“We are here to create something beautiful; I call it ‘the more beautiful world our hearts tell us is possible’” -156
In his book Sacred Economics, Charles Eisenstein invites his readers to join him in envisioning a more beautiful world. He equips us to participate in his vision first by explaining what has gone wrong, and then by explaining how we can begin to make things better again.
In Sacred Economics, Eisenstein focuses on money and shows that the way we use money has profound effects on the way we treat each other and the physical environment. He suggests that our current monetary system is key to our current social and environmental crises, and that by altering our monetary system, we can begin to create a different kind of society.
An examination of the role money plays in society may sound both difficult to follow and depressing, but Eisenstein presents his material in accessible language, and expresses hope throughout the book. Eisenstein’s carefully-considered analysis of current societal problems is accompanied by realistic alternatives to our present way of managing our resources. Eisenstein does not shy away from the deeply disturbing trends he describes, but he consistently speaks with optimism, and even joy, as he envisions a healthier and happier future. He writes that reversing the destruction our current habits have had “on nature, culture, health, and spirit will require all the gifts that make us human” but insists that “We are here to create something beautiful” and that “as the truth of that sinks in, deeper and deeper, and as the convergence of crises pushes us out of the old world, inevitably more and more people will live from that truth” (155-156).
You can hear Eisenstein speak about Sacred Economics, and get a general idea of what the book covers by checking out this short film
Eisenstein’s explanation of the role money plays in our current environmental and social crises takes the first third of the book, and is both thorough and convincing. But Eisenstein takes his analysis beyond criticism, and focuses on alternatives to our current practices. In the final two thirds of his book, he offers concrete practices that will human foster community and respect for the natural world.
While some of Eisenstein’s ideas involve structural changes at the societal level, such as a negative-interest economy, he also offers ways for people to reduce their dependence on the monetary economy and build community. By trying to enact a gift economy, people can both reduce their use of resources and strengthen relationships with others. In his chapter “Transition to Gift Economy,” Eisenstein describes Gift Circles, groups in which people meet regularly to express what they need and what they would like to give. These gift circles allow people to share services or items with each other, rather than purchasing them. Further, people begin to trust each other more and become more comfortable depending on each other for their needs (323). This dependence helps to create community. As Eisenstein explains, “Community is not some add-on to our other needs, not a separate ingredient for happiness along with food, shelter, music, touch, intellectual stimulation, and other forms of physical and spiritual nourishment. Community arises from the meeting of these needs” (419).
If you are interested in reading further about how to live in ways that promote community and shrink the monetary economy, Sacred Economics has a lot to offer. You can read Sacred Economics online, or order a hard copy by visiting http://sacred-economics.com/