Posted on March 02, 2014 by jimparedes
HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 2, 2014 – 12:00am
One of the things every person must figure out in his life is his relationship with money. It is important to have a healthy attitude towards money. Too much attachment to it is not good. People can be driven to corruption, addiction and moral decay when they obsess too much about it. Too little concern may prove costly too in the sense that one may throw it all away needlessly and uselessly. The Chinese saying, “A fool and his money are soon parted,” comes to mind.
Everything has a price tag if we look through the value system that runs this world. The system after all is controlled by economists, bankers, politicians, and they all subscribe to the materialistic equation that money is power and power is money. And needless to say, everything from the economic point of view has a price tag. And the more money one has, the greater one can have a life of consumption.
This article is not about the price and value of things, people, etc. In fact, I will be exploring what has not been touched by the value of money. It is about what is priceless in life that is worth pursuing.
“Priceless” means you can’t put a price on it. It can’t be bought, or sold. It is something we can only appreciate if we get out of the realm of economic and material values that dominate our lives.
I was reading an article called “Giftivism: Reclaiming the Priceless” by Pavithra Mehta. It is based on a movement a few people founded to simply do good and encourage its spread. It is called Servicespace. It is composed of successful Silicon Valley people who started by doing websites for free. They believe in people’s natural ability and desire to give and connect to others. What they have set out to experience is the practice “unconditional generosity.”
They have three guiding principles which surely make no logical sense to the business world they live in. For one, everything they do is completely voluntary. No paid staff or employees. The second is, no fundraising is to be done. They rely on their own resources. And the third is, they focus on small acts. No grand schemes or big outcomes expected.
Naturally, people who work with the usual business models have predicted they would not scale, they would not sustain and they would be aimless without a big project. But their reason for doing what they do is to experience for themselves the value of things that cannot be measured. In short, they were searching new experiences and forms of value. They want to discover the meaning of “priceless.”
The idea has caught on with 500,000 members worldwide. They have put up sixKarma restaurants in different parts of the world where the menu has no price. The customers get a 0.0 bill at the end of the meal and are told that someone who came before them has gifted them with the meal and if they want to continue to pay forward, they can donate. Or they could decide not to pay, too.
Let me share here a portion of Mehta’s narrative.
“One time we had a computer scientist serving tables. At the end of the meal one guest who was skeptical about the whole pay-it-forward idea handed him a $100 bill, ‘You trust me to pay it forward,’ he said, ‘Well, I trust you to bring me back the right change.’ This wasn’t part of the plan. Our volunteer ran through a list of options in his head. Should he split the money 50:50? Should he try and calculate the price of the meal? Suddenly the answer came to him. He handed the $100 bill back to the guest, and then opened up his own wallet and added an extra $20. In that moment, both waiter and guest experienced a mini transformation and ‘got’ what Karma Kitchen is about.”
Their idea is to create experiences that are impossible to monetize like acts of kindness and generosity, etc. A few other examples of these are giving one’s time helping others, or paying the toll fees of the car behind. While the time spent and the toll may be measured, the intention of doing it with kindness cannot. The experience of both the giver and the receiver is priceless.
It is not about the money but about believing that people have it in them to be generous. When you experience something like it, you open yourself to the flow of giving and will do your part to continue it.
In the whole process, people develop more trust in each other. And because it is unconditional giving, it stops being a transaction where people are constrained to give each other things of more or less equal value. It becomes a new relationship where people simply experience the spirit of giving without money or worldly value in mind. And that is priceless.
I know some of you dear readers will find this absolutely crazy. Will it work? Here’s another narrative where Mehta talks about her uncle, Dr. V, who did something really extraordinary.
“In 1976 he and his five brothers and sisters started an 11-bed eye hospital in India called Aravind. At Aravind no one who needs care is turned away. They do 60 percent of their surgeries for free. They don’t do any fundraising or accept donations. And yet it is a fully self-sustaining enterprise. How does it work? Patients can choose if they want to pay or not. The revenue from paying patients goes towards covering costs for the others. The quality of care whether you pay or do not is world-class. It’s a brilliant, elegant and breathtakingly compassionate system that really works. Today Aravind is the largest provider of eye care on the planet. Over 38 million patients seen. More than five million surgeries performed. It has redefined the impossible. Harvard Business School has been studying it for years trying to understand how a place that breaks all the rules of business still succeeds. The thing is Aravind doesn’t succeed in spite of the fact that it breaks these rules. It succeeds because of it.”
Every day that passes, I find myself believing less and less in the value system perpetrated by the world. It is dangerously unsustainable when so many have so little and so very few own so much. Sometimes I ask myself how much I must do for money and how much I should be doing just for love.
In the end, the question is about how I want the world to be. Should I continue to invest my time and efforts to a world of unsustainable, uncaring consumption, or a more sustainable world that runs on kindness and giving?
If we all asked this question, we could really change ourselves, and — who knows? — the rest of the world may follow.
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