Tuesday, March 19, 2013

#118 Serenity?

Dear all,
    It's that magical time of the year (at least in my part of the world) where spring is teasing us.  The weather has been very cold and sleety, but the buds are beginning to swell, and I feel a tantalizing mixture of impatience and confidence in the outcome.
    This month I reflect on serenity, resignation and courage, suggest the possibility of negative interest, and once again offer several things that give me hope.  Happy reading!


God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

I’ve always liked this advice, but recently I’ve found myself wondering about the overlap between serenity and resignation.  Some things are clearly and simply unchangeable.  The sky can be gray.  Winter follows fall.  Loss is painful—and deep loss is deeply painful.  We all age.  Accidents happen.  We can’t change these things, yet some may require courage to face, and our greatest peace will come from facing the hard parts square on.

Desmond Tutu has spoken powerfully about the past as unchangeable: “There can be no peace without reconciliation, no reconciliation without forgiveness, no forgiveness without giving up all hope for a better past.”  How can we accept the past serenely, without projecting it into the present and the future? There are historic realities that needs to be acknowledged, possibly with serenity. People who have been hurt themselves, for example, often hurt others. The tendrils of the past do indeed entangle us.  But there is courage involved in imagining the possibility that the chain can be broken.  Although there are good reasons why I resigned myself early to a life of lonely self-sufficiency, that resignation does not serve me well in the present, and I have to believe I can change.

Other things seem unchangeable because they are so big.  Racism has dug its roots deep into society, pervading and degrading everyone’s life.  Our economic system, based on greed, no longer serves the wellbeing of our communities.  Big-power foreign policy distorts the priorities of smaller countries all over the world.  Climate change disproportionately impacts the poor.  Our culture is debased by a relentless focus on sex, violence, novelty and consumption.

Do we accept these realities with serenity?  Acceptance might seem easier to live with than a sense of failure, frustration or outrage, and constantly railing against things that are too big to change certainly does not make for a life of grace. 

Yet they are not right, and I just can’t see accepting them serenely.  Rather than tucking them away out of sight, as unfortunate but unchangeable, somehow we need to hold them clearly in front of us.  Our attention may not be on them all the time, but if they are in our sight, if we have decided that we care, if we have a vision of how we wish things to be different, then opportunities will present themselves.  We will make a different choice about a conversation, or a friend, or a purchase, or the use of an evening, or even the thoughts inside our head.  We will turn our lives in the direction of what we long for in this world—and things will change.

Ultimately I do believe that we need the wisdom to know the difference.  Let’s reach for serenity in the face of the truly unchangeable.  But let’s also assume that much of what we face in the present, both inside of us and in the world all around, is full of the seeds of change, just calling for more imagination and courage than we know we have.

Dare to imagine:  A new economy is possible!
Negative Interest

In a negative interest system, or “demurrage”, the value of money depreciates in value--or decays--as it ages. 

The best-known example was instituted in the town of Worgl, Austria, in 1932. To remain valid, each piece of this locally-issued currency required a monthly stamp costing 1% of its face value. Instead of generating interest and growing, accumulation of wealth became a burden—much like possessions are a burden to the nomadic hunter-gatherer. People therefore spent their income quickly, generating intense economic activity in the town. The unemployment rate plummeted even as the rest of the country slipped into a deepening depression; public works were completed, and prosperity continued until the Worgl currency was outlawed in 1933 at the behest of a threatened central bank.

With demurrage, money as a medium of exchange is decoupled from money as a store of value. No longer is money an exception to the universal tendency in nature toward rust, mold, rot and decay—that is, toward the recycling of resources. No longer does money perpetuate a human realm separate from nature.

From:  Charles Eisenstein, http://www.ascentofhumanity.com/chapter7-2.php

Some things (and people) that have made me hopeful recently:

Our new Pope, Francis I, and his commitment to the poor of this earth.

Pennsylvania becoming the 12th state in the country to authorize the creation of a new type of corporation, the benefit corporation, providing a choice for businesses to pursue a triple bottom line: people, planet and profits.

An event that a friend of mine organized in our neighborhood, Honoring Our Elders, where eight older men and women from the community were honored in a heartwarming celebration of diversity, tenacity and wisdom.

Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, who now runs a foundation on climate justice, and whose competent, steadfast and open-hearted commitment to women and the poor is a beacon of hope.

More resources:

NEW:  Check out my friend Daniel Hunter's new book, a narrative of direct action campaigning:  Strategy & Soul: A Campaigner's Tale of Fighting Billionaires, Corrupt Officials, and Philadelphia Casinos:  www.strategyandsoul.org
Muscle Building for Peace and Justice; a Non-Violent Workout Routine for the 21st Century--an integration of much of my experience and thinking over the years:  doingdemocracy.com/MB4PnJ02.htm

faitheconomyecology.wordpress.com, a website that I've contributed to often (check the archives)

www.ourchildrenourselves.org, a home for all the parenting
writing I've done over the past 20 years.

www.startguide.org. START: a way to study and work together with
others to create a better world.

For earlier columns, go to www.pamelascolumn.blogspot.com.

My favorite magazine:  YES! Magazine reframes the biggest problems of our time in terms of their solutions. Online and in print, they outline a path forward with in-depth analysis, tools for citizen engagement, and stories about real people working for a better world:  www.yesmagazine.org.   


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