I’ve been thinking more about this vision I have for a bike tour for a better world, and also about “the money that’s wanting to be spent.” Many thoughts and feelings have flowed through me in the past week since my last post.
Another great phone conversation with a far-flung friend deepened my thinking on these matters. This friend, in her late 30s, is someone whose intellect, knowledge, and heart-centered wisdom I deeply respect. She has tremendous gifts to offer the world by combining her heart and mind to serve others. She has specific visions for how she would like to do this.
And yet, on a day-to-day basis, she spends her physical and mental energy toiling in obscurity in an office, barely keeping her head above water, in order to pay her living expenses and significant student loans.
The world is worse off as a result of this, not to mention my friend herself, who could be personally thriving if she could give her gifts in a way that would also cover her living expenses.
After the phone call, I thought of many more friends in similar situations. I know many people who are gifted healers, artists, and other kinds of creators, but who do not have the ability to sustain themselves via these gifts to the world. I place myself in this category, as I earn my keep at an administrative day job while wishing I could be “changing the world” with a much higher percentage of my time and energy.
There are deep structural, economic, and cultural roots to this problem, and there is no quick or easy solution. Tax reform, student-loan reform, and healthcare reform would all go a long way toward alleviating the financial pressure so many Americans live under on a daily basis. But those things will take time, and they will not completely solve the problem I see, which is that in our cultural/economic system in the USA, we have “externalized” the costs of human wellbeing. Of human thriving.
I thought again about how so many healers and artists struggle to “market” ourselves, to “sell” our goods and services. Doing so feels icky; it feels antithetical to what we are offering to the world, because it seems base and self-serving, even though everyone agrees we need to have money to survive in society.
But then I also took this line of thought a step further: it feels icky to me that, as a society, we expect people who need healing of any kind—medical, mental-health, emotional, spiritual—to pay for this healing themselves. In an optimal society that I can envision, people who need any kind of healing should be able to receive it for free. Of course, in most industrialized countries, this is already the case, at least for medical issues. But not in the US. Not today.
What I envision is a society-wide decoupling of the costs of healing work from the “transaction” between healer and client or patient. Tax reform could play a large role in a long-term solution.
In the short term, though, I keep thinking of the enormous disparities of wealth in the USA. I know many people like myself, who feel reasonably financially comfortable only if we work at jobs that do not feed our souls, and often do not truly benefit the larger community. I also know many people who are not financially comfortable at all. They have no retirement savings, and sometimes struggle to pay their basic shelter, food, and medical expenses. Meanwhile, in May of this year, CNBC.com reported that there are 630 billionaires in the United States, while other sources report approximately 18.6 million millionaires nationwide.
I recently read about Chuck Feeney, an 89-year-old man who gave away more than $8 billion of his personal fortune between 1982 and 2020, leaving himself with just a “nest egg” to last him comfortably until the end of his life. He gave to schools and nonprofits, much like many other wealthy individuals such as Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. I admire such philanthropy.
And here is my suspicion, based on my own tenuous but growing trust in magic, and also my community ties to many people in the Burning Man world: There exists a small but significant group of people with personal wealth over, say, $1 million, who would derive meaningful pleasure from sharing some amount of their wealth that is relatively insignificant to them, but would be very meaningful to someone like me or many of my creative or healer friends who want to give to the world. Say, $50,000.
I would like to find someone like this. Or perhaps two or three. A “fairy godfunder,” if you will. In fairy tales, we understand fairy godmothers to be benevolent beings who give from their own abundance to help those who could benefit from their help. They trust that by helping their protégés in material and/or spiritual ways, the world becomes a better place.
Most of us have heard about “angel investors” who provide startup capital for risky business ventures, hoping that some of these startups will succeed and pay off financially for them. My idea is similar, but I envision funders who are not motivated by the prospect of further increasing their own wealth, but rather by the opportunity to use their own resources to make a positive change for individuals and the collective.
Chuck Feeney, the billionaire philanthropist, wrote, "I cannot think of a more personally rewarding and appropriate use of wealth than to give while one is living—to personally devote oneself to meaningful efforts to improve the human condition.”
And… of course I don’t just want this funding for myself, although the spark to think about it came from thinking that if I were to receive a “godfunder” check for $50,000, I could stop worrying about money and simply start planning my trip, as well as immediately offering free empathy and coaching sessions to anyone who felt like a good fit for me to work with for a win-win outcome.
One possible vision is a platform that would fall conceptually somewhere between Patreon, Kiva, Kickstarter, and GoFundMe, but would be aimed less at crowdfunding and more at larger, one-on-one (or perhaps 2- or 3-on one) sponsorships, allowing healers and creatives to spend less time and energy on fundraising, and allowing more meaningful relationships between the “godfunder” and funding recipient. Startups and tech are not my thing, but it seems to me that setting up such a platform might be another great use for perhaps $50K from a funder who could be paired with someone who has the skills and desire to build such a platform.
And if I could find a handful of such potential godfunders, I could end up connecting them with various people I meet in the course of my trip. People who have great ideas for projects, but would need funding to get started.
There could be various kinds of accountability built in, of course, such as an agreement for a total annual “grant” of money, but an arrangement for monthly disbursal, based on mutually agreed-upon benchmarks of forward movement in the project. Such accountability is one reason many funders prefer to give to established organizations such as 501(c)(3) nonprofits… but taking the time and energy to start such a nonprofit (or even to locate and secure an “umbrella” organization to receive and disburse the funds) is yet another potentially overwhelming layer of work and bureaucracy for a healer or creative to take on, when their optimal use of time and energy for the greater benefit would be to simply use their own skills to uplift others.
I trust that there are such potential funders out there, who appreciate such efficient, direct, and out-of-the-box ideas for turning their “money that is wanting to be spent” into a win-win-win scenario for themselves, their funding recipients, and the greater good.
Now to find these folks…!