What the heck is a gift economy, anyway?
This has long been a terrifying prospect for me, but I have finally decided to offer acupuncture treatments based on a gift economy model. Contrary to my husband's initial beliefs, this doesn't mean I will just be offering acupuncture in exchange for endless homemade cookies and jars of sauerkraut (although I really do love and appreciate both of these).
The term "gift economy" is often confused with a barter system, in which goods and services are traded directly without the use of a medium of exchange such as cash money. They are two different things, however - a gift economy has less to do with the direct exchange of goods and services, and more to do with creating relationships. With creating community. With creating inter-dependence, a network of support and mutual aid.
It is the antidote to separation, to isolation, to the concept of a fundamentally indifferent world.
Which of the most important things in our lives have we actually earned?
Did we earn our friends and family? Did we earn our existence? Do we earn friendship and love?
Life is a gift. And a natural response to a gift is gratitude.
I am grateful - especially for the people who support and surround me.
Security doesn't come from stacks of money in the bank - security comes from having good humans around us. We need each other - especially when disaster strikes, when the unexpected occurs, when life gets in the way.
The commodification of health and healing has never sat well with me. I understand that my education and training and experience have monetary value, I know well how many thousands of dollars I spend each year on insurance and licensing fees and continuing education and treatment supplies. I am quite aware that I live in the real world and do need some actual money to pay bills and to survive.
But I am also ready to trust. To trust that I can offer a treatment as a gift. To trust that each person can assign a value to what they receive. A value that really works for them. To trust that regardless if they're in a position to offer more or less money back to me, they will be fed by the experience.
And a fed human can in turn help others. Can feed and support their own communities and networks.
I don't know if or how this is all going to work out. But I am curious and hopeful indeed.
Thoughts, feedback, advice on this mode of "commerce"?
I'd love to hear from you.
Keen to read more?
Charles Eisenstein is a very brilliant man who has written many clever things about gift economies here.
My (somewhat) poetic musings on the topic are here.