Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Gift of Favor, Gift of Suffering

In this post I'm going to talk about predator-ship in nature and unmerited suffering.  I've been working on this for weeks... actually, for a lifetime.  But, first, a push for my radio show:
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Predator-ship of Nature
People sometimes point out to me that wild nature runs also on the predatory mode, as "opposed to" gift economy, not "just" gift economy.  And our monetary system is often said to be predatory, comparable to, say, predatory sharks.  The common idea is that we must rise above the barbarism of wild animals.

What an insult to sharks.  Do sharks massacre entire populations or destroy their own environments or deplete their own resources or the resources of others?  Sharks, unlike our monetary system, have lived in balance with the creatures they prey upon and all other creatures for millions of years. 

When most people think of the word predator, they think of barbaric evil. 
It's time to end the misconceptions. 

The predatory mode of nature is not opposed to gift economy, but, in fact, is itself also gift economy!  The predatory mode of wild nature is also beyond thought of credit and debt, not the "civilized" predator-ship of vengeance and conscious payment (as we witness in our monetary and barter systems).  

The lion shall prey upon the springbok
right now in the holy kingdom
here at hand
The predatory mode of wild nature is based on natural need, based on creatures living their true natures, making it balanced.  The predatory mode of our commercial system is based on hoarding more we need, vengeance and pay-back, contrary to our true nature, penalizing us for being ourselves.  The predatory mode of our commercial system cannot be compared to the predatory mode of wild nature, but is contrary to wild nature, repressing it.  The predatory mode of wild nature is the harsh side of gift economy.  

and the lion shall lie down with the springbok,
right now in the holy kingdom
here at hand
 An animal preys upon and eats another, not to pay a vendetta, but to eat.  And a wild animal might attack another out of self-defense, not to pay a vendetta, not to punish.

For example, if a lion preys upon a zebra, the zebras put up a struggle or fight out of self-defense.  But once the prey is taken and killed, the zebra herd moves on, with no sense of vengeance.  Unlike humans, they do not gather hunting posses and exterminate all lions.  In fact, prey and predator are so without sense of pay-back they will actually lie down by each other at the watering hole, knowing the predator is not hungry.

And the lion shall hunt the zebra
right now in the holy kingdom
here at hand

In the balance of wild predator-ship, the wild wolf and the wild lamb lie down with each other as a population, totally necessary for each other's balance.  But the wild wolf and the domestic lamb do not lie down with each other, and the wild lion and the domestic ox do no
And the lion shall drink water with the zebra
right now in the holy kingdom
here at hand
t lie down with each other.  There is no balance between them.  Domestic flocks and herds - commoditized as "stock" (money), under control of human owners, under control of thought of credit and debt - take more than they need.  And when a wild predator kills one, taking only what it needs, the domestic owner goes into a fit of vindictive massacre against the wild predator.  Extinction of species is due directly to this thought of credit and debt, a blindness to the balance of nature.

Life simply cannot exist without wild predator and prey.  Every particle in the universe, even a vegan particle, is and must be a predator and a prey, at one time or another.

The prey does not deserve to be the prey and the predator does not deserve to be the predator.  Both simply are.  And both are one.  The mind locked into the box of credit and debt thinking is troubled by this.  Existence has no trouble with it.  

I have talked much about unmerited favor (gift), but now it's time to bring balance and talk about unmerited suffering - something quite profound and powerful.  Yes, let's now focus more closely on the harsh aspect of Gift Economy.

No Why or How of Undeserved Suffering

If gift, unmerited favor, could be explained, if it had a reason, it would not be gift.

If undeserved suffering could be explained, if it had a reason, it would not be undeserved suffering. 

What is undeserved, whether good or bad, will collapse your mind, blowing you out of this world.  If it doesn't, it is mundane.  Mundane means of this world.

Gift Economy: the Foundation of all World Traditions

I like getting down to the roots, both good and bad roots, of our culture, why we do what we do.  

