Human economic behavior is a devil to escape. It comes down to energy. Everything we do, from brushing our teeth to munching on a donut costs energy. We need energy to survive. So unless we suffer from serious self-destructive tendencies, everything we do revolves around the optimization of our activities so that the energy input is always paying us back in outcomes that ensure our survival.
Brushing our teeth costs energy but poor oral hygiene can seriously shorten our lifespan. Munching on a donut uses up energy but the calorific value we get back from it once we have finished far outweighs what we used up chewing it.
When the world is viewed through this lens things become simpler to analyze, They also become a little more jaded. Suddenly the time we spent socializing with the neighbor on our way to work in the morning is part of a bonding ritual aimed at maintaining peace around our home environment. The connections we make with those we work with are ‘alliances’ that make our job more manageable. The networking we work on is selling something. Everything has a reason and there is a deeper purpose to everything.
But what would happen if we knowingly broke the pattern? What would happen if we took a step sideways, stepping away from our lives and deciding to simply pour energy into something with no expectation of any return from it? It would be crazy, right? But what if we also limited the time we did that. What if we gave away the ‘energy’ that was easy for us to give, meaning it lowered the cost factor for us.
Someone with a million dollars in his pocket can give away $100 more easily than he’d give ten minutes of his time. A person with less money and more time may choose the ten minutes as the more obvious choice. The point is that if we did that, if we all did that then the world would suddenly change. The complex patterns of interelational dynamics that anchor everything in space and determine status, importance, reputational value and ‘success’ would suddenly, significantly fade if not disappear altogether.
And that is the really disruptive thought of our times. We say that “people matter” but what we usually mean is that people matter to what we do because of who they are and what they do. To really make the “people matter” mantra true we need to break free of our bubble. Choose ten minutes and burn all the energy contained in that time, give it to someone else. A kid in Africa. A person you’ll never see again. Someone who may never know where the time and ‘energy’ came from.
To decide to do something like this, this way, undermines the entire edifice of powerplays that hold up the status of our perceived reality. It’s an attitude that thumbs its nose at the expectation that we really need to accept things and play along always. It bypasses the notion that in order to make a difference we somehow need to be “big” or “powerful”. It also clearly states that the world is ours. We are all in it and it is ours. What it becomes, eventually, is what we will make it, ourselves.
Ten minutes. That’s all it takes. Time and effort spent freely. ‘Energy’ given without strings attached. It’s transformative. Try it.
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