Reader comment on Lynne Twist's passage ...

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    On Dec 12, 2009 Somik Raha wrote:

    As usual, this was a deep and apt passage. Three big ideas stood out for me.

    First, Lynne writes, "In our relationship with money, it is using money in a way that expresses our integrity; using it in a way that expresses value rather than determines value." I understood the idea of using money to express value, but I wasn't clear on what she meant by using money to determine value, until the meditation. It was funny, because, I've come across this idea many times in the form of the fallacy of sunk-cost thinking, which is a foundational idea in Decision Analysis (and finance-related fields). Everyone who studies basic finance is usually taught that what you've paid for something in the past is gone. It ain't coming back! You cannot use the investment of the past to determine the value in the future. In other words, the amount of money that I spent on something cannot be used to determine what it is worth to me at the present time. If I use it in that way, I would have committed an error of thinking - I'd have violated the sunk-cost principle. My thoughts on value about anything have to do with me looking forward from the present moment. The past does matter, but only for learning, and not for accounting. Remembering this principle would have great implications on a wide variety of decisions, and would be a practical manifestation of a deeply spiritual idea.

    The second big idea was that of sufficiency. I remembered a TED talk by Paul Stamets on 6 ways that mushrooms can save the world. In the talk, Stamets shares some cool ideas - using mushrooms to break down waste and turn it into a green oasis, to stop the spread of harmful diseases, to sequester carbon more effectively than most other methods known to us, to termite-proof houses in a natural and simple way and even to produce energy. The point is not that there is enough fungus for our world to be taken care of, but that here is one man who felt that he had sufficient resources to tackle big problems that the earth community is facing. And, using his education, research and resources, he had become the change he wanted to see. The idea of sufficiency is very important for all those who want to help the world.

    The thid big idea was about poverty. I remembered a basketball player who was interviewed about his impoverished background. The interviewer asked him, "You've been poor growing up. How does it feel to not be poor?" He retorted, "Who says I was poor? I was never poor. I just didn't have money." Poverty is a disease of the mind, not a physical condition that can be cured. We ought to be very careful when we label some people as poor, for with it, comes the filter of pity and the idea that "I have to do something for them." The "I" takes over my mind with some notions of superiority (like privilege). When we choose to say that some people don't have money or other resources they need, it sounds more like a temporary situation (which is true about any and every situation that we face) where I don't need to do something for anyone. Instead, they need something, and I may have the opportunity of fulfilling their need and co-creating value, as a partner, not a benefactor.

    Finally, poverty is not just of money, but the other big resource, time. This week, I came in to my office with a set of targets. As I settled in, my officemate started talking about the birds who were nesting in the large eucalyptus tree outside the window. I immediately noticed a panic sensation - I wasn't going to meet my targets if I wasted time in idle conversations. Then, I remembered this passage (which I'd read the night before), and took a few deep breaths. I decided not to react, and instead chose to be present and enjoy the conversation. We traded bird stories - how a bird had once laid an egg under an unoccupied table in my previous causing much work for the facilities people. How a bird had created a massive nest above the shade on my friend's door, which he, out of great compassion, dismantled, so the bird could go somewhere else, as he knew that nest would not survive. Even so, he felt great sadness in dismantling a result of great hard work. The conversation was so enriching in many ways. It made time stop. For the rest of that day, I decided to forget about my targets and just do what I could, with the belief of sufficiency - I had sufficient time and resources to get everything done. And my experience matched my belief :).

    The thoughts across the room today were, as usual, very deep. Reepa mentioned how poverty or scarcity makes people creative. I remembered Prof. Anil Gupta's key idea - he felt that some of the best innovators on this planet will be found in extremely impoverished conditions, where people have to innovate to survive. And the result was the Honeybee Network - a collection of over 100,000 innovations made by such people, and open-sourced to the rest of the world to patent and productize. Rishi's story about his uncle who knew all the twists and turns to get to a park in India was stunning - as he revealed at the end that his uncle was blind. And yet, this uncle felt he had sufficient resources to lead a full life, start a company selling shoe polish, make it successful and support his family. Someone else reflected on how we have sufficient resources within us to apologize.

    I loved aunty (CF Mom's) comment from Nipun on giving - if you find that you can't give, then it is not yours. Remembered Geet's comment to me on several occasions about money - if you don't spend it, how will more come? This idea honors so many deep truths. At the physical level, when we spend, we are engaged in an act of giving. This enriches others, and allows them to give. Eventually, someone, somewhere, gives back to me, because they have been enriched to do so. At the deepest level, my universe is a reflection of my mind. When I hold back from my universe, my universe holds back from me. When I give to my universe, my universe gives back to me. This is the reason those who give from their heart find that everyone's giving back to them more than they could imagine or want. It is not necessarily that this is so as a physical truth, but that they are able to spot such actions for their mind is now tuned to it. And when one finds the evidence of a kind universe, one is happier, and more inspired to continue the gratitude. Why not create my universe in a manner that gives me the most happiness?

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