It is all about things. The more the better. This is the art and science of accumulation of things. More things means better material well-being, more material stuff. Things are what we have right here, right now, and that determines our ability to act in the world, right now. So, things are the basic element.
From one perspective, things are important, and worthy of our attention. Clearly, at a basic level of lack, enough things like food, clotting, and housing are critical. After that basic level, it is not clear that more material well-being does anything.
Rather than engage in the historical question of how it evolved to today’s definition of the universe from a material-matter perspective, I will simply point out that your own experience shows that there are two very different perspectives on what things are, and that the perspective you use has major implications for the experience you have and the outcomes you achieve.
From one perspective, things are Ever-present. They are the basic substance of the universe. They are what matters. They are what we humans experience: the things in front of us all day. They are here, they are real, and we interact with them. How they change over time, and how they come into existence are simply modifications of their existence. While there can indeed be more or less of the things, at a given time, based on their coming-and-going dynamics, what is important is how much of the thing there is right now. The real thing.
From another perspective, things are nEver-present. Out of the infinite number of possibilities of how energy could manifest, for a short period of time, relatively speaking, that energy showed up as part of a tree or part of my liver or as heat in my stove. Over this short period of time, that energy-possibility takes on a form, maybe the nutrients in the grain that is becoming a piece of bread as it is worked by farm hands and then bakery hands. At a given moment, when that flow of energy-in-nutrients exists in the form of just-baked bread, if I interface with it and I am hungry (the flow of my energy-use-production system), then it that instant that I consume it, it is bread. An instant before, it was energy-nutrients in heated-grain form rushing towards landfill (30% of all food produced today ends in landfill). An instant after, it is transformed into my blood, life-giving energy in my body, no longer recognizable as grain-energy. Maybe the noun that we call bread exists only at the instant that the life-cycle-flow of grain-energy, from the soil back to the soil, encounters the life-cycle-flow of my body-energy hunger-satisfaction system. Too early or too late and it was landfill. A moment before, it was grain-energy, and a moment later it is body-energy. This suggests that the thing, the noun, is only the instant that the verb of grain-energy overlaps with the verb of my body-energy, and it is transformed from one form to the other. This perspective makes the noun a very improbable and sacred occurrence. Of all the possible forms the energy could take and of all the time that verb-flow experienced, it took the precise overlap of two verbs for the noun to occur, for that instant.
While possibly interesting perspectives, does the difference matter? I suggest that the implications of the two perspectives are dramatically different, as we experience them in our daily lives.
The first perspective focuses on the predominant reality of the thing, the noun. Changes in the noun (verbs) and the possibilities around the changes are only relevant in the influence they have on the noun, the thing. From the thing perspective, when we look out into the world, we see that someone has the thing, someone owns it, and someone does not. There is an explicit scarcity of things. This necessitates the assumptions of who owns the things, who decides what to do with the thing, who enforces that decision, and how the scarce things are exchanged. This is one definition of the science of economics. When starting from the assumption of scarcity, there is a lack, not enough, by definition. This assumption has major implications for who decides how to allocate the scarce resources, who owns them, the value criteria used to allocate them and to distribute the value generated, and the competitive organizational modes of human interaction to work with the scarce resources.
The second perspective focuses on the predominant reality of the infinite potential, out of which a future outcome and a pathway towards that outcome can be seen. From this perspective, when we look into the world we see infinite potential and we see how to be in relationship sustainably with that infinite potential. From the abundance in potential, we choose a pathway to develop specific capacities and relationships to bring that potential into being, and at a specific moment in time that development results in specific outcomes, the noun, the thing. This perspective starts with infinite potential and seeks to ground that potential in specific outcomes. Starting with abundance, there is no lack, just different ways of being in relationship and developing the potential into an outcome at a given moment in time and space. This is the realm of Ecosynomics, the science of abundance. Abundance as relationship, not excess or waste.
Does it make a difference, in what we experience and the outcomes we achieve, whether we start from an assumption of scarcity or abundance? In the past five years, the Institute for Strategic Clarity, which I lead, has found hundreds of groups across the world that base their agreements in the assumption of abundance. They continuously outperform their scarcity-based peers in all metrics of efficiency, effectiveness, innovation, resiliency, and sustainability. Why? Because they have access to much greater energy in the same number of resources. Said another way, agreements based in abundance do not have the same costs of scarcity that agreements based in scarcity do.
What does this mean for you? If you can see that there are two perspectives on what is primary: things or possibility-development-things, then you can choose whether your agreements are based out of the first perspective or the second. This choice will lead you down two very different paths. In this blog and in my book Ecosynomics, I provide many examples of groups that have made the abundance-based-agreements choice, highlighting the tools and processes they use, as well as processes we have developed for making the shift to an abundance-based set of agreements.