The Christmas Gift: “Everything I Have I Owe to Others”

At this time of year it is possible to feel into some of the archetypal activities of giving and receiving in relation to social life. On one hand it is possible to have the feeling that it is not what I get that is so important, but what I am able to give. On the other hand one also has needs that must be met in order to be able to continue giving.

We know the feeling of when we have received something that does not quite meet a real need that we have. On the other hand it is perhaps a little harder to observe whether we have met the real needs of others through what we have given. This activity – this meeting of one another’s needs – requires the ongoing development of a kind of sense organ in order to be successful.

If we wish for the Christmas impulse to flow out beyond the confines of the end-of-the-year period – to flow over into the rest of the year and throughout the rest of our own souls – then it is essential that we further develop this capacity.

At the same time we must also be able to clearly and objectively identify and articulate our own needs if required – or, rather, what we require in order to meet these needs; that is, what we require financially in order to meet our needs so that we are able to freely do our work, and thereby give our gifts away.

Here, already, we come to a fundamental need for the separation of income from work. The work that I do – the gifts that I have to contribute to society as a whole – are, in essence, separate from that which I require in order to meet my needs. In doing my work I meet the needs of other human beings – in them doing their work they are meeting mine.

Just because we refuse to recognise this fundamental difference between work and income and instead sell our own labour and buy the labour of others, does not negate the reality of this fundamental economic process; it merely makes the eventual correction all the more difficult.

From another side we can also say that the products I produce in my work must also be added to and perfected through the work of others; that is, other producers and distributors. I require others even in the production of goods. We can also say that it is through the consumer spending their income that I am able to receive the money that will go towards meeting my needs. Even on this level we can gain a greater feeling for the fundamental interdependence of economic life.[1]

The fundamental processes of economic life are co-operative, not competitive. It should be clear that we are not so much talking here about how things should be, but how they in fact are. Whether or not we choose to align our thinking, feeling and willing with this reality and create economic forms in accordance with this is essentially up to us. We have seen only minor corrections in the existing market economy thus far. The biggest correction of all will come when we have progressed too far from the fundamental activity of co-dependence in economic life – when we have gone too far into the illusory paradigm of competitive self-interest that will somehow magically become social through the intervention of the market’s invisible hand.[2] Only when we realise that in economic life there are no other hands than our own and each others’ – only then will the reality of associative economic activity become truly manifest.[3]

This is, partly, the economic perspective. At the same time, we also live in a world of cultural activity. Here too we are dependent upon the gifts of others in order to awaken to new ideas, meanings, values, identity and so on. We are educated by others – both officially and unofficially – throughout our lives. If we are attentive we can look upon every encounter as an opportunity to learn and grow. (And as we learn we are better able to give our gifts away.) We can also look back upon the course of our lives and see our own development and growth from the perspective of others, and observe how much they have shaped the people we have now become.

On the other side, when we are creative out of a cultural space we can also have the feeling that it is not I, myself, alone who is creative, but that something is creative in me. We are graced with a thought, an idea, an imagination, an inspiration, an intuition. The light bulb goes on; we have a lightning flash of inspiration; the penny drops. We can feel this to be a reality. We then cannot help but be creative in whatever medium we are able to work with, as required by the creative work that is seeking to manifest in the world. (If we do not do this, illnesses, including social illnesses, of varying degrees often ensue.) We put ourselves in service of this task, which may also come from encounters with the creative, artistic aspect of others. To claim such work (or its fruit) solely for ourselves feels, if we are truly honest, somewhat of an infringement on its true copyright – on true intellectual property.[4]

When we are confronted with life’s difficulties, however, we cannot see them in the same way. It is not others who have provided me with such hardships. If I am honest, I am forced to say that it is I who have created such difficulties for myself – and I have done so in order to overcome my own shortcomings so that I may develop further. Why? So that I may be better able, again, to give my gifts away – so that I may be better able to give all of myself to others; that I may be better able to put myself in service of the true, guiding forces and inspirations of the world process. (This is, of course, easier said than done, but the social fruits of such activity are open to all human beings today.)

In the life of rights – in what manifests as agreements and laws – I enter processes truly only when I am able to consider not just my own rights, but also the rights of my fellow human beings. How is this achieved? It is a cognitive feeling capacity that allows us to awaken to the reality of whether or not rights are being upheld or infringed. It is through an ennobled feeling life that we are able to judge whether or not we or others are being treated equally when it comes to both the formation and execution of agreements and laws. Injustice and inequality arise in us as feelings which can blend into justified anger and then manifest as moral deeds. The life of rights rests, fundamentally, on a feeling for the equality of all human beings. In upholding the rights of others, as they uphold mine, the life of rights is made real. As a consequence I am better able to do my work – better able to offer my gifts. We rely on one another’s agreements and votes in order to give our gifts away.

