Saturday hippie: Dancin’

Free-flowing, even spacy motions often accompanied the era’s music. Some of the dancing could be impressively expressive, especially when it had roots in the city. On top of it all, we had strands of international folk, New England contra, and Mediterranean belly dances.

It’s one more element of the Hippie Trails saga.

What did you do? What was your favorite? What do you remember most intensely? And today?

Dancing~*~

Hippies came – and still come – in all varieties. Saturday Hippie is a weekly feature that highlights a counterculture awareness and spirit, including a vision of a harmonious global commonwealth on the horizon. The work and the lessons didn’t end in the ’60s and ’70s. Here’s to the Revolution, near and far.

Friday payday: Management consultants

“I think they’re out to get somebody. Have you noticed that every time they show up, somebody in management gets axed?” Belle insisted.

“Aw,” Goober sniffled, “you’re just being paranoid. This is a common procedure these days.”

Then they introduced Management By Defined Goals (MBGD).

Hometown_News

For more of my novel, click here.

Embrace personal values

As your economic vision moves beyond simple dollars and cents, you realize there’s no hiding. When you deal with money, your values are revealed. Just consider the ambiguities we face when using the word values. There are, of course, your own beliefs, qualities that formulate character and integrity. At another level you have a measure of worth, ranking objects by prices assigned through the marketplace. At still another level you have bargains, the “great values” touted in advertising. You evaluate a situation. You can even treasure an experience, placing it beyond any price: “I value your friendship.”

Your values embody many unvoiced expectations, ones that are too easily overlooked and often difficult to voice, until they erupt in conflict.

One of the more difficult exercises comes in trying to articulate your character-level values as they relate to money. Naming your individual goals is one thing. Defining your values is another – often, frustratingly elusive.

Just what is your personal credo?

Can you say, “This I believe – and as a consequence, I choose to do X, Y, Z”? That is, put your money where your mouth is?

Or, more accurately, your heart is?

In short, we’re looking for ways to bring our handling of money in line with our hearts.

A soup kitchen volunteer related two incidents that demonstrate how values affect individual uses of money.

One afternoon, as she was conversing with one of the regulars, the woman looked at the clock and said, “Oh, I’ve got to get going. I want to catch a movie on television.”

Our friend, the volunteer, asked the name and replied, “Oh, I’d love to see it too. What channel’s it on?”

“It’s on cable,” came the answer.

“You know,” our friend realized later, “I don’t have cable. I think it’s too expensive.”

Do you value putting food on the table more than cable TV (or some other form of entertainment)? Why?

Either way, where did this value originate in your life?

Another time, one of the regulars showed up exactly at closing time and was outraged that the selection he wanted was gone. “You should have arrived earlier,” the volunteer counseled.

“Couldn’t. Was out buying a car.” A used imported luxury model, it turned out.

“How could you afford that?”

“Won the lottery today.”

“Well, if you can afford that kind of car, certainly you can take yourself out for a nice dinner.”

“Can’t. Spent it all,” he said.

As you can see, not everyone shares the housing-first, then food and utilities priority. When we discuss money issues openly, individuals will discover just how widely these money values can differ. You may even hear of someone’s neighbor who won the Megabucks, only to lose it all again on new tickets.

If you buy lottery tickets, what reason do you give yourself? Do you tell yourself it’s for a good cause, such as supporting education?

On a larger scale, do you feel it would be better to raise taxes to pay for that service directly? Why? Or why not?

With the Megabucks winner just noted, do you think that somewhere in his outlook he fears money is dirty? Or do you feel his decision to put it all on new tickets had another motivation?

Do you always pay off your credit card balances each month? Usually? Or do you always carry a balance? Explain.

Saturday hippie: Digs

Think about the places you lived in the hippie era. How many roommates? How much space? How did you work out the food arrangements or split the rent? What kind of neighborhood were you in?

It’s one more element of the Hippie Trails saga.

What do you remember most intensely? What do you miss, pro and con?

Hood~*~

Hippies came – and still come – in all varieties. Saturday Hippie is a weekly feature that highlights a counterculture awareness and spirit, including a vision of a harmonious global commonwealth on the horizon. The work and the lessons didn’t end in the ’60s and ’70s. Here’s to the Revolution, near and far.

Friday payday: Emblems of commitment

The remodeling was crucial. With it, Goodwin put his family’s fortune where his mouth was. It wasn’t something they’d do if they were planning to sell out. Consider the other big moves: upgrading of the press, which would save big bucks over the long haul; and a new computer system just down the pike.

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For more of my novel, click here.

Beyond dollars & cents

Too much and too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our gross  national product … if we should judge America by that – counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for those who break them. It counts the destruction of our redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and the cost of a nuclear warhead, and armored cars for police who fight riots in our streets. It counts Whitman’s rifle and Speck’s knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.

Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. – Robert F. Kennedy in an address at the University of Kansas, Lawrence, March 18, 1968 

*   *   *

One of my newspaper colleagues tells of a neighbor he once had. Every morning, getting ready for work, they’d see each other across the driveway, and the next-door man would begin complaining about this story or that from the previous edition. “Can’t you guys ever get anything right?” he’d gripe. One day Pat had finally heard enough. Mentioning the writer of the most recent offense, he asked, “How much do you think she makes?” The neighbor, a steelworker, tossed out a figure. In reply, Pat gave the actual rate, about half of what the neighbor was earning. “And that’s with a master’s degree.” After a silence, came, “That’s all?” And, “Yup.” After that, Pat says, the conversation was always, “Great story” or “Fine coverage.”

When we fall into the trap of measuring success by dollar expectations, we become blind to much of what makes the world go ‘round. We separate ourselves from much of what builds and sustains community, too.

Consider, too, how expectations about wealth color our perceptions of others. Are there special reasons for impressions of starving artists or poverty-stricken saints? How do we feel about lavishly paid clergy or local teacher salaries?

Sometimes it seems we expect poorer people to be more virtuous – which would also suggest a belief that money corrupts – all while wanting more for ourselves.

If there is virtue in poverty and starvation, why don’t more people emulate these artists and saints? Might poets and prophets function better if they were well-fed and wealthy? Might they be freed from daily oppression?

How you would feel if your annual income were broadcast on the evening news? How would you feel knowing exactly how much your friends and neighbors are earning? Would it change your perception of them?

Continuing this theme, Elizabeth O’Connor raises troublesome points: “Do we believe that money and possessions have a way of coming between people who want to be in community with each other? Do we really believe that every life has resources more priceless than gold, and that our hearts, minds, and labor are adequate for any task? What if the world is right and there are things that only money can buy, gifts of the spirit that only money can unlock, and blocks that only money can push aside?”

As George Savile, First Marquess of Halifax, observed in his “Political, Moral and Miscellaneous Reflexions”: “They who are of opinion that Money will do every thing, may very well be suspected to do every thing for Money.”

By now, we are realizing we need to take much more than cash values into account when we confront money issues.

For example, poet and ecologist Wendell Berry has calculated that according to monetized values, a family broken by divorce is viewed as much more “economically viable” than an intact family, simply because more cash is required to support two households, rather than one. More cars are needed, child care is done by paid helpers, meals are eaten in restaurants, and so on; economies of labor are no longer shared. Yet, when other values are included, such as emotional injury to children, lowered standard of living for both households, or the inevitable injustices on both sides in any divorce, you soon perceive how hollow the monetized calculation truly is. Berry’s examination of economics, based on his hands-on insights as an environmentalist and a farmer who uses mules rather than tractors, leads him to prophetic criticisms of international agribusiness strategies, American public policy, education, and the style in which many of us live. He finds inspiration, too, in bare-boned customs of Amish families and others who steadfastly measure their economies over generations, rather than by quarterly profit reports. Responsible action, he argues, holds individuals accountable. In addition, he observes, “Local productivity, however small, is a gift.”

Recognizing this liberating element, Robert Sardello notes: “Gift economy is exceedingly important because the gift is always oriented toward an unknown future . . . Public education serves as an example.”

In short, economic actions cannot be evaluated simply by money. In our economic decisions, we need to compute all aspects, not just dollar signs. In a curious way, then, Caesar’s patriarchy rears its ugly head whenever we try to monetize the transactions of our lives and limit the calculation to a balance sheet. Taken one way, then, and you cease rendering unto God what is God’s, even as you discount God’s gifts among us. Taken the other, you go beyond rendering unto Caesar, even as you use his coinage.

Jim Corbett, a founder of the Sanctuary movement that guided Central American political refugees to safety, was a Quaker who pondered money-related issues – and one who knew precisely what it meant to hit the trail. His Goatwalking is a gem of a volume that’s difficult to classify – part handbook for selecting goats and surviving long periods sojourning in the desert, part spiritual testimony, part social action guide, part Western expedition, part autobiography – yet it has applications that pop up unexpectedly long after you’ve read it. He connects many concerns of religion, economics, social justice, and covenant community in challenging arguments, even if you are never likely to purchase a milking goat. Somehow, that seems fitting in our examination, where everything begins to connect in unanticipated ways.

For example, his desert journeys help him welcome the vitality that Sabbath and sabbatical provide in freeing individuals from the traps of everyday living. “Sabbatical communion also opens a way to bridge divisions between peoples and classes and to transcend humankind’s alienation from land and livelihood. It opens a way toward the Peaceable Kingdom that is a nonviolent alternative to the apocalyptic hopes of revolutionary Zealots.” In short, he perceives a linkage in which the still small voice of 1 Kings 19:12 can realign worldly possessions to support faithful communities. His treks enhance his gratitude for the “marriage” he has with a specific congregation, the opportunity for giving a universal aspiration a living reality.

As Corbett also demonstrates, doing without material comforts, even briefly,  can clarify your vision. Or, as the saying goes, some of the best things in life are free.

Big bills