I was just winding down after a day of a beautiful Power of Story workshop with Mary Alice Arthur and had some thoughts I wanted to share.
I’m going to write here about the one piece of the day that got under my skin, and why. It was just a small bit of a graphic she used, not a big deal in the scheme of things. I didn’t talk about it with the whole group just because there wasn’t time for it, rather it wasn’t the right time for it and there was far more, very lovely stuff to do.
It was a small piece in an illustration of the practice of storytelling. In the middle is a yin yang symbol and Mary Alice described yin and yang as the (yang) grandfather energy and (yin) grandmother energy, the (bad paraphrase coming, sorry!) former being the more active and the latter being more observant, listening, nurturing. Again, bad paraphrase and I’m not saying this to mean Mary Alice was being sexist, or insensitive, or that there’s anything wrong with or less valuable about either of the roles described there, rather…
Of course it got me thinking about my hot topic (in my own personal brain and heart) lately, gender. And the feminine yang and masculine yin that often get overlooked in our culture. You can read more about that here (my thoughts and links out to Charles Eisenstein and others’) if you want, but a piece of it is that the feminine yang is like the exerting womb in labor. So taking that metaphor further, I see the process of conception and gestation, the taking in of seeds and combining things into a new living organism, then actively pushing it out into the world to grow on its own, and easily apply it to my own observations about the work that women are doing all around the world, in creating and birthing a new world. Women everywhere have been on the leading edge (no disparagement meant, guys, we appreciate your support ;) and tons of your own contributions, of course) of big change, slow change, painful change, change that involves listening, some self-sacrifice, synthesizing of different worldviews and approaches, communication, vulnerability, risk of failure, on and on and on. And action. And pushing. And pain. I realize all we need to do is look around us and we see that the feminine is not only yin, not generally passive, and that a feminine yang is different from a masculine yang. If we can recognize and appreciate this we can feel empowered to move when it’s time to move, act when it’s time to act, not feel like we’re being or need to “masculine” when we are active and pushing. We can stop thinking of women as passive and supportive, nurturing, volunteering because we’re natural givers, etc. and use our powers of observation to see that there’s a lot more going on and that that’s something to foster, encourage, cheer on, get down with. Of course whatever your gender.
Then I got thinking about how this simple power of observation also applies to our lives in our current social, cultural and economic context. I often hear people question whether it’s possible for humans to live sustainably, regeneratively, cooperatively, interdependently. Well of course it is. If we use our power of observation we can see that’s what happens with other species in nature, that’s what’s happened for most of human history, that it still happens in indigenous cultures in many parts of the world. Can we support everyone in our communities to a standard of life that would feel acceptable to ourselves? Of course we can. How? Well we definitely need to do something different from what we have been! Let’s try.
On that note, I’ll leave you to your Saturday evening. I know, I’m a total geek for writing this little essay on a Saturday evening but it’s too cold for me to get motivated to go to the show I’d wanted to see, and my brain needed to dump that stuff out and get on with writing songs for my show next Friday…
Video from our (Stephanie Rearick and Marc Brakken, Time For the World) presentation in the Hague June 2013.
Catchily titled “The objects of money: Trophic currencies II”
We think you’ll like it anyway! ;)
Have been thinking lately about how the destruction of the age-old structures and practices of sharing and gift economies is completely inextricably bound with all the ways we defer enjoyment of our lives to some future point. We slog through years of school to prepare for college, we go to college to prepare for work, we work for the weekends – and holidays and, ultimately, retirement. So much of life now involves making sacrifices of our time to some future goal (including the future goal of paying next month’s rent). Stolen Presents.
In my present: I was getting ready to finish and post this little blog when I received this from Aerin Dunford, on her experience at Giftival: http://www.walkoutwalkon.net/2013/11/giftitale-restoring-soft-hope-that-magic-is-possible/
Couldn’t be more relevant!
An exciting part of my present is that things are really starting to cook for our PowerTime II Energy Project in the Allied Community Coop. This will hopefully be our very first local Mutual Aid Network. It’ll be fun to see how things unfold, and we’ll be sure to keep you posted at build.
