Reframing Wealth as an Evolutionary Calling
of the Evolutionary
order for life to reorganize at a higher level, it needs to break
down and be woven into a new order. Concentrated wealth arose
from the fragmentation of nature and is a major resource for an
evolutionary leap to weave humankind and nature into a remarkable,
vibrant whole never before seen on Earth.
Human society has been nature's means of fragmenting itself
-- through resource extraction, transportation, language, borders,
individualism, anthropomorphism, jobs, mathematics, oppression,
analysis, medicine and more -- while at the same time providing
the means -- consciousness, concentrated wealth, holistic sciences,
generative conversations, new forms of interconnectedness, integral
wisdom, sustainable technologies and biomimicry -- to weave
a new whole, a new inclusive natural order. What some have viewed
as a disastrous mistake -- the industrial scientific era --
can be viewed instead as a developmental stage, not unlike adolescence,
for humanity collectively, and for Life, enroute to becoming
something greater together.
Wealth, science, individualism, and consumerism all play a part
in this larger dynamic -- this fragmenting of the world in preparation
for a new, more sophisticated wholeness. However, they have
reached their time of ripeness, when it is time to move on or
begin to rot. It is now time for these things to mature from
their fragmenting, isolating, dominating modes to their healing,
weaving, and transforming modes.
Our personal and collective decisions can trigger this transformation
at any time. Starting now, we face a choice -- individually
and collectively, moment to moment: Either we continue to create
and support systems that fragment Life for our individual and
group benefit OR we use the resources evolution
has given us -- including our accumulated wealth -- to heal
and transform ourselves and our world.
We can be -- and are now called to become -- far more conscious
and choiceful about our own evolution and the evolution of our
primary source of private wealth
people believe that private wealth comes from the value-added
labor and spirit -- innovation, creativity, intelligence, entrepreneurship,
commitment, competitive competence -- of people who then receive
their due portion of that wealth in reward for their part in its
creation. While this is very true in a narrow sense, the more
broadly we view it, the more we see a different story emerging.
If we honestly look at the big picture of profit and production,
we may be surprised to find that most private financial wealth
comes from activities and cultures that fragment the world, breaking
it apart to generate income and profit.
We will explore that big picture here.
much wealth would we have if we left the stored capital of nature
-- oil, minerals, topsoil, pure water, DNA, and all the rest --
just as it is -- or if we paid Nature for it? (It is enlightening
to reflect on what form of payment would suffice...) Notice how
we call these substances and patterns that required billions of
years to create "natural resources" -- real estate,
board feet, mines, property... Although we had little or nothing
to do with their creation, we act as if they were just there,
free for the taking, for us. We "discover" them, and
then take them.
more: How much wealth would we have if we couldn't assume
the creative, stable functioning of nature -- the services of
pollination and orderly genetic development, the vast cycles of
water and gasses, the familiar patterns of weather? We don't usually
think of these things, but more of us have begun to think of them
lately, as the weather becomes strange, as the bee colonies die,
as chemicals and radiation distort the genetic development of
animals and children, as rivers and aquifers dry. Not having to
care for all these things earlier -- investing resources
or restraining our profitable businesses and economic development
-- has enhanced our ability to accumulate wealth for generations. This
is becoming clear today, as Nature knocks at our door, demanding
payment on our overdue account.
Lesson 1: Tremendous wealth accumulates from breaking our bonds
with nature, breaking up the wholeness of nature, and acting as
if nature is merely the background for our play, resource for
our production, slave for our mastery.
story goes on: How much wealth would we have if ALL people
were supported in living healthy, self-defined lives that served
both their wellbeing and the common good, the commonwealth. Throughout
history, the labor, creativity, and lives of billions of people
have been used to generate massive private wealth of which most
participants received only a small part, if anything. Slaves,
women, people of color, tribal peoples, people who are not happy
with their jobs, underpaid laborers, consumers shopping to fill
an unfillable emptiness.... The life energy of all these people
has added -- and continues to add -- untold substance to the wealth
that exists today. Had it not been for their (usually unhappy,
sometimes unwitting) sacrifice, where would that wealth be? And
further wealth accumulates by transferring the costs of private
gain into the public realm -- what has come to be called "corporate
welfare", from subsidies to tax breaks to tax-supported wars
and toxic clean-ups -- while human needs go begging.
here's another part to it: money makes it so we don't need each
other: we can get what we want by ourselves. The more money we
have, the less we need to depend on anyone we don't pay. We see
this as freedom, and fail to see how it divides us from each other
and, given our deep need for communion, from ourselves.
