A Life Worth Living

Hello Fellow Humans,

I’ve been thinking (yes, again!) and I’ve decided that if I think I have a good idea, well… I should share it. How else will I find out if it’s got traction?

It’s to do with our whole complex organization around life and business, business and creativity, business as a spiritual path that is strengthened by social justice (what?) and measured by everybody’s – yes everybody’s – joy.  I just said business three times in one sentence. That’s new. And I just completed a semester of teaching Creativity & Innovation for business, so I’m all fired up with the potential for positive change!

Business is such an important infrastructure to all our lives – whether voluntarily or by default – that if we can start to inject it with conscious awareness and positive intention, I think what’s possible goes beyond what we can even imagine in this moment. I suspect our potential is limitless. And that’s very exciting!

I invite you to read this, see what you think, and let’s talk! I’m writing, not as an expert, but as a human being. I want a better life for those who want it. For people’s basic needs to be met and I want happiness and environmental health to have economic value.

And, by the way, an economy, by definition, is not intrinsically linked to money… it is, amongst other things, ‘the [frugal] management of resources of a community…an organised system or method…the prosperity of a place.’* Quite wide open! With a focus on resources that defies singular specificity.

So maybe we can play with that a bit… what would make our approach to ‘economics’ holistic and positively impactful?

First Idea: Job Sharing.

Working hard has this ‘ring’ to it that seems to elicit pride. And I do like to work hard but I also like to contemplate, walk in nature and play. Given that we are all probably in need of more personal time, and more play/nature time, if we job shared, we not only give ourselves more of that but we give someone else a chance to have work, and some income too, should they require it. If two or more shared one job then this idea could sustain people having at least 50%-65% more of their year for themselves and their families.

Second Idea: Consider phasing out money as the currency and switching to ‘time for time’ instead.

If we used hours for hours as the basis of our economy, and we all contribute a certain number of hours/wk, or per year, we could figure it as a credit system i.e. value our time itself, not what we do with it (just a thought!). There are 8,760 hours in a 365 day year, and right now, in a 50hr work week we spend 2,450hrs at work/yr (assuming 3wks holiday/yr), 2,184 sleeping (averaged 6hrs/night) 735hrs/year commuting (averaged 15hrs/wk). That leaves us with 3,391 hours which we apparently have to ourselves. But do we? For many their wages are low enough to warrant two or three part-time jobs and for others they can’t even get one job (in UK, average stable unemployment rate is 7.8%** of population and in USA it is 7.7%*** ) whilst there are still others who don’t get clear breaks from the role of parenting, which is a full time responsibility. And remember, at the moment, the stuff that we don’t do for money is not included in the exalted GDP (more about that little monster later!).

If we keep the idea of money, then what if we put a cap on how much we each earn and excess of that goes into a (shared?) pool that we draw on to finance the larger amount of time we are now having to ourselves and our families from our job sharing?

[Please see ADDENDUM at bottom of article for an additional thought on how this Second Idea relates to population growth and distribution of wealth]

Third Idea: Update our idea of ‘growth’ away from size and towards quality.

We currently measure growth as something that ‘gets bigger’ (i.e. counting quantitive profit margins and # of plant/office locations opened/yr.) but we could measure it by its qualitative improvements and contributions to our overall quality of life, i.e. what is it providing to humans and other species, and is it doing a good job? And how do we measure that? Well, we could look at quality of service/product, relevance to people’s genuine happiness, environmental sustainability, marriages & civil unions (rather than divorce which seriously boosts the economy with all the fallout costs that come with it), civic health, how we’re boosting and benefiting from our creative intelligence and increases in caring… all as a general shift from a ‘grab economy’ to a ‘share economy’.

To help with this idea, you can read about General Progress Indicator (GPI) in the following Atlantic Monthly edition (which measures the complex intricacies of life as an interconnected, felt and lived, experience in relation to family living and business), and consider Bolivia’s move towards a Happiness Index and maybe ask yourself; would I like that? “If The Economy is Up, Why is America Down?” – Atlantic Monthly GDP/GPI Article.

After I read this article, I found myself conscious of the idea that perhaps GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is not the greatest measure of wealth (yes, just a little irony in there!) as all it does is add up all monies spent in an economy over a period of time. For example here’s a GDP line of thought: “war spending = more money spent = economy is up = good”.  In this instance GDP is measuring our capacity for death-making, and for creating such, en masse, as a sign of a positive economy. That’s not a measuring system I feel I can genuinely be proud of. At all. And I don’t see it as a sign of progress even though the economy may measure it as such. In other words, GDP does not measure our standard of living, nor our evolutionary progress. Is it possible that we can adjust our measurement of the economy to part of a greater whole? A standard that includes dignity, reverence for life and the state of our resources?