Then I find I often don't know why we do what we do.  Bottom line, there is no why to life.  Being is Being.

Naturally, on this blog and the website, I've talked a lot about gift and gift economy, digging through the bastardizations of our Judeo-Christian traditions and finding that gift is their buried foundation.  I've also found that gift is the foundation of spiritual and cultural traditions all over the world, not just Judaism and Christianity.  

Again, over the years, I've talked a lot about the pleasant aspects of gift: grace and gratitude.  

But brace yourself.  Now it's time now to talk about the hard, unpleasant aspects of gift.  

But what is hard and unpleasant isn't necessarily bad;
May we see that the hard and unpleasant aspects of gift mean powerful.

Definition of Gift taken to its Logical Conclusion

I also looked up gift in Hebrew, of the Semitic language family.  The Hebrew for gratis, without cost, is חִנָּֽם (hinnam), whose root, similarly to that of Indo-European, is חֵ֖ן (hen), grace.  (For example, the common name, John, or Johan, comes from the Hebrew Jah-hannam, gift of Jah).  Hinnam means freely, for nothing, without cause, gratis, gratuitously, for nothing, for no purpose, in vain, undeservedly.  

However, while we've seen, so far, gift defined in its positive aspect, Hebrew goes deeper in gift's definition to anything unmerited: gift refers to both unmerited favor and unmerited suffering or curse!  I have a hunch this is the same in all Semitic languages, including Arabic and Aramaic, though I haven't looked into it yet.  

Yes, this Hebrew word for gift,  חִנָּֽם (hinnam), refers to anything undeserved, unmerited, without cause, without price, yes, all that is beyond cause-and-effect, whether good or bad!  
Unmerited favor, unmerited suffering.  Blessing without a cause, curse without a cause!  

Job's Despair
Watercolor by William Blake
And this undeserved favor (grace) and undeserved curse is the principle foundation of Hebrew tradition, the principle theme in the Hebrew scriptures from beginning to end.  Undeserved suffering has plagued and mystified the Jewish people for thousands of years, long before Christianity.  Really, unmerited suffering has plagued and mystified every culture in the world; but Judaism put a spotlight on it, even devoting a whole Hebrew book, Job, to it.  And the man Job is also an important part of the Quran.

I love to see how Bible scholars try to explain Job.  It gives no answers, no reasons.  That's its point.  And it drives overly-pragmatic minds nuts.

Do you really know what a gift is?

Think deeply on this:

By Hebrew definition, and by whatever language's definition, a true gift is freely given or it is not a gift. 

This means a gift is not and cannot be a payment for anything.

In other words, a gift has no cause.
A gift is its own cause.

Taking this definition to its logical conclusion, we realize that 
a gift cannot arise from the world of cause-and-effect.
This means a gift cannot come from time,
not from the past,
not in expectation for the future,
but can only spontaneously arise in the very present moment.

Now this is starting to sound mystical.
This is where overly-pragmatic people run away.

Now see that this self-caused gift is not only the central concept of Judaism and Christianity, but is the very basis of Buddhist realization, described most clearly in Zen Buddhism.  And self-caused gift is central to Hinduism, encapsulated in the word yajna.

This world suffers bondage from all action
save that which is done
for the sake of yajna [sacrifice, selfless giving]
To this end, O Kaunteya, perform action without possession.
(Bhagavad Gita 3:9)
Yes, we see that the self-caused gift is the theme of the Baghavad Gita, encapsulated in the word yajna, which means sacrifice.  Sacrifice, in Hindu theology, expressed eloquently in the Baghavad Gita, is that which is given with no expectation of reward, and is not swayed by pain or pleasure, beyond cause-and-effect.  In Hindu theology, everything we do, everything that we think, everything that we are, must be Yajna, Living Sacrifice, Gift, not possessed, not owned, without thought of "I" or "mine," if we are to be free from delusion. Yajna also  happens to be a name for Vishnu, the part of the Hindu trinity who incarnates as a person on earth.  When we ourselves become Yajna, Living Sacrifice, Gift, we become One with Brahman.   

