“If he needs a million acres to make him feel rich, seems to me he needs it ’cause he feels awful poor inside hisself, and if he’s poor in hisself, there ain’t no million acres gonna make him feel rich, an’ maybe he’s disappointed that nothin’ he can do ‘ll make him feel rich.”
― John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath
What is nature of living in abundance? In John Steinbeck’s novel Grapes of Wrath, the Joad family is making their way across the country toward California to escape the Oklahoma dust bowl in the 1930’s with the hopes of finding work. They discover that the banks who own the farms care only for profits and growth. He describes the bank as a monster who will die without growing. Later in novel, the Joads discover that a California landowner who owns a million acres is scared and unhappy. The Joad’s companion and spiritual compass, Casey, points out that despite the land owner’s attempts to feel rich by buying land, if he is poor inside, the acquisition of more land will never fulfill that need to feel rich.
Peter Block,Walter Brueggemann and John McKnight challenge the cultural pursuit of profit, production and insatiable growth in their book An Other Kingdom (2016). They offer a view of abundance based not on scarcity and greed but on a belief that we have enough.
“To believe in abundance is to believe that we have enough… It’s a sharp contrast to a culture organized around commerce, a market ideology built on scarcity and the central premise that we cannot believe in sufficiency. It declares that we can never be satisfied with what we have, with the effect that customer satisfaction is truly an oxymoron.
A neighborly culture would declare that nature no longer needs to be productive. That we have enough without more development. It calls for an end to the belief that a community or an institution or even business has to grow or die to survive and have a meaningful life. Believing in enough means we can stop identifying with progress as the path to the good life. ”
An Other Kingdom is an invitation to imagine an alternative story for our communities based on practices of neighborliness and generosity. ‘Discover an alternative set of beliefs that have the capacity to evoke a culture where poverty, violence, and shrinking well-being are not inevitable.’
Our team at Common Change will be hosting regular virtual meetups and facilitating online dialogue and guided discussion through the book. Follow the conversation on social media #CommonChangeReads #AnOtherKingdom