Oh, and another thing is that we’re out of money again. We’ll be cranking up some serious crowdfunding (and grant applying) efforts in the coming weeks and months but in the meantime, please FEEL FREE to contribute whatever you’re able! We don’t have any big grants at the moment, we piece together our money bit by bit – and every little bit helps. Click the paypal link to donate. It’s tax deductible. It’ll help us get more programming done on the MAN and build, pay for our housing and food, and get some legal help with incorporating, some graphic design and video help to get our message out better, and some help with proposal writing. If you enjoy writing proposals and would like to assist as a contribution or in exchange for timebank hours please get in touch!
Thanks for reading,
When I had the pleasure of leading a day of timebanking training as part of Transition Media’s (PA) TimeBanking in Transition training, Spring 2012, I was honored to attend the 2nd day of that training, led by Charles Eisenstein (Ascent of Humanity, Sacred Economics, The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible). At Charles’ training I paired up for an exercise with a lovely woman, Lucille, whom I’d met during my session the previous day.
Lucille’s about somewhere in her seventies I’d guess, and is a brilliant woman, writer, thinker, and early fan of Charles’ work (my impression was that they were old family friends). Right away Lucille and I started talking about women’s current role in society, and the need for a women-and-our-allies-led peaceful evolution (or non-violent revolution if you want to use an older harsher term for it). Lucille mentioned the feminine yang and the masculine yin, concepts which I hadn’t really heard or discussed explicitly before. She was talking about our tendency to break everything apart in polarities, and how we overlook and then quash the feminine yang and masculine yin. She likened the qualities of each to their biological counterparts – in men, the testicles are the yin element, patient, nurturing, tender, generative. In women, the yang is represented by the exerting womb in labor. Here‘s an illuminating essay on the topic by Charles Eisenstein .
I’ve been thinking about the feminine yang a lot, and that we’re in labor with the new (more beautiful!) world (our hearts know is possible!).
At Giftival in Turkey, Genevieve Vaughan mentioned that gift economy is lived by everyone through the mothering they receive, and she uses the word ‘mothering’ even when attributing the activity to men, as a special and unique aspect of unconditional love and caretaking. I realized this morning that the mothering aspect of all of us is the exerting womb at this moment, and will be our capacity to get this baby ready and push it out. And of course we have to make sure it’s born into a loving community committed to taking care of it and raising it up right!
It feels like no accident that it’s labor we’re in, and that reclaiming and redefining labor (work-style labor) as a generative, creative act of love will be what brings forth our beautiful new world. And I guess it’s also no accident that making that happen can feel long, difficult and painful at times! :)
I pretty much pulled into New Orleans and went straight to the 2nd anniversary party for the NOLA TimeBank. Exciting! I feel very connected with this timebank because they started up right during a visit two years ago, when I asked a few people if they’d like to invite folks to get together for a potluck to explore timebanking in New Orleans. Gretchen Zalkind, who had been part of the Arroyo SECO TimeBank in LA, had been planting seeds about timebanking there and just ran with it. Now they’re 2 and have a few hundred members and some exciting partnerships existing and emerging. Their anniversary party was at a very cool incubator space called Propeller. They made a lovely matching wall, had great food and presentations from Gretchen about NOLA timebank and me about timebanking in general, how we apply it in Dane County, how it’s happening in other places, and where we are in context of overall movement toward cooperative economics. I met some great people and had really interesting conversations. I met someone who’s interested in energy projects and also group carpentry project fixing up homes we could sell for income streams. Pretty good food for thought. Good party!
The next day we had a small meeting at Tulane University, with Social Innovation Social Entrepreneurship professor Carol Whelan, Gretchen Zalkind and two of Whelan’s students, who are helping coordinate the timebank as part of their internships. This was a really good brainstorming session. We discussed ways we in Dane County have engaged with our universities (not extremely consistently or effectively) and possibilities for more collaboration between Tulane and the NOLA TimeBank, and ways the interns could use their own skills and interests more effectively. I’ll look forward to seeing what ideas they implement.
