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There is only one goal. That is to be whole again.

There is only one goal. That is to be whole again. How human beings live and work determines whether they remain whole or are split. ...

3/31/15

In the realm of economics the only distinction that matters is between that which is used and that which is not used. What is used is wealth. What is not used is negative wealth, what John Ruskin called illth

If we find ourselves in a world in crisis it is because the unused portion of the stuff of the world far outweighs what is actually used. 

Today negative wealth far outweighs wealth itself and creates an ever increasing burden on life. 

None of the traditional distinctions between necessities and luxuries, capital and consumption goods, small and big matter. All that matters is that everything we have we must use. 

Gandhiji said, "If you use it you should keep it." And it follows from that that if you don't use it you should give it away. All the negative wealth of the world can turn into wealth simply by people keeping what they use and giving everything else away. 

When that happens we will have true freedom. This is what good economics is all about.

3/21/15

Why There Is Nothing Wrong With Luxuries

I do not have an issue with luxuries. Many luxury products are made well by artisans and cost more because they are well made. They last a very long time, can be sold or given away when no longer useful to oneself, and are eagerly accepted and used by others for many more years. These luxury items, if they are used, surely constitute wealth

What I do not like is that most things being made nowadays are shoddy, cheaply made and disposable. They do not work well. They split the wholeness of the producer, split the wholeness of Mother Earth herself, and destroy the wholeness of the person trying to use the product. 

I would suggest that 99% of everything bought and sold in the United States, where I now live, belongs in this category. This mass-produced garbage makes its way into garbage dumps, after being carefully placed in plastic garbage bags, almost as soon as it is produced. 

That which we use is wealth. That which we don't use is illth. It follows that that which we can use well is wealth and that which we can't use well is illth. Thus luxuries which are used well are wealth whereas many so-called necessities are illth

Gandhiji said that a group of people were just the masses. It was only when they had interrelationships that they became a society. In the same way our modern mass produced goods are like rudderless ships, causing much havoc and destruction. They are mass illth. To have a society, our products must be capable of interrelationships with people, other products and Mother Earth. 

Let us then embrace well made, well thought out products that are more expensive rather than less and each according to our means buy the most luxurious things that are of use to us in our daily lives. 

Now that is really living! And that is why there is nothing wrong with luxuries.
Life is a game. This game is played on a square.

This square has four sides: receiving, using, keeping and giving.

So life is a game of receiving, using, keeping and giving.

Everything that we have, we have received from life. If we use it we should keep it. If we don't use it we should give it others who can use it.

This is the game of life.

3/15/15

"Can you build a house with negative bricks?" I ask.

If we want to build a society around us we must look for positive things in common with everyone we see and interact with.

I ask the young people gathered around me from Brazil and the United States to find ten things in common with the person next to them. There is much fun and laughter in doing this exercise.
Society is not simply a group of people. Society is a group of people with interrelationships. --Gandhiji

In our busy modern lives we often overlook the simple fact that wealth is relationships and that the concept of capital that really matters is social capital. 

Capital is accumulated wealth. Social capital is the web of relationships and interrelationships created over a lifetime and across generations. If we want to strengthen our society we have to start building social capital.

This takes times. It requires a lot of effort. What was once natural and effortless becomes with neglect something that takes a lot of rebuilding. A lot of energy.

I have a group of seven students from Brazil who are trying to understand American society. For them a society with interrelationships is very much alive and active. They do not understand how so many of their American counterparts, the seven students from the United States, young working adults, high school graduates, good, responsible people have been homeless for part of their lives. 

The more modern society is, the more money capital it has, the poorer it is in social capital. That is the work ahead of us. 

3/14/15

When we have things that we can not use we create suffering for others. When we give up things that are of no use to us we ease the suffering of others.

Can the secret of a good life be that simple?

When we have things around us that we can not use we trap capital. We entrap the resources of the world in our personal worlds. Capital that is trapped is very much like a caged animal. It is tragic, really.

When we hold on to things that we can not use we create an artificial scarcity of those very resources in the world. You say how can your holding on to this extra pair of shoes, this house that you can not possibly use all of make a difference to others?