Lesson 2: Tremendous wealth accumulates through the fragmentation
can also wonder: How much wealth would we have if all things
-- communities, lives, knowledge, organizations, cultures, natural
materials, organisms, and ecosystems -- were maintained in as
whole a condition as possible? To grasp this better, let us consider
what has happened to communities under the onslaught of individualism,
mass entertainment, the automobile, eminent domain, technology,
the global economy and so many other fragmenting forces. What
if the wholeness of communities was sacrosanct, and these abusive
centrifugal forces were taboo (as they are to a great extent among
the Amish and certain other communities)? What if the integrity
of ecosystems -- of mountains, rivers, forests, oceans, and the
needs of migrating birds, butterflies and whales -- were all sacrosanct
and could not be violated, dug into, polluted, blocked or broken?
How many fortunes would have never been made, just in this
we come to Lesson 3: Tremendous wealth accumulates through the
fragmentation of life, itself.
questions continue: How much wealth would we have if every
investment decision and every business or industrial activity
was judged primarily on the basis of its impact on future
generations? How much wealth accumulates simply by ignoring the
problems created by economic and technological activity and by
wanton waste that fouls the nest of our children -- and by delaying
the handling of these things as long as possible. The bumpersticker
on the RV says "We are spending our children's inheritance."
future generations aren't the only ones we exploit. How much wealth
would we have if we had to pay for the benefits we receive from
the wealth, knowledge, creativity, care and productivity of those
who came before us, whose life-energy is the foundation of our
lives? How much wealth would there be if these people hadn't gone
before us, and done what they did? What do we owe to their unfulfilled
dreams? We are embedded in a cultural matrix and dense web of
supports from our ancestors to which we -- especially the privileged
amongst us -- have such free access that most of us take it quite
Lesson 4: Tremendous wealth accumulates through breaking our bonds
with past and future generations and acting as if we did it all
ourselves and owe nothing to anybody.
don't we see this? How much wealth would we have if humanity
were fully aware of what is happening to us, of how the world
works, and about the roles we play -- individually and collectively
-- in what is happening? Mass obliviousness regarding these essential
facts of life is vital for the accumulation and concentration
of tremendous wealth, and for that accumulation to continue. Denial
about the full role of wealth in the world and in our
lives -- including the systematic obscuring of truths about the
roles of wealth and power from most of society and even denial
of the hidden losses generated by privilege on the privileged
as well as the oppressed. Also hidden is how the oppressed co-create
their oppression and possess their own forms of wealth and power
-- truths used by Gandhi and others to empower the powerless.
If all of us awoke to what was happening -- how our humanity
was being eroded and how powerful we really are -- we would all
rise up and change the world overnight. The accumulation of wealth
and degradation goes on in an awareness vaccuum, a virtual reality
divorced from deeper truths necessary for us all to live out a
full affirmation of our aliveness, individually and together.
Lesson 5 is harder to see, but perhaps the most important
of all: Tremendous wealth accumulates through the fragmentation
of our awareness -- individually and collectively -- especially
about our actual role and power in life.
finally, we need to ask how much wealth we would have if
our social systems and cultures supported all the wholeness we've
been talking about, and forbade all the fragmentation.
Wealth is not acquired, accumulated, and sustained all by itself,
without massive societal support. The profit-based money economy,
institutionalized injustice (from racism to low minimum wage),
powerholder control of media, distractive consumerism, status
quo structures and habits, the broader culture of control, competition,
hierarchy, and so many other things, all support this fragmentation
and channel the resources of nature and human communities toward
the accumulation of private wealth.
