Towards a gift culture III

I'm discovering what the gift of life is. We are really! I hope to be able to talk about this coherently, because it has a lot of sacred madness. Best of all, it's not about getting better as a person, or convincing yourself to trust life more.

"We have to make a living", or is life a gift?

I have often said that "we have to make a living" is a cultural belief, and not necessarily a truth of life. However, being a belief adopted by the human soul, it is a powerful generator of external realities, including all of our economic institutions such as money, all of which reflect that and other internal beliefs (fundamentally the separate conception of life).

A gift hidden in everything. Even in death (Photo by Pablo Mardones)

The alternative truth I propose is that life is a gift.

It can be proposed in different ways.

(1) One way to propose it is that "life is a gift" is a divine truth. But that sounds like it was a higher truth, written over there on some Old Testament stone. That is, an external truth in which one would have to believe. But the only truth is internal.

(2) Another way of proposing it is to invite to connect with this essential aspect of the gift that is present in all that is universal in life. A great example is the Sun, a great giver of light, heat and vital energy. Another nearer example is the good friend lemon tree, always ready to give away an enormity of lemons always higher in number than you can share with family and friends. Another precious example is a spring of water giving away its purity.

(3) There is still another way to propose it. Simply to consider it one more belief, as absurd as to believe that life is to be earned. However, recognizing that there is freedom to believe your own belief. I like this thing about empowering yourself with your own belief. All in all, any belief is always going to have an absurd side. The good thing is that this piece of absurdity gifts us (worth the redundancy), the freedom to choose. "There is no evil that for good does not come". Hidden in every thing of life there is always a gift, it seems to me (haha, is this last one a belief too?).

Towards the culture of the gift

So the interesting thing is that by changing that belief, you can perfectly well shift our economy from conditional exchange to unconditional gift economics. After all, if we see (discover or decide, however) the gift in the very center of life, why should the rest of our economic relations be alien to that unconditional gift reality? That becomes the vision: an unconditional gift economy, where all our needs and talents are manifested, shared, given and received as gifts. From the sublime to the electricity bill. The distinction between sublime and mundane really disappears, do you see?

So far so good. In my personal work, I concluded: I'm going to give. I'm going to do work I do in the gift economy, as I said some years ago. On the one hand, what an honor to give. What a pleasurable thing it is to gift. You can totally include the spirit of the gift in anything, I found out.

Does the gift economy work?

And then... well, in short, it doesn't work so well, the gift economy. No. In fact, it does not work well at all according to our expectations and conventions. To the point that I came to write "The sincere decision to have plenty of money", moved by being exhausted from having thoughts about the lack of money in my life. From the point of view of cultural notions, and sincere comparisons, it has often been painful to feel that gifting is less valued in our culture than the institutional. The paradox is that even alternative activities do better if they are legitimized by the patriarchal system.

It's true, I went through anger and frustration with those situations. But I feel that they are being relieved. The more I get out of the schemes of right and wrong, life becomes a flow where the north is very clear: to be loyal to myself and my own vision. It is powerful and human. It is a gift. And... surprisingly I discover that it does work, only in a very different way.

Maybe it was me who gifted myself with gift economics.

The great barrier, the great brake to the gift is to feel that if one opens it, it will not be reciprocated. For example, when you meet someone who lives in the history and context of scarcity, and you say, "I give you unconditionally," that person will naturally (perhaps) feel relieved not to feel guilty, and instead of corresponding more, they will reciprocate less.

Why do we look at it like that? Why do I look at it like that? Because that has been my attitude toward others who have opened their generosity to me. I have been able to see a hurt part inside of me wanting to take from the generosity of others. And if that generosity opens up, the more my appetite opens up. That appetite is a pain, it can only be healed by opening it. It must be the pain of separation, of imagining yourself living separately with the responsibility (rather the titanic burden on our society) of surviving. And let there be no talk of providing abundance, gifts, joy for oneself and one's family.

Then as a society one becomes attached to that energy of guilt, and we choose to maintain the institutions of manipulation, control and conditional exchange. At the end of the day it is called commerce, where at least we reach an agreement so that manipulation and conditions are consensual.

But neither are we satisfied with a semi-conditional gift economy. I, at least, do not enjoy having expectations at all, in fact it makes me suffer. That "controlling a little" so that the other person gives me more money in exchange for my work.

The thing is that when you open the giving you open the receiving. And when you open the receiving you open the giving.

The gift that already is, is unconditional. Humanly, we are meeting with it. Humanly, that is to say, each one being as she is, human being. Otherwise we will never be satisfied because our gratitude would never be complete if the gift of life were not complete.

If our life were anything other than an unconditional gift; if the sun shone halfway, with a mediocre glow... That is to say, as long as there is doubt that the gift of life is a true gift, our own happiness will depend on external circumstances. We would never encounter our power.

We would never be satisfied with anything less than fullness, with a conditional gift. Just as we see the gift of life, so is our gift economy.

If one ended up, after all, believing-deciding-knowing that life is a gift, then what is the gift of life?

For me, the greatest gift of life is that everything is oneness.

I feel that the only sustainable economy is the economy of unconditional gift, economy that lives here and now in full harmony, in oneness with the conditions and fears and institutions of the patriarchal economy. There is a space, for example, where charging is a gift. And this, after saying it, I begin to discover even more deeply.

Sometimes, perhaps, you give when you ask for a gift. Right now I want to ask for a gift of money to dear friends of my youth and offer them a psychomagic theatrical conversation in Chile with my partner Diego: "The dialogue between economics and the heart". Ask for money that is emblem, that is to say: hey I have something that I really want to gift to you. That's why I ask you for money, that's why I charge you. So that it can be seen, so that I will be able to see it and you will be able to see it. The gift that is for me is therefore a gift for you because we are united.

The gift of charging

I feel, as other times, that what I say about the gift and charging (that the gift is possible in charging) I will understand it more once I do it. It's an emotional understanding that happens. It is investigating with the heart. How, in what way, does charging cease to be a condition and a manipulation of wanting something from another person? I don't fully know yet, but I will.

I would not like you to think that "everything is fine" with charging in a simplistic way: without a death, without a deconstruction. I am not interested in interpreting the exigency of adaptation to society (nor the excuse of feeling deserving).

What I already know is that the gift economy is possible here and now with all the external circumstances as they are, without depending on anything external. I also know that there is no issue of achieving the unconditional gift through self-improvement, "attaining greater virtue". Rather, the gift is opened in uniqueness with everything and inside the human being as one is, being loyal to oneself. As one is: needing security, needing conditions. For example, with attachment to the social institution of expectation: waiting for something in exchange for what one gives. Including all that is human, all of it, that has to be the way.

There is a hidden gift in everything.