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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High Stakes

We are engaged in an argument with someone else. We are assured of our stance, and are pulling out all of the stops to come out on top.

But all may not be as it seems. Are we really arguing passionately on behalf of our beliefs - on behalf of an idea - or could it be that we doing something else?


Let us imagine that there are various types of dialogue, classified by what is at stake in the exchange. Firstly we have those dialogues in which something is at stake, a category that we could split further, dependent upon what exactly this thing is. On one side of our split, what is at stake is an element of the individual (pride, reputation), and any gains or losses will be felt within their borders. On the other side, what is at stake lies beyond the individual, and it is this third party that stands to gain or lose the most. Finally we have those dialogues in which nothing is at stake, in which any gains or losses will not be particularly important to any party.

When what is at stake lies beyond us, we are in service to a higher power. We become an advocate for truth, and we must serve it loyally and to the best of our abilities if it is to win its case. Perhaps, in the course of the hearing, we may realise the untruth of our case; that it is not what we thought it to be; and we may then abandon it, acquitting ourselves of our service. When we engage in a dialogue we may hope to convince of the truth of an idea that has captivated us, and the dialogue becomes a form of testing ground. The idea is released from its cage, and we are able to see it fly. Is its flight true and graceful? Can it survive out there?

When we are not in service to truth, then we will most likely be in service to our self, or perhaps more accurately, our ego. It is the self that is at stake, and we argue for the sovereignty of our borders, the excellence of our individuality, rather than something that lies beyond us.

In the first kind of exchange we are concerned with knowledge and truth, and engage in dialogue as a form of expedition, a search for something that currently lies beyond our grasp. In the second instance, we are not concerned with searching, rather with seeking to consolidate or strengthen what we already own. We are the embattled nation, both proud and insecure, alternately fearing and relishing the encroachments of others.

When there is nothing at stake, then an exchange is always a game. Games can be played seriously, but the very fact that they are being played implies nothing of importance is being sought beyond the solipsistic concerns of either player. A game is synonymous with a battle; we set ourselves against another, and seek to win the battle for the gains it will bring us or our familiars. In setting ourselves against another - in saying, "this is a battle, and you are my opposition" - we draw a divide and don our battle-colours, allowing us to identify our team-mates and avoid slaying our own. Whilst those who wear the opposition colours may be like us in certain ways - two arms, two legs, hands and feet - the fact that they are on the other side means that we are no longer amenable to them in the way that we may have been during peacetime.

The dialogue-as-game may seem to be about finding truth - the embattled parties may seem to be fighting for the greater good - but in reality the "greater good" may simply be an excuse for a battle. We could call this a battle of egos: a display of oratory skill, wit, logical ability and so on, in which the conversation becomes a ritual dance; an occasion to flex muscle and flash plumage.

Just as a battle can appear to be about something greater, the search for truth can also sometimes resemble a battle. The difference is in our motives. If truth is what we seek, then the battle is only useful, and justifiable, inasmuch as it brings us nearer to it. As with our earlier analogy, it may be that in that in fighting we realise that our reasons for going to war are flawed; in which case, as befitting someone who has no interest in conflict beyond its usefulness as a tool of truth, we will exit the fray immediately, and humbly.

If we are in service to a higher power, then we cannot allow ourselves to be tempted by the distractions of a game, or the personal gains of battle; and must always be prepared to put its concerns ahead of our own.

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God is just out my back door, yet I choose not to visit. I would rather sit alone and scheme on how to be remembered, on what more that I can do here to cement the evidence that I once walked these roads with you. It is a futile exercise. I know it is, and yet I persist.

[Billy Corgan]

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Staying Balanced

'[...] any extreme is liable to produce a violent reaction; this is as true of the weather and plants and animals as of political societies.'

--

'Yes, I have noticed that,' he broke in; 'excessive emphasis on athletics produces an excessively uncivilized type, while a purely literary training leaves men indecently soft.'

'It is the energy and initiative in their nature that may make them uncivilized,' I said; 'if you treat it properly it should make them brave, but if you overstrain it it turns them tough and uncouth, as you would expect.

[...] The philosophic temperament, on the other hand, is gentle; too much relaxation may produce an excessive softness, but if it is treated properly the result should be humane and civilized.

[...] must not these two elements be harmoniously adjusted?

[...] What I should say therefore is that these two branches of education seem to have been given by some god to men to train these two parts of us - the one to train our philosophic part the other our energy and initiative. They are not intended the one to train body, the other mind, except incidentally, but to ensure a proper harmony between energy and initiative on the one hand and reason on the other, by tuning each to the right pitch.

And so we may venture to assert that anyone who can produce the perfect blend of the physical and intellectual sides of education and apply them to the training of character, is producing music and harmony of far more importance than any mere musician tuning strings.'

[Plato]
The Republic (Penguin Classics Edition), p.109-10, 301

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'Healthy activities produce health, and unhealthy activities produce sickness.

[...] [and] don't just actions produce justice, and unjust actions injustice?

[...] And health is produced by establishing a natural relation of control and subordination among the constituents of the body, disease by establishing an unnatural relation.

[...] So justice is produced by establishing in the mind a similar natural relation of control and subordination among its constituents, and injustice by establishing an unnatural one.'

[Plato]
The Republic (Penguin Classics Edition), p.154

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Everything flows out and in; everything has its tides; all things rise and fall; the pendulum-swing manifests in everything; the measure of the swing to the right, is the measure of the swing to the left; rhythm compensates.

The Law of Compensation plays an important part in the lives of men and women. It will be noticed that one generally "pays the price" of anything he possesses or lacks. If he has one thing, he lacks another the balance is struck. No one can "keep his penny and have the bit of cake" at the same time.

Everything has its pleasant and unpleasant sides. The things that one gains are always paid for by the things that one loses. The rich possess much that the poor lack, while the poor often possess things that are beyond the reach of the rich.

The Law of Compensation is ever in operation, striving to balance and counter-balance, and always succeeding in time, even though several lives may be required for the return swing of the Pendulum of Rhythm.

The Kybalion, Chapter XI: "Rhythm"

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Since it is the one indivisible will, which for this reason is wholly in agreement with itself, and reveals itself in the whole Idea as in an act, its phenomenon, though broken up into a variety of different parts and conditions, must yet again show that unity in a thorough harmony of these.

This takes place through a necessary relation and dependence of all the parts on one another, whereby the unity of the Idea is also re-established in the phenomenon.

Accordingly, we now recognize those different parts and functions of the organism reciprocally as means and end of one another, and the organism itself as the ultimate end of all.

[Arthur Schopenhauer]
The World as Will and Representation, p.157

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All the parts of nature accommodate themselves to one another, since it is one will that appears in them all, but the time-sequence is quite foreign to its original and only adequate objectivity, namely the Ideas.

Even now, when the species have only to maintain themselves and no longer to come into existence, we see here and there such a foresight of nature, extending to the future and, so to speak, really abstracting from the time-sequence, a self-adaptation of what exists according to what is yet to come.

Thus the bird builds the nest for the young it does not yet know; the beaver erects a dam, whose purpose is unknown to it; the ant, the marmot, and the bee collect stores for the winter that is unknown to them; the spider and the ant-lion build, as if with deliberate cunning, snares for the future prey unknown to them; insects lay their eggs where the future brood will find future nourishment.

[Arthur Schopenhauer]
The World as Will and Representation, p.160

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