Last night I was honored to speak on a panel at The Commonwealth Club- moderated by the marvelous Violet Blue. It was a fun, conversational, lively discussion about dating in San Francisco. I will post the video once it’s up on youtube.
The word ‘erotic’ is derived from the Greek God of love, sexuality and beauty, Eros. It’s a binding principle of attraction, emotion and union. Erotic nature draws us together in pleasure, desire, and joy. Where Eros is feminine, Logos is masculine and refers to the rational mind, logic and reason. Western culture is built on the veneration of Logos, with knowledge and understanding being valued above intuition and feeling.
Carl Jung, Aspects of the Feminine:
“Woman’s psychology is founded on the principle of Eros, the great binder and loosener, whereas from ancient times the ruling principle ascribed to man is Logos. The concept of Eros could be expressed in modern terms as psychic relatedness, and that of Logos as objective interest.”
Our current market economy is a perfect example of the logos principle made manifest. It is a ledger with numbers which do not require emotion to understand, and it allows us to make transactions without the inconvenience of building relationships. It satisfies the assumption that if I give something I want something in return. An Erotic Economy, based in the principles of Eros, is one that brings people together in community, and it loosens the binds on the steadfast logos principle that one plus one must always equal two. It allows people to build relationships and experience emotionally significant moments through their transactions. The Erotic Economy is based in the giving of gifts.
Lewis Hyde, The Gift:
“Unlike the sale of a commodity, the giving of a gift tends to establish a relationship between parties involved. When gifts circulate within a group, their commerce leaves a series of interconnected relationships in it’s wake, and a kind of decentralized cohesiveness emerges”
Giving an individual gift is different from participating in a Gift Economy- it’s a one off transaction with no expectation. When you give a gift you do not expect to get something in return. You give as an individual expression of your generosity, affection, or obligation. Culturally, there are all kinds of reasons to give gifts- birth, death, religious holidays, or to celebrate a child’s new teeth.
A Gift Economy is something different- it is a system of commerce where goods and services are exchanged through the giving of gifts, where altruism and trust are rewarded by needs being met and a quality of exchange that becomes a gift in itself. Where our market economy begins with the question “what shall I buy?” the gift economy begins with “what shall I give?”. It turns the question inward to find value internally, asking where your personal gifts might be received, rather than putting value on external commodities. Unlike the market economy, when you find a place where your gift can be received, there is no expectation that the person you shared a transaction with will return something of equal value to you. Instead, a Gift Economy expects (but does not demand) that they give something of equal or higher value on to someone else. The gift keeps giving, bringing value, building relationships and becoming a binding principle of community. The inevitable outcome of this process is that soon someone will give you a gift, and the equation will balance out. But rather than a sense of entitlement, of being ‘owed’, when a gift reaches it way back to you it’s surprising and joyful.
In an Erotic Economy you put your gifts out into the world and let them leave your sight, without direct expectation of reciprocation, and then naturally receive gifts as a result of your abundant behavior, building trust and community through emotionally satisfying transactions.
But there are a few potential pitfalls for this kind of economic system. For those people with a specific purpose, or with needs to be met, it seems like a slow and inefficient way of doing things. A fearful voice in your head wants to ask “what happens if I give and give and never get anything back?”. The Erotic Economy focuses on the act of giving, with the act of receiving as a bi-product of the process and not the goal.
Barbara Marx Hubbard, the visionary and social pioneer describes sexual arousal as an evolutionary urge to procreate. The success of the species has been dependent on it, but in our present planetary circumstance we no longer need to increase our population to survive, and she suggests that the evolutionary urge has shifted from procreation to co-creation. We no longer need to create more people to be a successful species, instead we need to become more creative and collaborative, to gain a deeper understanding of ourselves, each other and the planet we live on, to create sustainable life on Earth. She describes this urge to create together as ‘vocational arousal’. Where in the past we have had an evolutionary sexual urge to procreate, now we have a ‘supra sexual’ urge which drives an evolutionary desire to co-create.
When I meet someone who inspires me to collaborate I feel an arousal that is similar to a sexual urge. I want to join my thing with their thing and make beautiful music together. It makes me a little crazy, like the theia mania (“madness from the gods”) of the Ancient Greeks. I have to admit I have an uncontrollable urge to collaborate on creative projects! It get’s me HOT!
If you add this concept of the Supra Sexual urge to the Erotic Economy, things really start to get steamy. A community of people driven by an evolutionary urge to co-create, and a system of commerce that builds a sense of interconnectedness and community- the very act of participating becomes a transformational, evolutionary experience! Rather than being stuck in the fear that your needs might not be met, there is an outpouring of connection and creativity which fuels and drives future transactions. Finding a need that you can fill creates vocational arousal, and the act of giving satisfies your Supra Sexual urge. Giving becomes your goal, and receiving becomes an inevitable and ecstatic side effect of this process.
– The act of giving- A Supra Sexual urge to reach out
A sensation of release and surrender
A demonstration of abundance and generosity
A sense of being received for your gifts
Gaining trust in community
– The act of receiving- A Supra Sexual desire quenched
Having your needs met
A sense of gratitude and joy
Humility and relief
Building trust with community