The rest of my time in New Orleans was a little vacation for Halloween, including a good party with a good band on Halloween night. Jon Hain met me down there and then traveled the rest of the way back home with me.
November 1-2 we drove to St Louis, stopping in Memphis on the way, where we ate at a great little vegan restaurant called Imagine. Then we drove up to St. Louis in time for dinner with Renee Marver, the founder of the US’s first modern timebank (as far as I know) at Grace Hill Settlement House in the early 80′s. She’s retired now but keeps in touch with lots of timebankers and helps by sharing her experience as well as her new ideas. And there are new timebanking efforts afoot in St. Louis too, which she connected me with.
The next morning Renee and I met with Carissa, a woman who used to work at Grace Hill and is now working to start a timebank among a women in transition group she currently works with. She has a little bit of grant money to get started and we discussed various ways to use it to establish a foothold. We all agreed that, however the money was spent (a few ways were identified), it would be important to hold some gatherings among the participants to get to know each other, identify assets and needs among the group, and get a sense of common goals. They may look toward a partnership with Grace Hill’s now-reviving timebanking program or they may go it on their own. I’m going to go back sometime over the winter or early spring and spend some time with more of the people doing and exploring timebanking there.
And I also collected some materials from the early days of Grace Hill’s Member Organized Resource Exchange (a side note: when I first learned about timebanking and was looking to start one, I ordered Grace Hill’s handbook on how to replicate their program. When I was first put in a hotel room with Renee (then Betty) Marver at a conference, I was all star-struck) including the 1981 report that established the ways in which a service credit exchange could meet some unmet needs and reports from the later ’80s detailing their many cool programs. I’ll digitize it and post on http://buildftw.org soon. It’ll be good to get older projects up there too.
And now I’m home, processing all this, moving forward with things at the Dane County TimeBank and getting myself together to write and take next steps on building Mutual Aid Networks including ongoing peer and material support for timebanks and related efforts. This tour really crystallized some ways forward and energized me (well, after I get a little more rest post-whirlwind) to rally the resources to pursue them. I’ll be writing up some overall reports of activities, outcomes, resource inflows and outflows, and resulting plans moving forward from the tour. Stay tuned for that in the next few days..
I stayed with Marie Nelson’s daughter in Gainesville on October 26th, got there late after a 10.5 hour drive, following a drive late into the night before. Naomi was really nice, we had a quick cup of coffee in the morning, then I drove 2.5 hours to Tampa Bay. I got there around 1:30, to a lovely park where it was warm and sunny! And there was a great group of about 20 people there. We played my favorite game as usual and talked about what kinds of projects and partnerships they’re interested in.
From there Marie and I drove straight across the bay to Sacred Grounds Coffeehouse where the next event was held. This was a long-form discussion, which I really liked. Yes, we played the yarn game yet again (Marie and I were the only overlaps in a group of another 25) and then did a visioning exercise about how we’d apply timebanking to creating a makerspace and place for kids to play where we’d also facilitate gleaning and food distribution.
The next morning I had to wake up bright and early to get to the Pinellas Technical Education Center in St. Petersburg where we had a meeting from 8 – 10:30 am. Waking up at sunrise is better when this is the view from your bed.
This was a really great group of people who want to get down to business applying timebanking to serious social and economic problems. You can check out the notes for more details. We had people who are working in prisons, working on the 2020 Plan (a plan to reduce poverty by 30% by 2020 in South St. Petersburg), studying biomimicry, working with faith and community organizations and more. The discussion was very rich, only some of which was captured in the notes. People found promise in the idea of using timebanking to bootstrap resources into more elaborate cooperative endeavors.
Then some of us enjoyed a beautiful lunch at Leafy Greens Cafe, and made some plans for the future. I’ll be joining the 2020 Plan committee on a skype in a couple weeks to follow up on ideas that have arisen.