Like cultural – which we could also call spiritual-cultural – and economic life, fundamental processes are also at work in the life of rights. Whether we choose to align ourselves inwardly as individuals with such processes in all realms of social life, and work with others to create forms in accordance with their reality, is another question. To carry on, through inertia, with the social forms currently tearing the world apart will only mean that all corrections – economic, cultural, political – will be all the more painful, and the rebuilding processes all the more difficult. But it must be seen that the existing paradigms and forms are so fundamentally out of line with the reality of the situation at hand that their continuation as they are is not in accordance with our own or others’ best interests. For it is not only the world which is being torn apart, but our own selves. The fundamental, essential activities of economic, spiritual-cultural and political life are intimately bound up, as we have seen, with our own souls – with our own feeling, thinking and willing activity. We are tearing up as the world tears up. As it corrects, we are corrected. As difficult as it may be, it can be said that we, collectively, have attracted the current difficulties of the world to ourselves right now in order to overcome our own shortcomings. The current crises of the world should be sufficient for us to learn from. Together they are collectively a crisis of, on the one side, civilisation and, on the other side, the human being. It will only be through a thorough rebuilding of the world on totally new foundations – on the essential realities to be found in spiritual-cultural, political and economic life as they relate to the human being – that civilisation and the human being will have any future worth considering.[5] And for this to happen it is essential that we come to a real experience of our complete dependence, as free individuals, on others. It is possible, when approaching the fundamental activities in all realms of social life, to be filled with the thought and the feeling that: “Everything I have is because of others – I owe everything to others.”

This is not a thought we merely should have, any more than the social forms it asks for are ones that we merely aught to create. It is, rather, a feeling that can arise in objective observation of, and in accordance with, the realities of social life. It is in this reality that we are able to uproot from our souls all traces of selfish egotism, and to feel ourselves in service of the true becoming of the world and our fellow human beings. This is a spiritual becoming – a growth of the spiritual faculties of compassion, selflessness, service and love. For it is love as cognitive capacity and living experience, manifested in the guiding impulse of this time of year, which calls us now to such a task – to make the Christmas reality a reality for all the year, for all the world, for all corners of our own souls, and for all human beings. The guiding impulse that stands over this time of year stands now over the whole of the Earth, during all seasons, and makes possible our own co-standing, if we so wish. For we live now in a world where such choices are possible. We can either harden into existing forms, get carried off as we turn away from the world into the illusory escapism of drugs, popular media and so on, or we can face the world, armed with the sword of the fundamental realities at hand experienced through love and all those creative forces that call us, freely, towards our own destinies and becoming for the betterment of the world and our fellow human beings.


John Stubley

[1] Likewise, supply and demand does not flow like a river in one direction. Rather, it flows like a river in both directions at the same time in every economic transaction. I supply you with a product and demand an income. You demand my product and supply an income. And vice versa as the case may be.

[2] The unwavering belief in such powers (as articulated by Adam Smith), even as the market paradigm falters, can truly be called, together with the one-sided materialism of Darwinism and its competitive social consequences, the real religion – the true, though generally unseen, mythology – of our time.

[3] In awakening to such realities – and to the need for the building of a new world on such foundations – then we shall also come, as free individuals, to a better understanding of the ancient cultures of the Earth. In this light we are better able to understand the social systems of, for example, indigenous Australia, where, fundamentally, in being responsible for my own totem – my own ‘dreaming’ – caterpillar, for example, this completely becomes my work. I live, however, not off my own totem – off my own dreaming, my own work – but off the dreaming – off the work – of others, as they live off mine.

[4] At the same time, we still need to meet our needs – needs which can only be met, therefore, in the cultural realm, through the free, financial, gifts of others.

[5] It should go without saying that this line of thinking leads us not into the socialism of Marx and Engels, but to the archetypal social organism at work in the world and in the human being.

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2 Responses to The Christmas Gift: “Everything I Have I Owe to Others”

  1. Vee Noble says:

    Dear John,

    So timely! A post for Christmas, a post for 2013, a post for the Age and a post for the seeds of the 6th epoch…… fact, a post for sharing widely.

    Thank you!

    Christmas and New Year greetings to you and Katie.



  2. Travis Henry says:

    John, this is one of your best social poems, among an array of artful social poems.

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