour taxes. But if everybody should be engaged in paid work (either as an employee or self-employed): what are they going to produce? What services and products are left that we need to become available at a price? What more of the commons can be taken away and resold to us? The rotation of the earth? Sunshine? Rain? The air that we breathe?

To me it’s clear that the current crises won’t go away and that they contribute to the money-based system coming to an end. I’m not saying that money will cease to exist altogether but that it can’t go on just like this. According to Eisenstein, a possible alternative for our current economic thinking is the concept of the Gift Economy. I’m not saying it provides the rough-and-ready answer to each and every problem around the world but I think the concept as such is worthwhile to think it over.  Here’s a short video where Charles talks about Sacred Economics and the Gift Economy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EEZkQv25uEs

Of course, even trying to move away from our current practices and systems is anything but a smooth ride as I touched upon in my novel as well. (www.geerthofman.com/glass-dome) There are so many parties having so many vested interests in maintaining the status quo.  In another video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_JKOcb3UygA) of a conversation between international economist, James Quilligan and Charles Eisenstein, Quilligan makes a very interesting point: everything in our current economic system revolves around money. Hence, suggesting it’s time for something else would involve such a radical systemic transformation that makes clear to me that it is extremely unlikely to happen in a gradual process. The old rules are becoming obsolete but new rules are not in place yet. As a practical experiment I asked the employee in the local baker’s shop today under what conditions I could get my bread without paying money. ‘For free?’ she asked. ‘No, not for free,’ I answered. I might offer something else in return, perhaps even just my gratitude. That was, understandably, too much for her and she ended the conversation laughingly by saying her boss would fire her if she start giving bread away for free. A clear point that de-monetizing our society requires a total systemic approach as there are soooo many strings attached. Or some kind of violent upheaval.

So, to sum it up (there’s more to come), what I find fascinating about Charles Eistenstein’s work is that he shows one of the main causes for our current endemic crises and a way towards our new world.

What are your thoughts about this? Let us know, OK?

All Love and Blessings,

Geert

www.geerthofman.com

Preface ‘The Glass Dome’

 

Hey there!

Following some reactions on my previous blog, I thought it would good to publish the preface to my first novel (www.geerthofman.com/glass-dome). So….here it is! Again: this is not about me knowing what is going on and what exactly is awaiting us. I’d like us to engage in a meaningful conversation as to what wants to manifest throught these horrible events like the Aurora shooting etc. and regarding what all of us could do to prevent that suffering from happening.

Preface

 

These are interesting times. As I’m writing this [August 2011], we’ve witnessed the Arab spring, which has far from settled down, the earthquake in Japan with its devastating effects, countries on the brink of bankruptcy, Europe struggling to prevent the Eurozone from collapsing, there was the Oslo carnage and just recently the riots in various UK cities. Something of a rather large order seems to be going on, inviting us to take a step back, take a different look at who we are and to make different ways of living, of treating ourselves, each other and the planet possible. Nothing remains the same and what is going on could very well only be the beginning of even bigger changes.

 

As change is becoming more radical and occurring yet faster it is impacting all around the planet. With traditional sources for providing guidance losing their authority and therewith their relevance we’re left to ourselves to try to make sense of what is going on and of what apparently wants to happen. In order to find a justification for these changes, and to try to make sense of them, most will refer to sources from within the current reality, whether it’s science, religion, whatever. I’m pretty sure that trying to find satisfactory explanations within the current paradigm is going to be a challenge. Let alone that adequate solutions for the current challenges, these ongoing changes impose on us, can be found. You cannot steer a ship by looking at its wake. Whatever the source, it seems clear to a growing number of people that something is profoundly changing on the planet. I’m one of them.

 

These upcoming changes will have an effect on how we look upon ourselves, our relationships, our work, our societies, our planet, in short: upon how we have shaped our world. We will be sailing uncharted waters and whatever we have developed as practices over the past millennia will only be of limited help in setting out our next course. Individually and collectively we need to be able to connect to and mobilise other sources in order to successfully continue on our journey of development.

 

The story in this book has been written for all of you out there who sense there is something more to their lives than that you have been taught (and have learned) to believe ever since you were kids. Somehow this longing for this unknown is getting stronger in many people. You may see yourself faced with the question whether or not to heed this call and bring forward changes in your life that may lead to a radical change in the way you have been living up until now. Whether or not you decide to engage in this transformation is solely up to you. And the story has no intention whatsoever to persuade you in doing so. But since this calling gets stronger for many, so does the anxiety. Both individually and collectively. Why venture a giant leap into something completely unknown at the risk of leaving behind everything you attached so much value to? Or at least had gotten used to? Why leave behind a seemingly fulfilling life, which you have gained by learning how to play the game, through adapting to the context, often at the expense of yourself ? Why can the heart be so sure about what direction to take and why does the mind so persistently convince you not to do such a foolish thing? What are actually the stories you are telling yourself about yourself, about your relationships, about your career, about success, about your life, about leadership, about politics, about the world in general and how things go? And how well are they serving you?

 

The main intention of this story is to make you feel more comfortable with whatever really wants to manifest through you, with which you know deep inside you are connected. But from which you somehow shield yourself off. That’s why I’ve chosen to illustrate the journey of one individual. Again, it may be helpful to know that you are not the only one having those feelings. There’s an increasing number of people around the planet having similar feelings and looking for ways to deal with them knowing that no single person holds all the answers. So, I wish you happy reading with an open mind and, more importantly, with an open heart.

 

All Love and Blessings,

 

Geert

 

www.geerthofman.com