Set It Free

A three year old child has just finished a drawing that she has spent the last few hours meticulously composing. In her opinion, it is the best drawing she has ever done, and she can't wait to show her mother, who she knows will be overjoyed to see it. She runs to her, shouting "Mummy, Mummy, I've done a drawing for you!"

"Wow!" exclaims her mother, "let me see!"

"Here!" she shouts, and thrusts the drawing into her mother's hands. "That'll be three pounds please!"


This situation may seem a little absurd, but each of us encounter a similar scenario on a near daily basis, whenever we pay for a song, a film, a theatre performance, or any other cultural creation; or whenever we, as creators ourselves, charge money for our creations. We are the excited child, enthused about our creations and eager to share them with others; it seems perverse for the child to demand money for her creation, and yet much of the time we may not give a second thought in issuing the same demand.

In charging for her art, our three-year-old is placing limitations upon it. Her mother can have it, but at a price. A hurdle has been erected, and it must be jumped before the goal is reached. For a child to place these limitations is absurd, precisely because the child could not conceive of any reason to do so. Unaffected by the necessities of commerce, her logic is of a different variety to ours. She sees only how proud she is of her creation, and imagines only the joy that it will bring someone else. Her logic exists between these points, and works to connect them. Like her, it is uncomplicated, naïve, and pure.

Our creations are our children, and we have a responsibility to them; if we truly believe in them - that they are ready to go out into the world and do good - then we must think carefully about every barrier we place in their path. Money can be one such barrier. In placing a price upon something we proclaim, "I will free you so that you can enter the world, but I must get something in return." This is the logic of exchange: if we spent so long raising this child, then surely our efforts must be compensated.

Copyright is another barrier. We tell our creation, "I think you are ready to leave my house and go out there, but you must remain under my watchful eye." We allow it a facsimile of freedom; it can roam, but only if we know its whereabouts - who it is with, what it is doing. We retain our parental presence, but in doing so may stunt its growth. It shows us that it is ready to go out there, to mingle and explore, but we are unable to relinquish our control. After all, we spent so much time and effort bringing it to this point, surely we are entitled to a few ownership rights?

The logic is as before. We have fooled ourselves into thinking that, because we created this thing, we must own it. It seems logical, but perhaps only because this is the brand of logic that our society surrounds us with on a daily basis: the logic of commerce. "Ownership" oils its gears; is vital to the smooth running of the system. But there are other ways of thinking, other brands of logic that may not place so much emphasis upon this idea. We must consider what happens when we apply the logic of commerce - with its rules; its favouring of certain values over others - to the world of creativity. Is it a good fit? Or is it a constraint, inhibiting possibilities of movement?

When we jettison the idea of ownership, the creative product can be seen in a new light. We may be proud of it - it may be handsome, or intelligent - but we understand that its greatness is its own, and not a reflection or a comment upon us. We may have raised it well - said the right things at the right time; doted and nurtured - but we did so for its benefit, not in order to reap rewards for exceptional parentage. Our joy is in seeing it take flight, wherever its wings may take it, and whomever it shall meet. Our joy is in knowing that it is out there, flourishing and, hopefully, doing good. Whilst it may be our child, we understand that it has a life within the community, and a duty herein.

It is all too easy to slip into becoming the controlling parent, especially when common logic urges us to think in terms of ownership and parental rights. But we mustn't forget our parental responsibilities; our duty to our creation, and to the community that is ready to accept and celebrate it. As the good parent we must give it all the freedom that it asks for, and allow it its encounters and escapades.

Commerce may wish to elbow its way into our lives at every opportunity, but we needn't let its rules and limitations colour all aspects of our existence. We have to make a living; this much is unavoidable. But the choice is ours as to whether we involve what is most precious to us in this struggle; whether we exploit its beauty, its greatness, in order to keep ourselves afloat. With the greater good in mind, it may be that we must do our best to protect the things that we truly care about from the corruptive imperatives of commerce, so that they can flourish uninhibited.

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Charging money for something suppresses the material or service by restricting or deterring people from using it.

A very small percentage will buy something as opposed to using it for free, because it is unaffordable for most of the world's population, requires carrying money or having credit cards and wastes time for bookwork and transactions. Also it discriminates against the needy.

Instead people who can afford it should offer to donate, even if they are not asked for money. Would you be reading this information if you initially had to pay for it?

Here: http://www.trueconspiracies.com/

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[On Balinese village life]

It is common to find that activity [...] rather than being purposive, i.e., aimed at some deferred goal, is valued for itself. The artist, the dancer, the musician, and the priest may receive a pecuniary reward for their professional activity, but only in rare cases is this reward adequate to recompense the artist for even his time and materials.

The reward is a token of appreciation, it is a definition of the context in which the theatrical company performs, but it is not the economic mainstay of the troupe. The earnings of the troupe may be saved up to enable them to buy new costumes, but when finally the costumes are bought it is usually necessary for every member to make a considerable contribution to the common fund in order to pay for them.

Similarly, in regard to the offerings which are taken to every temple feast, there is no purpose in this enormous expenditure of artistic work and real wealth. The god will not bring any benefit because you made a beautiful structure of flowers and fruit for the calendric feast in his temple, not will he avenge your abstention.

Instead of deferred purpose there is an immediate and immanent satisfaction in performing beautifully, with everybody else, that which it is correct to perform in each particular context.

[Gregory Bateson]
Steps to an Ecology of Mind ('Bali: The Value System of a Steady State'), p.117-8

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You don't need to ask me permission to quote something I have written or said. We are both doing the work of the Creator. Our responsibility is to get the information out there. Use whatever you like.

This answer was given to me by Don Coyhis, president of the White Bison Society, when I asked him if I might use some words from his wonderful new meditation book based on the Medicine Wheel and Native American spirituality.

[...] Most Native people I know are like Don. They realize that possession - of anything, and especially of words - is an illusion. Once we put them out there, they belong to the universe. If we are all, to the best of our ability, doing the work of the Creator, there is no possession.

I assured Don that I felt the same way about his using my material. Our interaction felt so sane, so truly human.

When I am doing the work of the Creator, possession is an illusion.

[Anne Wilson Schaef]
"January 3rd", Native Wisdom for White Minds

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