Faery Economics 101

“Why are you doing this?” a faery voice asked.

I looked at the bills spread out on the desk in front of me. “I’m paying the bills. And the rent. Like I did last month. Didn’t we talk about it then?”

“Yes, but what you said doesn’t make sense to us. You said money is like crystallized energy—you use your energy to help someone and they give money to you, and then you can give the money to someone else for their help. We’ve been watching, and a lot of the time that isn’t true. The exchanges are not fair about the energy given. Explain this money thing again, please. We don’t understand.”

“It’s simple really. I do work for people, and they give me money. Then I use the money to pay for things I need, like food and electricity and things.”

“But why do you need the money? You do things for people, they do things for you—it all evens out, pretty much. You can tell by the energy you use, by the changes in your aura, who gave and who received more. We’ve been watching. Sometimes you do ‘work’ for an hour and it’s easy and fun, and other times you do almost the same thing for an hour, and it hurts and it’s really hard. But you get the same amount of money. So it isn’t about the work, is it? Or you’d get more when it’s harder. Some days you get really tired or things make you cry, but other days you feel happy and energized. Why isn’t the money different?”

“Maybe it’s about the time I spend. I give my time; they give theirs, and we use the money to keep track.” I know this is weak, and sure enough, they don’t accept it.

“But what if they don’t spend the same time or work as hard getting the money that you do? Some people get their money a lot faster and don’t do much for it and others get it slower and work a lot harder.”

“Well, okay. It’s a mixture of how hard I work, how valuable what I do is to them, and how long it takes.”

“How valuable it is to them? Who decides that?”

“They do. And I decided how valuable my time is to me by how much time I have and how much money I need to pay my bills.”

“That makes even less sense. How do they know how valuable it is going to be to them? It might make their lives better for years and years or not make them better at all. And anyway, it isn’t what you say or do that makes it important—it’s what they do with it.”

“Right,” said another. “And some people get much more money than they need to live and others get a lot less for the same effort.”

I’m silent for a while, thinking about things like “expertise” and “skill” and realizing that I’m going to run into the same issues of unbalanced exchange and opportunity. Someone says, “You know, the more we talk about this, the less sense it makes.”

Driven into a corner by my unrealistic belief that all questions must have findable answers, I flippantly reply, “Actually, it’s all a game, and money is the way we keep score.”

There is a stunned silence as we all recognize the truth of this.

“Hmmph!” an annoyed voice says. “I don’t think it’s a very nice game at all.”

That discussion was many years ago, but I still don’t have any better answer. Do you?

© Copyright 2013 by Jessica Macbeth. All rights reserved.

Thoughts At Two In The Morning

I just had a burst of insight. I was reading Neil Gaiman’s short story “Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Secret House of the Night of Dread Desire”. (Yes, he is being funny; read his book, Fragile Things.) In it, his character was saying:

“It’s literature,” he explained, as if to a child. “Real literature. Real life. The real world. It’s the artist’s job to show people the world they live in. We hold up mirrors.”

And I suddenly understood something. “Real life”, aka consensus reality, is what we think it is. And we arrive at our thoughts from our experiences and input. We watch TV (well, I don’t, but lots of people do) and believe it portrays reality. But not even “the news” does that these days. We imitate (especially when we are young or not really thinking) what we see there, and we imitate the attitudes we’ve derived from other people, especially people we admire. Well, I don’t like the “reality” I see there of war and fear and paranoia and a greed that thinks one can never have enough. I don’t like it at all. I think we, as a society, have lost our path. Not everyone is lost, of course, but far too many are. And I certainly am not interested in writing about that version of reality.

I want to write about the reality we could live in if we just shifted our attitudes and acted as if we truly cared about the well-being of ourselves and each other and our world — the reality of what we could become if…

That’s all. It may not sound like much, but it’s important to me. I just wanted to write it down where I can find it when I wake up later and face the day. It’s 2:30 AM right now, and thoughts here sometimes get lost before morning. This is one I want to keep.

I recently read “The Space Between the Stories” by Charles Eisenstein with great appreciation and have now subscribed to the author’s blog. In it he talks about what we as a society of people tell ourselves about our culture — and how that story affects what we become. We are all, each in our own way, working on that story as we choose what to think and how to live. You might say it is written by the collective unconscious of all of us. He also talks about how the story we’ve been living by is coming unraveled as we face economic, cultural, and ecological crises. A lot of what he says so brilliantly makes great sense to me. I think our Story of the People is in serious need of revision — a new vision for a new way of functioning together. It’s important — and it’s unavoidable. There are several “stories of the people” trying to arise right now. I hope that all of us are paying attention and giving real support to the ones that seem best to us — healthiest for Earthmama and all of her children. A new story is coming into being amid the chaos of the old, disintegrating one. We are creating it.