In your hands the things that are unused are simply dead weight. They are capital that is trapped, denying the world at large of its use. Releasing that capital floods the world with free capital, good will and is then available to others for their use.

To ease the suffering of others you only have to look at your self. Look at your own life. If each of us gave up three-quarters of everything that we had, things that we have but can not possibly be really using, imagine how much of a difference that would make!

Firstly it changes us. Secondly it changes others.

Life is a game of giving and receiving. It starts with giving. Won't you join me in this wonderful act by giving just two things each week? All my students are doing it. They keep a giving journal and do two acts of giving every week. One of them donated her hair, another smiled at everyone she saw out on the street and a third gave his green tea and breakfast snacks to a homeless family and fasted that day.

These are small acts of giving. They acknowledge the small things at our feet and create a revolution

3/13/15

Dear friends,

Simplicity is to have what we can use and discard what we can't use.

What we can use is wealth and what we can't use is illth. If the word wealth derives from well and connotes being well, then the word illth derives from ill and connotes being ill.

It is important that we focus on having wealth in our lives and stop having illth. That is the essence of the simple life.

If you have a question about whether it is OK for you to have something just ask yourself the question, "Do I use it?" If you do, it is OK to have it. So please don't get rid of your phone or your computer. You won't anyway, so you can stop feeling bad about having things. Keep what you use!

But what you don't use, give away! Don't put it in the garbage. Give it away. Where we live there is a section on Craigslist to put free stuff on and I am sure there is a Craigslist or its equivalent where you live. I promise you someone will want what you don't.

Your illth may be someone else's wealth. For example we have recently given away a chipped dinner plate, a soiled rug, a bin full of worms, an old lunch box from my childhood, old computers and printers, old paint, cardboard boxes, old electronic cables and many other things that have been of no use to us and were gratefully received by others who had a use for these things.

An American friend once asked Gandhiji what he should do about his greed for his books, a considerable library, which he loved with all his heart. Gandhiji told him that if he used his books he should keep them. Gandhiji said,

"Don't give them up! As long as you derive inner help and comfort from anything, you should keep it. If you were to give it up in a mood of self-sacrifice or out of a stern sense of duty, you would continue to want it back, and that unsatisfied want would make trouble for you.

"Only give up a thing when you want some other condition so much that the thing no longer has any attraction for you, or when it seems to interfere with that which is more greatly desired."

Many years ago my wife and I gave up our house at the top of this hill to move to a small rental apartment at the bottom of this same hill, which is more than enough for us. We gave away about three-quarters of our belongings and I started riding my bicycle to work, sixteen miles roundtrip.

It is now fifteen years that I have been riding my bicycle to work and when I come home I am surrounded by our much-loved books, a great painting by our friend Hans Gullickson, plants, and two beautiful black cats.

Our life is good. We think we are the wealthiest people alive.

Notes: The definitions of illth and wealth are those of John Ruskin. Please read Ruskin's Unto This Last and engage in his wisdom which is far beyond anything I have to impart. I am grateful to my friend and historian of economics, Robert Leonard, for pointing me in the direction of the works of Richard B. Gregg who is Gandhiji's American friend referred to above.

3/10/15

For my dear friend Robert Leonard

Dear Robert,

There is only one way. And that is forward.

We do not wish to turn back the clock. We can agree that we must move forward. 

We can not fight change. Change is in the nature of time itself. Nothing is still, what was once is no longer there. What wasn't welcomes the new day.

So we can agree on two propositions: 1. That there is always movement and that movement is forward. 2. That there is no fighting change, that movement forward encompasses change.

Given wide and across the board acceptance of our two propositions, propositions that we can all agree with, can we then accept that we can affect only the quality of that movement forward, the quality of that change. That we can affect the quality of movement and change in life. This is not a small can. We can do it. We really can.

So the question that emerges is how are we to do it? Do we take the mass movement towards bigger and more violent ways of living, the economics of more more and even more as inevitable? Or can we say simply, enough! We can affect the quality of our movement and change and in this very moment choose a simple word to guide us. 

The word is simplicity

Abhay Burjor Ghiara
Berkeley, California