For millennia, human civilization has blindly trudged forward with the ambitious pursuit of ‘progress’ and ‘growth’. In doing so, our ancient story of interbeing and abundance (which arose independently from indigenous cultures across the world) was replaced with a story of scarcity and separation. We have doubled down on a mechanized, reductionist understanding of the world which has encouraged us to maximize ‘progress’ and profits at all costs. And though this model has provided a boon for some, the costs have been far greater.
A culture of scarcity is a culture preoccupied with lack, in which the focus is on your inadequacies, and there is a perpetual felt sense of “never enough.” We are afraid we’re not enough, and we respond to this by trying to prove how extraordinary we are.
As a collective, we have experienced (and continue to experience) local, national, and global trauma that has stolen our sense of safety. Culturally, we are traumatized, and it manifests as a hyper-vigilant, pervasive, underlying worry. As a way of control, we hold up an idealized image of ourselves, our lives, our days (in other words, Instagram-worthy), and when reality fails to hold up, we experience suffering. From a cultural standpoint, this creates problematic results.
As Brene Brown puts it, "Never ______ enough. It only takes a few seconds before people fill in the blanks with their own tapes:
Never good enough
Never perfect enough
Never thin enough
Never powerful enough
Never successful enough
Never smart enough
Never certain enough
Never safe enough
Never extraordinary enough"
This feeling of scarcity is the big lie that we all have bought into. It is this innate fear that rests deep inside of us, whispering to our subconscious mind that we simply do not have enough.
Each of us struggle, to varying degrees, with this deep existential feeling of not being enough. Sure, on the surface we seem fine. When someone asks us how we are doing, we immediately (without hesitation) say, "I'm great, how are you?" But if we're honest with ourselves, there is an underlying sense of fear that maybe we can't even quite put our finger on. This fear is based on a dialectic that says, "I'm doing the best that I can" and "I need to be doing better." And whether we are conscious of this drive or not, each of us tends to act upon this inaccurate impulse.
If we want holistic, long-lasting change, we must look beyond the surface of our struggles – beyond the symptoms and instead at the root cause.
As poet Rupi Kaur says,
you have to
get to the root
of the wound
and kiss it all the way up
This begs the question: where is the root?
I believe it is at the level of story. If you want to change the culture or the individuals within it, you must change the stories which shape that culture.
Charles Eisenstein illustrates this well, “From our immersion in scarcity arise the habits of scarcity. From the scarcity of time arises the habit of hurrying. From the scarcity of money comes the habit of greed. From the scarcity of attention comes the habit of showing off. From the scarcity of meaningful labour comes the habit of laziness. From the scarcity of unconditional acceptance comes the habit of manipulation.” In essence, the relationships we have with ourselves, with others, and with our environment are shaped by the narratives we hold about our purpose and place here on Earth.
We are in a time between stories, changing from a narrative and worldview focused on separation and competitive scarcity to one that recognizes our ‘interbeing’ with everything else and our potential to co-create collaborative abundance.
First-and-foremost this shift in scarcity to abundance is a shift in our way of being, a shift in our attentiveness, a shift in our dynamic, in how we open ourselves up internally to more of our authentic humanity within us, and also externally in terms of how we relate to others.
Charles refers to this way of being and relating as “living in the gift”. He says, “In the Story of Interbeing, life is a gift. The world and everything in it is a gift. We did not earn our lives. We did not earn the sun; it is not thanks to our hard efforts that it shines. We did not earn the ability of plants to grow. We did not earn water. We did not earn our conception nor our breath. Our hearts beat and our livers metabolize all on their own. Life is a gift.”
As we unclutter our attentiveness, a visceral expansiveness may be felt within us as we open up to our souls, and to the wisdom and grace of Nature, right here right now: the gift of life before our very noses.
Imagine what the world could be if we could sweep away the conditions that conspire to stunt and suppress our gifts. These conditions are political. They are economic. They are ideological, they are relational, they are psychological and spiritual. For civilization to transition into an age of the gift requires transformation on every level.
Thinking of this transition can be overwhelming. But it can begin with one simple intention: gratitude.
There is magic in cultivating an attitude of gratitude. Simply being truly grateful for what we have, for what each unfolding situation can offer us in terms of learning and growth, as well as the opportunity to be present with the beauty within and around us. As Charles offers, “Gratitude is our native state. Generosity is its maturation.”
Imagine a world rooted in trust, kindness, and compassion, where we offer our abundance without thought of recompense or expectation of return in order to enhance and enrich the lives of others. There is no deeper fulfillment than living a life of genuine service – this is what it means to live in the gift.
We are undergoing a process of healing the wounds of separation and discovering the unexpected realms of reunion. This process is sometimes gradual and sometimes sudden. Sometimes painful and sometimes blissful. At times it requires effort and others it flows with ease. This is all part of the metamorphosis.
Remember, you are not alone on this journey. The return home begins with a single step. There are others rediscovering this gift of life. Find your tribe. Give back to your community – generosity is contagious. Together, we can help each other dis-cover our true purpose and place here on this beautiful, abundant planet.
My philosophies are not mine alone. I must offer recognition and gratitude to Charles Eisenstein for his profound influence on this article:
Charles Eisenstein (born 1967) is an American public speaker and author. His work covers a wide range of topics, including the history of human civilization, economics, spirituality, and the ecology movement. Key themes explored include anti-consumerism, interdependence, and how myth and narrative influence culture. According to Eisenstein, global culture is immersed in a destructive "story of separation", and one of the main goals of his work is to present an alternative "story of interbeing". Much of his work draws on ideas from Eastern philosophy and the spiritual teachings of various indigenous peoples.