Fourth Idea: Sharing resources; don’t presume to own them but do treasure them.

We don’t exactly know how we came to be here and yet, here we are. Native Americans are known for thinking seven generations into the future. Humans of a different cultural orientation seem to have imported the idea that the piece of paper that says ‘I own this piece of land’ is synonymous with actually owning this piece of land – but they are two different things. One is an idea that forms part of the economy and one is an actual living entity that can only belong to itself or, if it of religious persuasion, perhaps to its maker! And on that subject (of belonging to oneself)…

Let’s remember Water… that is fast becoming the next resource that we need to love and protect.  As an entity, it belongs to itself, its system, to the Planet, and yet we ALL are recipients of clean drinking water as a resource to keep us alive, to stimulate growth and health – how lucky is that! For us to protect that ability for all sentient life means addressing issues of how business manufacture, mine and pollute. Pollution is an unaffordable and careless business practice – a lack of care that is harming the planet and our collective imagination.

I think we pride ourselves on our capacity to protect and honour so, when we fail to do that, we feel shame. Weirdly, shame leads to ‘bad’ behaviour (let’s not even go into cruelty of – and in – factory farming that we see such sickening examples of in hidden camera footage – this article is long enough! I’m so sorry for that).

Fifth Idea: Build community around Food – go SMALL again & invest in Local Organic Farming & Crop Rotation (healthy soil is the ‘root’ of our system – excuse the pun – and could be the physical equal to consciousness itself)

Er… sorry, I thought we were talking about business and work, new frontier, new paradigms etc., so… farming? Well, food is our fuel and industrialised farming is a remarkably unintelligent business! And, like all business that gets so big it becomes a monopoly, it ruins local culture and community, which thrives on intimacy. We need to treasure the intimacy of foodAnd it has very convoluted federal & corporate relationships to water rights and chemical usage in USA – and this on things we put in our collective mouths and bodies! And the air that we all breathe!   So, I propose we shift government subsidies away from chemical farming, to organic farming… make it cost efficient and affordable. Let the monetary cost accurately reflect the systemic cost! In fact, how about we stop calling toxic farming ‘conventional’ and GMO products ‘natural’?  So, yes, I support clear labeling of all products (for those left guessing!). Help the soil regain its composure (in all senses of the word!). And, you could watch the documentary ‘Dirt!’ for more info. Really enjoyed it. Also, the title link for crop rotation will share how even NY Times sees the need for a shift here. Healthy soil = healthy plants = healthy people (which, btw, would lead to a spectacular economy if it was evaluated by health rather than by money spent on unhealthy living i.e. hospital visits/drugs etc.).

I’ve studied a lot about saving seeds this semester, seeing the seed-saving bank at Kew Gardens, London, and Vandana Shiva’s Navdanya in India and also Seed Savers in Iowa. Too many farmers are committing suicide over the right to grow their own produce and over lawsuits induced by ‘Monstrous Monsanto‘ (!) who seem to have mistaken themselves for a character from a Bond movie, wanting to take over the world.

Of course, it wouldn’t hurt for the FDA (USA Food and Drug Administration) to have leadership without conflicts of interest, in order to make decisions that are more practical and healthy around GMO and bio-technology regarding our food, i.e. GMO foods are not safe to eat, they can cause – amongst other things – cancer. And, right now in Kansas a company called Ventria Bioscience is growing experimental rice which has human genes in it (I kid you not!). Is it just me or is that a little… um… ‘off’? Also, our diversity in food is what gives us a chance to survive in a blight where homogeneity will lead to a wipe out of food supplies. Michael Pollen covers this in his many books – one you might like “In Defence of Food” and you can also check out Food Inc.– another great documentary!

Also, I’d like to ask our governments to have a role in planetary food sharing and food waste reduction in restaurants and grocery stores. There is enough food – and we have the ability to share it in well-organized ways. We have the intelligence (and yes, we have the technology)! And this, by the way, really does link to our health & wellbeing… so here’s

Fifth.5 Idea: Care about our Health. All of our health.

