|Painting by Alexi Berry|
economy - from Greek oikonomia, meaning household management.
On-Board Economics: Toward a Gift Economy
There is the world-at-large. And then there is the world-on-board. Two very different spheres.
In the greater world - like it or not - economics are reduced to matters of money and commodities. Like the old joke:
Me: Would you sleep with me for a million bucks?
You: Heck yeah!
Me: How about for twenty?
You: What do you take me for?
Me: That's been established, now we're just haggling over price.
This sad exchange resonates through every economic transaction we make Out There.
But aboard? This is - or I hope it is - an economy of a different order! Household management. Not based on money, but on gifts.
So what distinguishes a gift? Total lack of strings, especially the expectation that a gift will be given in return. And, in our opinion, gifts should be from the heart... providing their own satisfaction to the giver.
In a loving relationship, the urge to gift the other is strong. If that urge diminishes, the domestic economy slows, and indicates that counsel and/or change is in the wind.
Anke and I have three modes, and expect a fourth:
- Everyday Mode - Our home is safely harbored, and we have "no deeds to do, no promises to keep" (from 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin Groovy) by Simon & Garfunkle). In these times, we favor a state of Taoist anarchy.
We think of this as a Gift Economy. From each according to their mood; to each with gratitude. Neither of us have specific jobs or roles in the Gift Economy, and no gift incurs a debt (wouldn't be a gift, then, would it?). For chores, deals are struck according to mood, with gifting often playing a role.
And it's amazing how an exchange of gifts inspires more.
TIP: For multiple chores, we use a trick learned from the movie, The Man Who Would Be King... one partner divides in two, even heaps, and the other chooses the heap.
- Underway - Normally this is very similar to everyday mode, but archical... one of us is Captain at any given moment. Captain makes the decisions, mostly after consultation, and remains in charge until handing off the responsibility, or the anchor is securely down. Gifts still ebb and flow as conditions allow.
- Crisis Mode - Things are NOT groovy. We HAVE deeds to do and promises to keep. Manure hits the windmill.
Suddenly, we become Marxists under a Captain: From each according to their ability, to each according to their need. Gone are the small gifts, and much of the consultation. When the Captain says jump, the crew jumps.
And, so far, we've pulled through.
We find that, for ourselves, these three work far better than common alternatives. Father or Mother knows best. You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours. Tit for tat. Equal division of labor. Equivalent contribution. All of these seem so often to degrade into resentment.
It's possible that our free and easy ways work better without having children. But I'm not sure of this... we've been around and responsible for children for considerable periods, at times. They appear to bloom under this system. It's true that, in their case, the Gift Economy is faux - we adults have an underlying authority over minors that all are aware of - but if not abused, it seems not to be resented. Crisis Mode is a more frequent occurrence with kids involved, but generally short-lived.
It's certainly true that, as LINKs (Low Income, No Kids), we certainly have the luxury of time to work out the kinks!
As I mentioned, a fourth mode approaches:
- End Mode - Chronic, terminal crisis, when things aren't
going to get better. We've not yet faced this, between us, but it's
coming. This is when gifts potentially grow large and 'expensive'. Where the overt, mutual exchange may well falter on one end.
When a lifetime of gifting has been practiced, and now inspires the greatest of gifts.
We've seen this between others, and aspire to their grace.
|A couple of pretty good eggs|