Yes, by taking the definition of gift to its logical conclusion in Indo-European and Hebrew languages, gift is something beyond cause-and-effect, beyond the physical world, for the whole physical world is cause-and-effect!

Let the People of the Book recognize
that they have no control over the Grace [Gratis] of God;
That Grace
[Gratis] is in His hands alone,
and that He vouchsafes it to whom He will.
God's Grace
[Gratis] is infinite.   (Quran 57:29)

Who Really Believes in Gift?

Now I'm challenging every one of you who reads this: 

Do you really believe that there is a such thing as gift? 

By logical conclusion, a gift is mystical, cannot be of this world, yet, if we witness a gift, it is something entered into and immersed in this world!  

To the completely pragmatic mind, a gift cannot exist.  

To the completely pragmatic mind, everything is cause-and-effect, 
everything must pay and be paid for.

Again, the only way you can truly believe there is such a thing as gift is if you believe in what is beyond the cause-and-effect universe, beyond what you think is the physical.  This is why I keep using the word spiritual.  There can be no gift without faith.  Faith is what goes beyond brain comprehension, beyond thought, beyond cause-and-effect.  

The very nature of giving is faith.  
You give something up, expecting nothing in return.  
You trust.  
Trust is faith.

However, this gift can be proven.  You can believe me or not if I say gift can be proven.  Gift can only be known by direct experience, not by words, not by thought, not by cause-and-effect.  Gift can never be explained, never be comprehended with the brain.  My brain right now as I write likes to think it has a grasp on it all.  Ha ha.

Now you can understand why, when I advocate a world beyond money, a gift economy, thousands upon thousands of people think it ridiculous, naïve, new-agey mystical.  And look how hysterically angry people get!  Anger is how many of us deal with what cannot be explained, what is beyond cause and effect, what is undeserved.   

Undeserved absolutely pisses people off!

What is ironic and completely baffling, is many who call themselves "Christian" are in greatest opposition to this concept when I bring it up, though gift is the very foundational tenet of Christianity and Judaism.  Don't get me wrong, there are a few whom we call Christians who totally get it.  Most do not.  Despite lip-service talk, they replace their Jesus with Ayn Rand, a philosopher who was absolutely pissed off that people could breathe air and have rain fall on them without deserving it.

Gift is not exclusive to any religion or culture,
else it could not be Gift

Free rain-fall and free air-breathing are not exclusive to any culture or people, whether you think those people are "just" or "unjust," else the principle of rain and air would not be truth.  

If truth is not omnipresent, it is not truth.

Yes, it is impossible to recognize that gift, unmerited favor, grace, is the very tenet of Christianity without also seeing that it is the very foundational tenet of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Judaism, and Islam: unmerited favor, grace.  Those who are blind to this truth in their own tradition are blind to it in other traditions.  

And this truth is not limited to religion.  In fact, I often witness more of it outside of religion, because this truth isn't forced into a box.

Yes, I have seen Gift as the very foundational tenet of non-religious humanism and counter-culture movements.  A couple terms for this concept, coined by the non-religious, are freeganism and gift economySome of the biggest proponents of gift economy I've witnessed are not religious, but fall under labels like "street punk," "anarchist," and, more in the past, "hippy".  Many gift-economy proponents call themselves atheists.  This might upset the religious, but I don't give a hoot about labels, categories and sects, just reality.

The principle tenet of these gift movements is Being, not dependent upon cause-and-effect. 

I myself call it spiritual, because gift does not arise from cause-and-effect, which is the physical realm.  But believe me or not when I say that gift is real.

Perhaps this is why, despite talk, religious zealots often mysteriously reject this foundation of their own faith, because, to accept their own faith would mean recognizing it in others, giving up ego, not being Big Kid on the block anymore, not having a monopoly on truth.  It would mean humility.  It would mean doing unto others as we would have them do unto us.  