From the Cafe I made the 10 hour drive toward New Orleans, one of my very favorite places! At the suggestion of Carl from our morning meeting, I stopped in Pensacola FL for the night so I could enjoy their beaches the next morning before finishing the drive. Good choice! It was lovely to sit on a nice white sand beach at the end of October, stretching my summer out a little longer before I’d need to head home to Madison Wisconsin in time for November.
next up: New Orleans timebank stops, St. Louis and home
The next evening, Monday October 19, we met up with folks in Baltimore – Michael Marks, former TBUSA Board cohort, wrote a PhD on timebanking, used to work with Youth Advocate Program and currently helps with the B-Note and more, Jeff Dicken and Julie Goeldener of the B-Note, Ian Shlakman of B-Note and timebank, Tam of the local timebank, plus Scott and me. We met at a cool bar/restaurant called Golden West. It was a really good time. Cursory notes are here. We learned about what everyone was doing, did some troubleshooting and brainstorming about how things might work better or develop further, I shared ideas about the MAN and we talked about software developments.
The next evening I went with Chris, Edgar and Doc (Bill Merritt, working with TimeBanks USA) to an event at Veterans on the Rise (VOTR) where they’re working to start a timebank. This was a really good time. I had a funny misunderstanding. A few days before Edgar had mentioned my ‘performance’ at VOTR and I’d just thought it was a slip of the tongue, a weird way to refer to my talking about timebanking. Then when I was talking with Edgar and Chris just before the event, planning out the flow of the evening, Chris also said ‘performance’. I jokingly said I had an accordion in the car and then it became clear that yes, they’d wanted me to play music, not talk about timebanking! As it turned out it made sense to do both, because there were a lot of folks there who would like to be part of the timebank who wouldn’t be able to attend the orientation the following weekend. So we played the yarn game which was really fun with this group. There were a lot of carpentry, plumbing, life coaching, editing, writing, communications skills. We also talked about the kinds of community projects they could do, I gave examples from Dane County as usual, and then I played some accordion. Democracy, I Need Sunflowers!, Down Down Down, Skin – my Veterans on the Rise accordion setlist.
I look forward to seeing how their project unfolds. There’s some really great current and potential leadership in VOTR plus the help of Chris, Doc and Edgar of TimeBanks USA who are committed to ‘bringing timebanking home’ and getting timebanks to flourish in Washington D.C.. Lots of potential.
And there are some other great DC efforts to connect with, which we learned on Thursday night at the potluck for DC TimeBank, hosted by Allison Basile. DC TImeBank has about 500 members and is looking to kickstart more activity. The potluck was a great step forward! There were about 50-60 people there, with a lot of enthusiasm, expertise and ideas. We did the visioning game where we identified a quick ‘mission statement’ based on community goals people yelled out in the room. Then a brainstorm on who would need to be involved and a quick and dirty sketch of what we would do and how, paying out timebank hours from a project account and speculating on what participants would need and how to recruit those resources. We closed out giving people the opportunity to make some real-life requests and see if people in the room could fill them. We found a lot of matches!
The next day I went with Deborah and Leonard to Bread for the City where we brainstormed about how to get timebanking flowing there, engaging participants and volunteers to co-produce some cool and useful projects. Somehow I don’t have pictures from this but I know some were taken so maybe later… We were also joined by William H Taft who helped out with his insights. Between Bread for the City, Veterans on the Rise and the DC TimeBank there are some cool synergies which can make some really exciting projects.
That night (Friday Oct. 25) I played a show at Electric Maid. This was fun! A cool space, nice people. Chris Gray and my old friend Natalie Illum (great poet from DC) both came, plus a lot of people for the other bands. I really enjoyed playing for them and they seemed to enjoy the show, so it was good all around. And the venue owners are cool, and interested in timebank and sharing economy stuff.
Right after the show (about midnight) I hit the road toward Florida. I had a little over one day to get there and it’s a 14.5 hour drive from DC to Tampa Bay. So I drove a couple hours to Ashland VA, got a cheap hotel and then found a nice vegan breakfast place in Richmond (which I was somehow really enamored of) before driving to Gainesville (another 10.5 hours) where I stayed with Marie Nelson’s (Tampa Bay TimeBank organizer) daughter before the final 2.5 hour jaunt to Tampa Bay for a 1pm potluck Oct. 27.
that’s up in the next post…