Business booms in pharmaceutical heaven when countries impose ‘super-expensive’ (in oh so many ways, with all their dramatic and somewhat comical side effects! Check out this list from a print ad for Xanax – it’s hysterical!) synthetic chemical drugs and ban communities use of locally farmed and created medicines. I’m looking around the world for how other countries deal with healthcare – I grew up in UK and health was assumed as a community concern. We don’t have to think ‘money and debt’ when we break a leg or think we’re dying of food poisoning, or if we get cancer, or have a child born with a disability – our community approach means we cooperate, we exist in a cooperative system. This is missing in USA and with it humans suffer a loss of dignity and security. This is not good. [And, on a side note, I think it does have an influence on crime levels – I think we become more susceptible to our ‘dark side’ if we live in constant fear of not having enough cashola to meet our basic needs – it’s common sense to adjust to your conditions]. I’ve heard that Israel has a good combination of the socialised and private systems; affordable, clean and reliable… does anyone reading have info on that? (please share in comments below)

Sixth Idea: Think ‘Future’… NOW.

So, now we’re thinking about the gifts of our planet and recognising their innate rights as independent, free-living beings, and simultaneously as elements that we enjoy and need as resources, intelligence prevails upon us to protect that which we have. A great example would be to ban PLANNED OBSOLESCENCE. If a lightbulb is capable of lasting 2,500 hrs, then don’t redesign it to last for only 1,000! Don’t squander earths resources in search of short-term gold. In 1920’s a cartel of business people got together to reconfigure how to make products that would break easier, last a shorter period of time, just to train people to become profit-generating ‘consumers’. Consider watching The Century of The Self (a 2002 BBC documentary that tracks the life and influence of Edward Bernays, Freud’s nephew, who invented Public Relations – aka Propaganda in war-torn Europe, literally a name change there, by Bernays – and prided himself on his co-development of the relationship between Wall Street, Corporations and Media, leading to the birth of ‘The Consumer’ – yes, that’d be us). Also, for the sake of thinking future now, we could learn to avoid using petroleum as the basis for products that we throw away within minutes or hours – and use plant-based materials instead; saving the depleting ancient energy source of oil, that takes millennia to develop, for the task of adapting our own infrastructures and systems to solar, wind, hydro, etc… (see Bag it! & ‘A Crude Awakening’ documentaries for more info).

Seventh Idea:  Shift the legal structure to enable humans to be guided toward Nature-Safe choices in business and home.

In other words, relieve the pressure to ‘do bad’ in order to ‘do good’ in business. This process is already in place in some countries (Bolivia) and in UK we are lucky enough to have scottish-born lawyer Polly Higgins who decided, one day, to make Earth her client.  She, and her team, are working to make the corporate bottom line legally bound to ecological health & protection thereby reducing the legal pressure for corporations to ‘only and primarily’ focus on fiscal wealth. She has reintroduced the term Ecocide and founded an intention ‘Eradicating Ecocide‘ to facilitate this. It is UN level legislation, a simple but impactful amendment to an existing bill that focuses on crimes against peace (making Ecocide the fifth crime against peace), and totally worth our time to support fiscally and perhaps even with some of your time, just spreading the word. As a global measure this makes life a lot easier for environmental activists and environmentally aware groups like Sierra Club and Greenpeace to bring justice to our trees, lands, oceans and birds, etc.

I personally don’t think there is a more important piece of legislation that needs our attention or that we’d do better to support in any ways that we can (this is where our creativity can come in too… I started The Arts For Earth and instigated a public arts campaign for people to flash mob ‘Be A Tree!‘ in support of rising awareness of our natural earth’s needs and how they are linked to our own)

Eighth Idea: Recognize the ‘people’ in other species and the elements.

I chat with trees, mountains, oceans, wind, creeks, animals, cracks in the road, rocks. To me, because it’s all alive, I listen and feel all these elements, and thereby receive so much love and wisdom. Nature is intelligent beyond words. Life is intelligent. If we cannot speak its various languages, we must learn how to feel the relationship, the interconnectedness, for our soul’s sanity lies therein. Without our ‘natural connections’ our minds explode with a certain kind of neurotic overwhelm of responsibility. We can be with our aliveness – it is not merely a source of triumph, but of joy. You could always visit my blog ‘Why shouldn’t we blow up Mountains? for more thinking on the sentience of life 🙂

Ninth Idea: Be Creative! Be Intelligent! Innovate!

I’ve found that life becomes interesting when we become interesting and solutions become available when we become intelligent. It’s really a win-win system. Such is the glory of living systems! So, what does it mean – or require of us – to be creative? Well, it begins with becoming open-minded, adopting beginner’s mind (humility before progress), becoming playful, curious and receptive, allowing all ideas to present themselves from a place of deep-listening (i.e. don’t judge, just listen!), feel the energetics of your body and ask yourself ‘is this a new idea?‘ And, if you don’t know where it comes from… that’s a good sign! Being intelligent is a wonderful synthesis, a dance, between different parts of ourselves… our capacity for logic, for imagination, for communication, association (joining the dots), leaps of faith, finding patterns, being intuitive and being emotionally present.