(See Here's the One Point We Know the World's Religions Agree Upon)

Also see this 1st video in a series, a discussion between Charles Eisenstein and Turkish Islamic scholar, Eliacik Bulusmasi, on the principle of gift economy [video made in collaboration with my friend Filiz Telek (she's the woman translating on the right!)]:

So let's delve more into the harsh side of gift: unmerited suffering:

Who Believes in Unmerited Suffering?

Yes, if there is unmerited favor, there must be unmerited suffering, seen above in the Hebrew definition of the word for gift.
See all around us a world filled with undeserved suffering.  

Now take notice another phenomenon: 

The same mind that cannot conceive of a real gift, 
a mind stuck in the box of credit-and-debt thinking, 
is also the mind that cannot conceive of any suffering being undeserved.  

It is the mind that loves to blame the victim.
Job's "Friends"
say his suffering is deserved.
Watercolor by William Blake
It is the mind that insists on punishment,
that cannot fathom forgiveness.
It is the mind that can't stand to see rain falling 
on the just and on the unjust, 
the "deserving" and the "undeserving". 

This mind must have an explanation:
"People suffer because it must be their fault!"  
And this blaming mind's self-esteem also takes a plunge into guilt (debt) or vindictiveness (payment) because it somehow thinks its own suffering is its own fault or somebody else's.

Such a mind cannot accept that there is suffering for no reason, suffering that just is

Suffering and Dying for the wrongs of others

Growing up in Christian culture, I believed that the historical Jesus died for our sins, and this historical event was the atonement for our sins.  He suffered wrongfully, was killed, and resurrected.  The symbol of the cross was unmerited suffering, and this is where our power lay.  And this act was our free ticket to heaven,  if we believed it, if we accepted it.

But questions plagued my mind.  I asked myself, "If this event in history atoned for sins, why is it that the world is no less sinful after Jesus than before?  In fact, doesn't the world seem worse?  And, if this event in history atoned for our sins, why is it that those who 'accept' Jesus are no less sinful than they were before?"  In fact, I couldn't help but observe all around me that most self-proclaimed "Christians" were as far removed from any of Jesus' teachings and behavior than any "non-Christian" could ever be. 

Too baffled by that, I decided to just focus on what I understood, what happens before my face and within me.
After mulling over my own religion my whole life, and then mulling over other religions, it finally dawned on me that religious truth must be true and provable here and now by direct experience, or else it is not truth. 
The only truth is what exists now, before our faces and within us.  The only truth is what can be proven, be known, right here, right now, by direct experience.  If spiritual truth is not the same today as it was yesterday and will be forever, it isn't truth.  Something that brings us "salvation" simply cannot be a single historical event but must be the same yesterday, today, and forever.  And it must be right here, right now, continually, known by direct experience. 
So, if there is a person undeservedly suffering and dying and resurrecting to abolish sins, this person must be knowable right here and right now, right before our eyes, or else it is nonsense.  It must be a crucifixion not in time but "slain from the foundation of the world," yet continually manifest in time. 
Here is what I continually observe all around me: 

People who stand up for truth and justice are punished while people who stand for greed and oppression are rewarded.  For example, whistle-blowers are sorely punished while those who cover up lies and deceit are rewarded.
No good deed goes unpunished.
If I take this principle to an even more immediate here and now, if I examine my own self, I realize my real self suffers from the mascaraed of my fake self. 
My real self: I am who I am.  My false self: I want to be who I am not. 
As I said in a recent blog post:

Every hypocrite has taken possession of a flesh-and-blood, hurting, inwardly crying human being, has stuffed that human being into a closet, closet of shame, a human being afraid of who he or she is.
A human being in a closet is weak and powerless.  The human being who comes out, who is him or herself, discovers he or she is One with all Humanity, or, to use archaic language, the One and Only Begotten Son of Man, All-Powerful, I Am Who I Am.  And, just like a furnace cannot destroy gold but only refine it, no amount of persecution can change this fact: I Am Who I Am, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. 

