I Am On A Role…
and a roll…when it comes to writing the future of a gift society. Remember Fuller Banks, a character in my novel The Potluck? For those of you who have not read or don’t recall earlier posts containing excerpts from this book, Fuller is a financier who brings the expensive Russian caviar to a gathering of spiritual adventurers. Later, he explains why he was invited to join that group, “I would say that it’s because I am a rich man, and I view that as a blessing. And blessings are spiritual, aren’t they? It makes me happy to give people gifts that they can’t afford for themselves. I do occasionally help people in need, but it makes me a lot happier to give some ordinary person an unexpected luxury item. Something that gives them pleasure.”
So is that a perfect example of what happens in a gift economy or what?! I am continually amazed at what I wrote in that book and how so much of it was leading me to this specific future that I am now living as a present (double entendre totally intended).
Like Fuller, Eisenstein has a similar impulse to give his gifts to those who will find them exciting. While Fuller’s gift is money, Eisenstein’s is an understanding of sacred economics, and although his book Sacred Economics can be purchased as a print or e-book from various sources, including bookstores, it is also available for free: Read Sacred Economics Online. And, as he explains in his author’s note of the print version, readers are allowed to gift it as well: “In order to align principles with action, the publisher and I have chosen a creative commons copyright which allows you to freely share this book for any non-commercial purpose. That means you can photocopy material from the book, put it on your blog, and so forth, as long as you don’t sell it or use it to carry advertising.” At the same time he wants people to respect his unique contribution to the commonwealth: “We also ask that you provide attribution, in order that people who want to find more of my work can do so.”
Wow! Isn’t that just the coolest example of walking the talk ever? And that’s not all. Eisenstein also humbly gives credit to those who paved his way: “Standing atop the shoulders of thinkers far more illustrious than myself, I absorb, digest, and transmit ideas from our cultural commons. Such is the gift I have received and from which I give in turn. That is why I cannot, in good conscience, consider myself the morally legitimate owner of these ideas. Thankfully, my publisher has had the courage to explore a new model of handling intellectual property. I look forward to the day when artists no longer need to maintain, through intellectual property laws, an artificial scarcity of their work, yet still receive abundant returns borne of the gratitude of those who receive it.”
In that context of abundant returns, Eisenstein suggests that readers can offer their own gifts of gratitude as a pay-it-back to the giver. On his website is a donation page where readers can send him a monetary gift in an amount that indicates how valuable his gift is: charleseisenstein.net/gift/. As he so wisely observes, not everyone gets the same value out of a book–or a gift of any kind–so one person may pay nothing while another gives $1,000.
I am now motivated to put some of these concepts into play with my own book by offering my own free version online. Thanks, Charles!