What I’m most interested in at the moment is how we can re-write the current rather grim perception of our future into some of the wonderful possibilities available. There is so much we could do and be; so many choices face us. I want my own writing, both of stories and of spiritual “how-to” ideas to help to create that. I hope you’ll find some of those stories and thoughts here in my gropings toward a better path. I hope that, together, we can find a story that is more loving and more generous to live by.

© Copyright 2013 by Jessica Macbeth. All rights reserved.

The Hobbit, Modern Mores, & a Reclusive Healer

On New Year’s Day I went to see the newest version of The Hobbit — the one done in New Zealand. For what it was intended to be, it was very well done. The acting ranged from okay to good — a bit over-ripe here and there. The hobbit, Bilbo, was well played, but with important parts of his story missing, the dwarves more crude than the originals, the elves… disappointing. The costumes, makeup, special effects, and other technical frills were excellent. Overall, the film was more sentimental than Tolkien’s Hobbit and noticeably “dumbed down” from the original version. In place of subtlety and character, we were given violence, noise, blood, and the grotesque — lots and lots of the monstrous and ugly. Amid the loud noise of war and battle, we also had loud music with a beat designed to make our hearts speed up in case we were otherwise made too immune by our cultural conditioning to respond with “enough” anxiety to the horrors (and they were horrors) of the film.

I loved the original Hobbit. It was a metaphor for war-time Britain, filled with the courage and humanity and idealism of the ordinary people of that time. We live in a different time now — the idealism is replaced by cynicism, the courage mostly replaced by greed and despair, and the humanity by a culture whose popular heroes are vampires, bullies, celebrities with nothing to recommend them as role models and much to regret, and the “too big to fail” criminals of a corrupt political and business world. We, too, are at war, but in our time it is a war of the rich against the poor and of big wealthy nations against poor ones. In this world, it makes sense that The Hobbit would be “dumbed down” and filled with blood and gore. It’s what most people are used to. People seem so inured to it that they don’t even notice that it is so excessive. I’ve noticed some people saying they found it boring, and can’t but wonder if they didn’t find enough violence to feed their adrenaline addiction or if — like me — they didn’t find enough character, plot, and humanity.

I’ve read and re-read The Hobbit over the years. It’s a book you can read to older children (or they can read for themselves), but it was not written for children. And, as one gets older and more aware, one can see so much more in it than just a children’s story. We see a developing perception of personal and spiritual growth. There is the evolution of the characters, and there is humor, both dark and light, subtle and plain. It is a spiritual teaching about what it means to be human, what courage and nobility of spirit really are, and how an ordinary person — a mere hobbit — can grow under pressure to be so much more than he might believe he could be. Ordinary people. I love the book for that. Remember, too, in both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, it was Bilbo and then Frodo who faced the big and then the final tests, passed them, and brought peace and a time for recovery to the land. It was the ordinary people, the quiet wee folk, and not the kings and nobles, the powerful dwarves, or the magical elves and wizards who brought the peace.

Let me explain, if you please, the reclusive healer of the title — myself. I spent many years out of the States, living quietly (mostly in the countryside of England and Scotland), and working too hard to have time to keep up with contemporary culture. No time for television, barely any for the radio (the BBC), and much too busy working as a healer and counselor to pay attention to any more than the weather reports. When I came back to the States, it was for health reasons. I’d become ill and the illness was exacerbated by the British climate. I was too sick to care or bother with any contemporary culture, ignoring news and entertainment both. When I got better and happened to see some TV programs, I was horrified. And shocked. I had missed out on the gradual conditioning by media and advertising of the ordinary person (and I’m quite ordinary) to the corruption and violence, the bullying and the grotesqueries of modern society where, among other horrors, a massacre of children in school can be met by a cry for “more guns” and that cry taken as anything other than more insanity. I’m still horrified and shocked by what people daily accept as just business as usual.

The crudely bloody violence, the more subtle violence of bullying and rudeness, and the glorification of selfishness and greed were (and are) just too much for me. So I switched off the TV and never turned it back on. Eventually, I got rid of it. It seemed to me that, if that was what people wanted, that was their business, but I didn’t need or want it. So I lived in the woods and ignored what was going on elsewhere while I worked on regaining my health and earning a minimal livelihood. In the woods — the peaceful, silent woods. And here we arrive at New Year’s Day, 2013, and I see the modern version of The Hobbit. Tolkien must be spinning in his grave.

You know what bothers me the most? It’s that so many people aren’t bothered about it. They either haven’t noticed what’s happening or just don’t care. And … it is not caring that is the root of our society’s ills.

© Copyright 2013 by Jessica Macbeth. All rights reserved.