Thus we could say there is one more important lesson:
Lesson 6: Tremendous wealth accumulates through social institutions
that support the profitable fragmentation of life in all its forms.
we find ourselves beginning the 21st century with tremendous wealth
and tremendous fragmentation, intimately intertwined. And we find
it increasingly obvious that we are near the limits of both. Before
the wealth bubble bursts, it is time to turn that wealth to its
evolutionary task of healing and weaving a profound new wholeness
in our world. It is time for evolutionary leaps in the right direction.
A concentrated pool of resources has been evolving for centuries
to support those leaps. Just as concentrated fossil fuels were
destined to fuel the industrial era, so concentrated wealth has
been destined to fuel the transformation and conscious evolution
of the world.
usually provides access to an endless set of great things for
"me and mine," where "mine" is anyone and
anything I care about. To the extent I am wealthy, I have ready
access to enjoyment, education, comfort, possessions, novelty,
beauty, health, options, security, power, attention, service,
space, and more. Significantly, I also have access to more wealth.
And because such access is not available to everyone and I can
and usually do take much of it for granted, I have privilege.
of the most important blessings of wealth and privilege is greater
choice. And with choice comes responsibility -- responsibility
I may or may not welcome. Privilege can help me turn away from
responsibility, but it can also help me take it on and make a
significant difference. So what is involved in my choosing to
take an active role in the positive evolution of civilization
in the 21st century? And how could my wealth empower me as an
the things that privilege and weath can provide me if
I choose to actively participate in the conscious evolutionary
path are these:
time to learn, evolve, create and serve -- and to improve my
ability to do these things -- including waking up to the dynamics
of evolution and wholeness happening everywhere in and around
more independence from the systems and forces of fragmentation
so I can see the transformational path more clearly and have
time and attention to help the world move more elegantly and
compassionately down that path
to influence individuals, communities, targeted populations,
powerholders, and larger human and natural systems towards wholeness
through media, philanthropy, politics, education, the arts,
more ability to create contexts and opportunities to promote
healing, transformation, connection, and conscious evolution
at all levels, in all sectors
to empower people and organizations already fostering generative
conversations, conscious evolution, resilience and sustainability,
greater human potential, and the emergence of wisdom cultures
more time, access, and freedom to generate collective wisdom
with others on behalf of the whole.
doing such things I am consciously using my privilege
and wealth to transform the world
I align myself with the thrust of evolution towards consciousness
and wholeness in and around me, I become a force of nature. I
know that the wealth-power and privilege I have are not my own,
that Nature invested them in me on behalf of the future. For centuries
nature has used me, my associates, my ancestors, my species, to
split herself up into our man-made world and bring us to these
precarious edge-times where humanity now finds itself, filled
with promise and danger. And now is the historic moment in which
I use that same wealth-power to fire up this next great leap in
our collective evolution on behalf of life, so that humankind
and nature achieve a more profound level of wholeness and consciousness
together than has ever existed before on Earth.
mission is to participate actively and creatively in an emerging
natural-and-human wholeness that grows ever-more richly nuanced,
densely interwoven, infused with spirit and beauty, and vibrantly
alive with both chaos and order, action and rest, awareness and
mystery, inside and out -- a world becoming ever more conscious
of itself and more consciously evolving.
up to this mission involves a Great Turning in our own consciousness
and lives -- the realization that our wealth did not come to us
for our personal (fragmentary) benefit. We are the stewards of
this powerful tool that arose out of and contributed to Life's
sacrifice (fragmentation) enroute to Its greater reintegration.
Thus our wealth (which contains the life energy of the Whole)
came to us (as facets of the Whole) to empower the living reconfiguration
of the Whole into higher forms of organization and aliveness.
is a solemn, joyful, unprecedented journey that we undertake,
this challenge to thoroughly transform ourselves and our world.
We don't have to be "rich" to undertake it. The vast
majority of us in the developed world are "wealthy"
in this financial way, compared to the rest of the world -- and
the rest of us are wealthy in many other ways. We can all wake
up to this evolutionary reality and rise into this deeply meaningful
us give of ourselves and our wealth with due intelligence, elegance
and wisdom. Nothing less than the conscious dimension of Life
is at stake. For we are a profound experiment of Life testing
our minds and spirits as a way for the Universe to wake up to
itself. We are the evolution we have been hoping for. The calling
we feel is a reverberation of the first Great Radiance as it opened
up a universe of infinite possibilities...
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