Saturday, January 26, 2008


Many of you might have already seen the video by Annie Leonard titled The Story of Stuff. If not, I highly recommend it (you can watch the whole thing at the link). She walks us through the extraction, production, distribution, consumption and disposal of stuff and what its doing to our world in a way that is both informative and engaging. But I'd like to focus on the stage of consumption.

The quote from Victor Lebow really grabbed me:

Our enormously productive economy...demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and using of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption...we need things consumed, burned up, replaced and discarded at an ever-accelerating rate.

It seems that Lebow may have been being more descriptive that prescriptive with that statement, but in either case, I think his words hold true for our culture today. He also hints at the idea that the consumer addiction that is destroying our lives and the planet will not be challenged until we understand its roots in our spiritual and ego satisfactions.

A couple of years ago I read a book that had a profound impact on me. Its by Lynne Twist and is titled The Soul of Money. The basis of the book is a contrast between the mind-sets of scarcity and sufficiency.

Here's how Twist talks about scarcity:

Whether we live in resource-poor circumstances or resource-rich ones, even if we're loaded with more money or goods or everything you could possibly dream of wanting or needing, we live with scarcity as an underlying assumption. It is an unquestioned, sometimes even unspoken, defining condition of life. It is not even that we necessarily experience a lack of something, but that scarcity as a chronic sense of inadequacy about life becomes the very place from which we think and act and live in the world. It shapes our deepest sense of ourselves, and becomes the lens through which we experience life...

This internal condition of scarcity, this mind-set of scarcity, lives at the very heart of our jealousies, our greed, our prejudice, and our arguments with life, and it is deeply embedded in our relationship with money. In the mind-set of scarcity, our relationship with money is an expression of fear; a fear that drives us in an endless and unfulfilling chase for more, or into compromises that promise a way out of the chase or discomfort around money. In the chase or in the compromises we break from our wholeness and natural integrity. We abandon our soul and grow more and more distanced from our core values and highest commitments. We find ourselves trapped in a cycle of disconnection and dissatisfaction.

In contrast, here are some of Twist's words about sufficiency:

We each have the choice in any setting to step back and let go of the mind-set of scarcity. Once we let go of scarcity, we discover the surprising truth of sufficiency. By sufficiency, I don't mean a quantity of anything. Sufficiency isn't two steps up from poverty or one step short of abundance. It isn't a measure of barely enough or more than enough. Sufficiency isn't an amount at all. It is an experience, a context we generate, and a declaration, a knowing that there is enough, and that we are enough...

When we live in the context of sufficiency, we find a natural freedom and integrity. We engage in life from a sense of our own wholeness rather than a desperate longing to be complete...

When we let go of the chase for more, and consciously examine and experience the resources we already have, we discover our resources are deeper than we knew or imagined.

emphasis mine

In the context of sufficiency, we find beautiful music playing just one flight down.

There in this place
where your arms unfold
here at last
you see your ancient face
now you know
now you know.

And when we find that music, we also find compassion and generosity. Here's Twist again:

The human hand must be open to receive, but also to give and to touch. A human heart must also open to receive as well as to give and touch another heart. That openness and reciprocation, that image of the open hand and heart, connects us not just to others, but to the feeling of fullness and sufficiency in ourselves.


  1. Wishing you a varieties of "Happies" - New Year and Birthday! And a Congrats on your years at the agency - not just celebrating the passage of time, but what you have worked for and how you have done it! Good administrators are a rarity, requiring knowledge, vision, leadership, and interpersonal skills - not an easy position to be in, but oh so important if anything worthwhile is to happen.

    Interesting observations on scarcity and sufficiency. Marketing is all about creating unhappiness - fears and worries and a sense of "lack" - tapping into our deeper need for "belonging" and connection. I consider much of this marketing to be a kind of psychological abuse. Now that would be an interesting class action suit!

  2. Happy New Year to you Tampopo!! So good to hear from you again.

    I'm really getting to the point where I think one of our main tasks as progressives is to embrace and spread the idea of sufficiency. If there's any hope of getting out of the mess the world is in - we got to break this addiction to consumption.

  3. Another great resource by Lynne Twist is this audio.


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