 . . . .  Hypocrite... commodifies, enslaves, poisons and destroys nature and all that is natural, including human beings.  Just remember, every hypocrite who condemns you, tries to hurt you and the rest of nature, is hiding a hurting human being in a closet, and has taken possession of the body of that human being.  The hypocrite is a big show of arrogance hiding shame underneath.  Your job as a fellow Human Being is to recognize and have utter compassion, utter tenderness, on the Human Being held hostage by, possessed by, the hypocrite in his very own body.  Yet, at the same time, your job is to show no mercy, no flattery, no schmoozing, no politics, to that hypocrite enslaving the human being, but to expose it to the light. 
[from blog post of January 2, 3014, The Unforgivable Debt ]
Realization of Unmerited Suffering
is Forgiveness 
is Atonement
The gift, as I said above, has no cause in time and space, but is born in this very present moment.  No single particle in the entire universe can take credit for the gift.  All credit goes to the Whole, never the particulate.  For example, my left hand scratches an itch on my right arm and expects no payment, no credit, no praise.  For the left hand to benefit the right arm is to benefit the Whole, which is to benefit every particulate of the whole.  All Credit to the Whole, not the particulate.  It is delusional to think that any particle or creature in the universe is independent and deserves credit.  Every particle is utterly dependent upon every other in a web that is the Whole.  It is pure science.  The whole universe is one body, and for one hand to scratch the other arm, and expect credit, is delusional. To say all credit to the Whole is, in Hebrew, Hallelujah, the eternal mantra.  To fully realize Hallelujah is to be fully enlightened.  This is when you realize you haven't earned and cannot earn anything, that all that you are and all that you think you own is a gift, unmerited.  Not of earning, but by grace, do you exist, it is the gift of the Whole.  Not to the particulate but to the Whole, belongs all credit.  When you realize this, you become the gift.  You are born again, Ever Today.
The gift is not an event in history but a continual now, ever born Today: the same yesterday, today, and forever:
You are My Offspring: Today I have begotten You. (Psalm 2:7) 
Because the gift has no cause but itself, because the gift is not a reaction to anything, and when you realize you yourself are this gift, you absorb all hurt, all abuse, all suffering, with no sense of blame, no sense of pay-back, no sense of vengeance.  And because you absorb the reactions of vengeance and blame, the reaction stops right here and now within you.  The debt is forgiven, atoned for, wiped out.

Here I end with some quotes from the world's scriptures, as a confirmation:

"He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me,"
--in those who harbor such thoughts hatred will never cease.
"He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me,"
--in those who do not harbor such thoughts hatred will cease.
For Hatred does not cease by hatred at any time:
Hatred ceases by love,
This is a law eternal.
--Gautama Buddha (Dhammapada 1:3-5)

One who with forgiveness bears up under reproach, abuse and punishment,
and who looks upon patience as her army and strength as her force
— this one I call a Brahman
One who in this world has transcended the ties of both merit and demerit,
who is sorrowless, stainless and pure
— this one do I call a Brahman.
--Gautama Buddha (Dhammapada 26: 399, 412)

 The one who takes on oneself the humiliation of the people
is fit to rule them.
The one who takes upon oneself the country's disasters
deserves to be Ruler of the Universe.
Tao Te Ching 78

But I say to you who hear:
Love your enemies,
do good to those who hate you,
bless those who curse you,
and pray for those who spitefully use you.
To him who strikes you on the one cheek,
offer the other also.
And from him who takes away your cloak,
do not withhold your tunic either.
Give to everyone who asks of you.
And from him who takes away your goods
do not ask them back.
And just as you want people to do to you,
you also do to them likewise.
--Jesus Christ (Luke 6:27-31)

Not knowing My transcendent nature
as the sovereign Lord of all beings,
fools condemn Me incarnated as a human.
--Bhagavad Gita 9:11 

Given to pride, force, arrogance, desire, and wrath,
they are deriders indeed,
scorning Me in their own and other's bodies.
--Bhagavad Gita 16:18