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Gratitude, Sufficiency and the Transition to Game B

In previous editions of Kaleidoscope, we’ve outlined the case for an urgent transition to “Game B” – a way of living together in harmony with each other and the other sentient inhabitants of “spaceship earth.” In the words of Jim Rutt, one of the first to speak of Game B, operating inside that paradigm could “make our Earth a place we will be happy to call home, and one we will be proud to leave to our descendants.”

No one knows the precise path to this future or even if such a path can be created; however, one thing is clear – continuing to live inside the mindset that infinite growth on a finite planet is possible needs to be revised. As the economist and author Kenneth Boulding famously said, anyone who believes that is either a madman or an economist.

Unhooking from the idea that more is better, at least for those of us for whom the necessities of life are secure, will be part of the critical path to a Game B world.  To do this is not easy. It requires each of us to say one word, “enough!” We have enough. We are enough. Our inability to utter this word, let alone action it is evidence we are living inside the “condition” of scarcity, regardless of how much we have.

A condition is a state of being, a context for living, that is widespread and unexamined.  When we are living in a condition of scarcity, it is as if we are wearing, without knowing it, special “scarcity glasses” so life continually and effortlessly shows up as “not enough.” Not enough time, not enough love, not enough solutions to problems and, of course, not enough money. Inside a condition of scarcity constant growth seems to be an imperative and, curiously, no matter how much we have, we lack.

Lynne Twist, author of The Soul of Money and Executive Director of the Soul of Money Institute, suggests an antidote to this condition – creating a context of sufficiency.  A context, unlike a condition, is created and is not conditioned on objective measures.  Being sufficient is a place to come from not a place to get to.  To slightly paraphrase Lynne’s principle of sufficiency: when you let go of trying to get more and let what you have be enough, it frees up immense energy to make a difference with what you have.  This principle is potent at all levels of scale.

While living inside a context of sufficiency is useful and empowering for anyone, these ideas are most pertinent for those of us who have satisfied the first level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – physiological security, i.e., safety, food, shelter and water.  Imagine for a moment that the people living and enjoying the economic fruits of massive use of fossil fuels with the costs now coming due, were to declare, “We have enough. Until the rest of the world catches up, we will adjust our lifestyles to allow that to happen without rushing beyond bio-physical tipping points that none of us can afford.”  This is, I believe, what is meant by climate justice, an essential ingredient for Game B’s emergence. As John Lennon sang many years ago, “you may say that I’m a dreamer,” but dreams can give birth to projects and projects to reality. At this time in our species’ existence, we can’t afford the luxury of cheap cynicism, we can’t afford not to imagine.

I’ll close with a suggestion for a simple practice that naturally leads to the experience and expression of sufficiency. The Practice of Gratitude. Brother David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk known as the “Grandfather of Gratitude,” guides us to this most basic of things to be grateful for, our life today:

You think this is just another day in your life. It’s not just another day.  It’s the one day that is given to you – today.  It’s a gift.  It’s the only gift that you have right now, and the only appropriate response is gratefulness.

Setting aside a few minutes each day and simply doing an inventory of what you are grateful for starts to crack through the condition of scarcity.  As the condition cracks, use that opening to imagine, long for, create a context of sufficiency for yourself and all of us—the antidote to the addiction of infinite growth on our finite planet and a brick on the road to Game B.

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