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Jean Francois Noubel: The Currency of Gratitude
The Currency of Gratitude - with Jean Francois Noubel
Our Forest Farmers call this week is with Jean Francois Noubel (“JF”). JF is somewhat of a “new paradigm’ renunciate - leaving his former mainstream life as the co-founder of AOL France to fully explore a life without attachment to traditional socioeconomic institutions and practices, instead living as much as possible by attunement to inner wisdom, passion, and guidance. Yet, possessing almost no personal monetary wealth or material resources, JF manages to serve as a consultant to institutional leaders and spokesman for authentic living to audiences worldwide.
JF is interviewed by Birju Pandya (BP).
[Note: the following is not a literal transcript but a summarized interpretation of the discussion.]
BP: What are you most passionate about?
JF responds that his main focus is simply upon “being” - always attempting to connect with his own inner essence, “what is alive in me”, and to express that through conversation, writing, art, and other forms. This is done without intentional longer-term planning, but simply moment-by-moment inner guidance.
In this context, JF disavows the importance of external values, morals, or codes of conduct - rather, trusting inner wisdom to naturally guide action in the moment. This creates a symbiotic relationship between the internal and external realms.
JF mentions two words for “power” in French: puissance and pouvoir. The first refers somewhat to cosmic power, when one is linked to authentic being. The latter is more about control in the conventional social or political context. The latter is not needed when one is well attuned to the former.
BP: Can you speak about collective intelligence?
JF: It is essentially a property of social, collaborative living. It’s exhibited in many contexts, from ants, the cells in one’s body, on up to corporate structures. It occurs when the group entity acts as an integrated or coordinated whole. At that point, the collective really has its own consciousness.
BP: How do we bring this into the world?
JF: First it’s about observing, noting a sense of wholeness - a collective entity that one contributes to and is sustained by. It’s done as a discipline. To begin with, observe four types of collective intelligence:
1) Swarm: an collection of entities that may share a common motivation - bees seeking nectar, traffic commuters going to work. But there is no external coordination.
2) Original collective intelligence: a smaller group of people who are aware of acting together - a tribe, a work team. The small size is necessary so that each member can be aware of all other member’s participation.
3) Pyramidal: a larger group, organized hierarchically in a top-down, command-and-control fashion. This involves a small number of leaders directing a larger group of follower. The structure and function is generally enforced by some sort of “currency”, which is kept scarce to ensure compliance.
4) Holomidal: a large-scale but “flat” (non-hierarchical) structure - a “cloud” of participants - networks and the Internet being an example. This sort of entity cannot function with a scarce currency.
B: Can you expand on the ramifications of these?
JF: Original and Pyramidal are the common forms to date. The difference between Pyramidal and Holomidal is that the former is about top-down command and control. It requires a pool of predictable laborers - and so ends up conditioning people to become proficient at *doing*, while disincentivizing *being* (which threatens order and predictability). The result is a highly efficient workforce, but one where people are out of touch with their being. This further results in an inability to attend to complexity and to whole-systems (“Big Picture”) issues.
Yet not to despair. The end-state of such systems provides the “bricks” for constructing the next paradigm. For example, computers and the Internet were designed to increase efficiency under the Pyramidal system - yet this is now giving birth to the Holomidal paradigm.
BP: Please share about “Transitioners” and using technology to leverage our power.
JF: One main way is through the creation of new currency systems. Conventional money is a product of the Pyramidal system, which has built-in scarcity. JF describes the board game “Monopoly” - which was originally designed by a Quaker woman to illustrate how the economic system is unsustainable. It inevitably leads to “collective death”. That is, all but one are “losers”, and even the “winner” cannot survive in a society where everyone else has been excluded.
Yet perversely, modern society has missed this message and instead essentially taken the rules of the game as the proper model for conducting economic society. JF’s great passion is about designing alternatives to this.
BP: Is there a form of transaction that is better than money?
