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A Rising Choir for More Integrated Perspectives

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  • Kshama Sawant
  • pope francis
  • Philip Shepherd

We love economic growth, but we fail to make the connections between GDP and televised images of Chinese citizens wearing face masks because of the deadly smog in Shanghai. We hang our hopes on monthly job reports, but we fail to ask how many are at or below the poverty level. We hail 30% returns in the stock market, but choose to ignore or deny that those returns come from companies that are exhausting, if not abusing, their natural and human resources. We say things like, “When you invest, you have to leave your emotions at the door.” And, “It doesn’t matter unless you can measure it.” Why are we so sure about that?

We live our lives in the clutches of this fundamentalism. Not religious fundamentalism or political fundamentalism, but something just as powerful and insidious – financial fundamentalism! We are mesmerized by numbers. We are addicted to measurement. We rejoice when averages rise and moan when they fall, without really examining the stories behind the numbers. We embrace the gospel of more here and now, without worrying about the consequences later or elsewhere.

Thankfully, we seem to be waking up. People are speaking up, articulating their deep awareness of the complexity and connectedness of our lives and the decisions we make. It is fascinating and exhilarating to witness and join as these voices turn into a choir. Here are three voices I’m looking forward to hearing more from this year:

Janet Yellen

Our new Federal Reserve Board ChairWOMAN didn’t get to where she is by being an extremist, so we should not expect radical changes from the Fed under her watch. That said, she is different from her two most recent predecessors, Greenspan and Bernanke, and she brings a new perspective to the position—as a woman, as a Democrat, and as a Keynesian.

Says Gillian Tett of the Financial Times, speaking with Judy Woodruff on the PBS NewsHour:

“ … the key thing to understand about Janet Yellen … is that she's not just the first woman to hold this post, which is remarkable, but she's one of the first Keynesians to actually hold that post. She is someone who really cares a lot about the human face of economics. And as she herself has said many times, for her, unemployment is not just had a bunch of statistics. It's also very much about human lives.”

Kshama Sawant

In Seattle we have elected a Socialist to our City Council. Like Janet Yellen, Kshama Sawant holds a doctorate in economics, and I’d like to believe that the two of them would have a constructive conversation if they ever sat down together to talk completely off the record. That said, we’ll hear a much different public voice from Sawant than from Yellen. Both are important, but, frankly, I am really happy to be here in Seattle to witness and participate in the move to raise our minimum wage to $15 per hour. It was really quite thrilling to hear Sawant crying out for employee ownership of Boeing’s manufacturing plants, and to hear her suggest that, if Boeing wants to take its business elsewhere, we could just start making equipment for public transportation. In a city with a long and venerable history of labor activism and advocacy, there is a real possibility that Sawant could catalyze a revival of commitment to the rights of workers.

Pope Francis

Of course, there’s The Pope. It was personally affirming to hear his response to a question about gay people. “Who am I to judge?”, he said. Coming from the leader of the Catholic church, that’s quite a statement, even though common sense would lead us to ask what the big deal is. The Pope’s voice matters, and he has been using it since his inauguration.

In a recent profile in The New Yorker, James Carroll had this to say about Pope Francis:

“If, as Pope, Francis has tempered his opinions on matters of sexual morality, his advocacy for the poor has become even more acute. In last month’s exhortation, Francis expanded his critique of the world economy: ‘In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which becomes the only rule.’ This problem is fundamental to every problem: ‘Inequality eventually engenders a violence which recourse to arms cannot and never will be able to resolve.’“


And let’s not forget those voices in our own selves that are just waiting to be expressed and affirmed. I recommend two resources to help us cultivate our creative intuition and wider intelligence.

I am reading a book called New Self, New World. The author, Philip Shepherd, describes a fully autonomous brain that is located in the belly and functions differently than the head. We are culturally conditioned to live in our heads, the center of doing and acquiring, but we have a choice—we can choose to be more feminine, connected, and integrated. This book is helping me bring the voice of being and integration to the world of money and finance, a place where they have been marginalized and dismissed.

You may have heard of Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain because the original book was published in 1979. I recently decided to work my way through the book and am loving the whole process! One thing in particular—as I find myself drawing, I experience sparks of insight, new ideas, and new ways of expressing ideas. I now keep my “work” notebook right next to me as I draw. It turns out that the voice of my Right Brain comes in very handy as an ally in my journey away from financial fundamentalism to alignment, balance, and oneness.

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