Businesses have discovered so many ways to create novelty, to go beyond the limitations of the past and innovations can happen in the blink of an eye, in fact, that’s exactly how they do happen. Quickly. After many, many hours of focused contemplation and consideration. There’s a certain teleology that happens at this point, where our thinking gets lifted up and beyond ourselves to some future point that knows what will work. This is business as collaboration, with the future.

For inspiration, check out Magnus Larsson’s idea for building a wall across the Sahara – it’s phenomenal and exciting (and not at all what you’d expect). Really, if you ever need some inspiration, just go and visit TED.com.

Tenth Idea: Fall in love. With everything… be at Peace

This is not necessarily as hard as media would have us believe – especially if we choose to simplify our lives! For example, I’m not at war… are you? I hear people on the news (well, when I used to watch it) talk about countries being at war and rarely about being at peace. I always found that strange. It’s not actually logical to cite one over the other to such extremes. And, to be honest, I can’t believe I’m here (as in ‘alive’)… can you??!  We can choose to let go of thwarting life-perceptions, we can choose to accept and love ourselves (no, it’s not sappy, it’s actually an act of great courage, to stand in the face of all you heard as a child about what you could and couldn’t do and decide to go find out for yourself), we can rely on each other to carry us when we’re down, or weak. We can relaaaaax.  We are trustworthy. We care. We breathe. Happy people = happy planet. Happy planet = happy people. So let’s fall in love… consciously.

And, by the way, the amount of money it costs to ‘go to war’ (did you know some people think it creates social status to be able to afford to go to war? Yes, I know it’s odd, but some people dress up and go to cocktail parties to purchase their next fighter jet. Bit weird.) could fix the social problems we have in a heartbeat. And, in a 24 hour period, our hearts beat 72,000-144,000 times. That’s a lot of children that could be fed, a lot of schools that could be built, a lot of happiness that we could be spreading.

And, by the way, this thinking is all so doable. It isn’t naive to expect better from ourselves as a crazy complexity of creativity & intelligence! So, if you’re feeling cynical, please don’t mistake that for wisdom, it might just mean that you’re afraid of happiness, afraid of knowing how to best contribute. And we can fix that… together. You can talk to me – let me help. These aren’t just pretty words, this is real. Let’s find out what’s possible and let’s go beyond that!

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Caring about each other not only serves to alleviate the shame of where we may have gotten it wrong in the past, but you can use it as a spiritual practice. Being sensitive and intelligent at work is an extension of that. Being honest and transparent are keys to courage, and courage is a path to fulfilment. Business requires courage of that nature and, as in any relationship, it requires sensitivity, systemic (consequential) thinking, futuring, practical common sense, humility, consideration, patience, imagination, the ability to listen, to care and to plan. In short, business is a spiritual practice because it is a relationship – it has edges, painful moments, mistakes, limiting behaviour, challenges and triumphs and, as in any relationship, in order to be sustainable and of real value to its community, it requires the courage to collaborate, to admit to vulnerability, to ask for help, to be co-operative and, perhaps most importantly, to hold beginner’s mind alongside wisdom, to feel for the modicum of humility that anything with the potential to really affect people’s lives, genuinely needs. So yes, it is time for business to grow; however, no longer in size, but in self-perception. Our evolution is the evolution.

Perhaps you can share some of these ideas with a business near you? Let’s practice bringing integrity back into business to the same level we expect of ourselves in all our daily relationships. Therein lies our physical, psychic and emotional freedom, as a Creative Collective. Let’s make sure everyone is taken care of, joyfully.

We are so capable.

Thanks for reading!

Psst!… And, if you want help clarifying and refining some of your own ideas for how to have a positive impact on your own world, visit www.clarehedin.com or contact me directly @ clare@clarehedin.com and I will help you identify your unique strengths and how to turn your own passions into a life path that matters. Let’s engage!

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ADDENDUM 8 Jan 2013: Second Idea
If we continue to use money as our currency of exchange, we will have to keep printing more of it in order for each person to have access to it, rendering it less and less valuable, given that we live on a resource-fixed planet. So, if we chose to phase out money and switch to a time for time system, we avoid the issue of loss of value and, instead, as the population increases, we actually have more people to share the number of hours needed. We do, however, need to find a way to recycle resources above all else, as they cannot grow along with our population.