JF: Language often leads us into an ontological trap. JF objects to the term “transaction” in this context as it reduces understanding to a material exchange. Real wealth - all the things we experience together - is so much more than that. JF reframes the discussion to the quality of the experiences we have in the world and with each other. Though these may be difficult to commodify, to the extent that they can be quantified or acknowledged in some way before the larger community, other forms of wealth can be disseminated and shared. (JF refers to this as “acknowledgeable wealth”.) For example, a simple acknowledgement or compliment to another can be written up and posted on a public forum, thereby “sharing the wealth”. Mere transactional wealth leaves all of this aside. This is where we can evolve.
BP: Are there other areas where words are limiting us?
JF: “Ontological jails” - the way we describe things can keep us trapped, or prevent us from acknowledging certain things. A judgment on others doesn’t acknowledge one’s own internal process that led to that response. This is a deficit of conventional language.
“Thingification”. When we objectify events and phenomena, that action often diminishes our experience of them. It takes us our of the whole [dynamic flow] and separates “subject” from “object”. Also so with labels. For example, the label “homeless” is a one-dimensional view of a person or persons who are so much more.
Similarly, JF eschews formal roles and titles. (Though these might be utilized later, after authentic connection has been established.)
JF suggests that we read the Wikipedia entry on “E-Prime”. This is an exercise in using (in this case) the English language without using the verb “to be” (i.e. “I am”, “He is”, “They are”).
BP: Changing topics, you live by the motto “Live life in the offering.” Can you give a deeper definition and say more about “why”? Also say more about the problem of doing good according to a predefined plan or goal.
JF: The problem lies in objecting to something in the world, then trying to address it through the world’s conventional structures. Money is an example - those who want to do good in the world are often hampered by the need to work through the conventional scarce monetary structures. JF doesn’t necessarily condemn this, but wants to explore working through different rules. For example, he personally took the position “I don’t want to use money anymore [with its attendant problems].” How then do I do that? For one thing, JF changed his dietary habits to those that minimize violence against others and the planet. Dietarily then, he tends to focus on fruits and raw foods.
BP: How do you survive without a paycheck? How do you provide for basic needs - care for your son?
JF: Until the larger system evolves sufficiently, I still use conventional money of course. Yet I’ve changed my attitude to the effect that I’m not “selling” things. For example, when consulting with a CEO, we explore whether our visions align. At some point the discussion turns to what do I “want”? I want to help and for us to have fun doing so - and along the way it becomes apparent what is needed to enable that to happen.
JF carries little cash (16 Euros), but finds that others step in to enable his efforts. Even with his son, someone has offered to pay his tuition.
- Interview Portion Ends -
QUESTION & ANSWER
- How can we de-program our pyramidal thinking?
JF: We need to be patient. Major changes - like the discovery of flight - happen incrementally. In addition, there are smaller steps we can do within ourselves. Trust your “blissipline” - i.e. what we are attracted to as a next step. Paraphrasing a Buddha quote: “Leave ‘duty’ behind and act from your inner guide.”
- How might I support my good work by doing my conventional work - e.g. raising prices?
JF: We tend to be split in two - paycheck versus being. Consider simply stopping doing that which doesn’t bring you radical joy. Yes, it is a challenge - ‘how will my kids eat?” But in trying to *think* it through, our thought processes don’t see the changed energetic vibration that ensues. Radical change in your attitude and stance toward life causes you to focus upon and attract different things. Yet it is a problem in that we often don’t know at the time what our authentic being really is. That often emerges as we make the choice. It requires some willingness to make the hard choice and to take whatever the consequence may be - even death.
- A question regarding collective intelligence
JF: There *is* a collective aspect to intelligence. Like a radio broadcast, thoughts are both immanent and transcendent. We are creators, yet we also play in [transpersonal] “waves” of intelligence. For example, when you have a breakthrough idea, Google it and see how many others may be thinking the same thing. [You might be surprised.]
- Aren’t “doing” and “being” both part of the dance?
JF: The external world of doing, internal world of being - they mirror each other; they synergize each other.
=== END ===
A few points that came up during conversation yesterday:
+ E-Prime is the modification of the English language that removes the verb 'to be'
+ To learn more about Jean-Francois, here's a talk of him sharing more of the 'theory', here's a link to an example of the 'practice', and here's a bit more background
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