Before we go any further down this path and get into the fundamentals of the Economics of Happiness, I feel it pertinent to give you a little background into the wordsmith that is trying to fashion these parameters of enjoyment and bliss and develop a plan through which we can all enjoy a life of greater abundance and joy. If you’ve seen me around town, riding around with a lil’ blue wagon, or have heard my story, you may imagine that I am operating under auspices of questionable sanity or drug-induced delusions. While I will neither confirm nor deny any rumors or judgments, I do feel that I have a pretty good idea about what it takes to be happy.
When I was diagnosed with what is commonly referred to as Attention Deficit Disorder at the age of 29, it came at a time when I had all but let go of the evangelical religion that had guided my teenage years and was trying to find a way to fit into this society. Although my thought processes seemingly deemed me as neurologically disordered, I came across the writings of Thom Hartman, who not only put a positive spin on my condition with his book ADD: A Different Perspective, but also enabled me to take another look at my faith through his book The Greatest Spiritual Secret of the Century. So with the much more empowering idea that the influx of people who thought the way that I did might actually be the precursor to an evolutionary step for an ailing civilization and the affirmative understanding that we are all One spiritually, I set out to use the gifts at my disposal to search for a way that they could be used as more than an excuse for why I couldn’t cut it in mainstream society.
After shooting what would later become a documentary about my dealing with ADD, I took a year and a half to travel the country by car, hitchhiking and motorcycle, to explore the nation’s underbelly, seeking out lifestyles outside of the mainstream that might yet be more beneficial in seeking the future we desired beyond the mindless work/produce/consume mentality that had become the status quo. Inspired in part by Jack Kerouac’s vision of the Rucksack Revolution in his book The Dharma Bums as well as the call of Christ to simply have faith in universal provisions and love my neighbor as myself, I set out in the hope to find a new direction, not only for myself, but for the world community I loved so dearly. The result was a book of discovery I called The Rucksack Letters.
After a year and a half of continuing to cultivate my creative gifts as a writer and performer while living on Los Angeles, I returned to Sarasota and started to put my talents into practice. Yet while my vagabond lifestyle had given me the unflinching understanding that a life of purpose and happiness could be found outside the mainstream status quo, I was still struggling with how to bring my two realities together. It was then that two more concepts were introduced to me that have helped me take my personal journey to a place where it is more amenable to being shared and offering a course by which, I believe, we as a people can steer.
By aligning a number of the paradigms I have studied through my journey, I realized that there was a thread of truth that ran through all of them. As is common in the ego-based mindset that causes so much of the conflict in our varying cultures, we tend to latch on to the traditions we are given as the highest form of truth. Whether it be a religious structure or a philosophical breakdown, when we find a truth that speaks to us, we have a propensity to see that truth as better than any others… we erroneously deem our truths as Truth. However, when I aligned these various truths, these pathways to higher consciousness that people use, I realized that the greater Truth is that we are all on the same journey, what I call The Unbroken Path. Basically, as Thom Hartmann wrote in The Greatest Spiritual Secret of the Century, We Are All One.
Joseph Campbell said that it is important to move past the metaphors of our traditions in order to realize the truths that they point to. He also said that what the world needed was a new mythology. On both a personal level and on a level of creative expression, I believe that this Unbroken Path gives us the ability to transcend our own cultural differences and open up to the greater responsibility of manifesting the Truth within them.
In a similar fashion, I have been developing a new economic system that I call the WeBMaP. Based upon the idea that the four natural elements of water, air, earth, and fire are mirrored in the human aspects of heart, mind, body, and spirit, the concept sets up a more integral approach to not only finding balance in one’s personal life, but also has technological applications for utilizing monetary currency and directing the flow to attend to the four societal structures of artistry, business, citizenry, and community.
Both of these projects are still in their infancy, but have deep roots that I have been cultivating over the last decade and have manifested in my recent art installation The Labyrinth of the Unbroken Path.
Last year, realizing that my community was still struggling over making many of the antiquated machinations we’ve developed over the years work in these changing times, I realized once again that there was more to creating an abundant life than merely working within the status quo. So, in order to let life flourish as it must, unhindered and unforced, I gave up on the use of our flailing financial system, ostracizing myself from the man-made in exchange for the more eternal, and sought for a better way. I’ve been mostly smiling ever since.
During my stint of moneylessness, I was formative in creating Sarasota’s first alternative currency system, the Common Wealth Time Bank through a partnership with Transition Sarasota. The online infrastructure allows Sarasota and Manatee residents to use their time, services, talents, and skills as currencies beyond the limitations of the monetary system to help ensure that our core economy is cared for and fully realized. Through the time bank, I’ve also managed to help start the Garden Brigade, aligning property owners who want gardens with gardeners that want to cultivate them, and am currently developing a community third space called the Flow Factory, where I am experimenting with alternative currencies for a variety of activities that I hope to incorporate into a shelter and school of life for Sarasota’s homeless.
While I am still technically “homeless” and cannot be considered a financial success under that old paradigm of the capitalist ideals, I have realized must stronger community ties, greater abundance of creative flow, and the vibrant reverberations of synchronicity on a daily basis. I am still on my journey, and may never reach that point of perfection sought by so many. However, I am thoroughly enjoying the educational process and the constant allowance of excellence that it affords me.
In the meantime, I continue to write, make music, produce videos, cultivate community, build cool stuff, eat good food, and work toward creating alternative forms of currency beyond the limitations set forth by the industrial mindset, doing my best to usher us into the revolution of Wisdom. And apparently, according to what the aliens told me, I’m supposed to help Sarasota become a marketing mecca. The most integral aspect of developing an Economics of Happiness is having a day filled with doing what you love with people you love.
Steve McAllister is the author of The Rucksack Letters and How to Survive an Estralarian Mind Meld. He posts regularly at InkenSoul.com, and sometimes posts at Anything Arts, Sarasota Music Scene, Sarasota Day and Elephant Journal, and is currently the Director of Operational Development for the Common Wealth Time Bank in Sarasota, Florida. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.