The Myth of Scarcity
So There I was...Twenty years (thirty four) ago this weekend, great with child. I was awaiting the birth of my second, and what would turn out to be my last, child. I was 28 and we had an almost five-year-old daughter named Emily. Five years of undiluted parental devotion had allowed this child to become confident, precocious and fun to be around. We were confident of our parenting skills. I was not worried about birthing this new life. My husband had gotten a decent job with health benefits just in the nick of time. It seemed that all was well.
Never the less I was terrified. And it was a fear that I did not think I could say out loud. I did not know that anyone else had ever had this fear. I was afraid that it was impossible to love another child as much as I loved Emily.
Then Laura Joy arrived. I took one look at her and my maternal love instantaneously and miraculously doubled – just like that. Emily suffered no loss of love and baby Laura received all that she needed.
I have since found out that this is a very common fear of second time parents, but rarely a fear of third time parents. It is a miracle that sticks.
However, I think that this is an example of a larger and more pervasive fear-based belief system – the myth of scarcity. This myth says that there is never enough of anything to go around and you better get yours while you can and hoard it as long as you are able. This toxic belief creeps into every area of human existence and relationship. It shapes government policy, haunts people’s dreams and fuels competition in every arena. It says “There is not enough love, money, happiness, fame, health, time, space, work, … for everybody – so protect what you have, and watch out for those other guys.” It is the absolute proximate cause of all jealousy, envy, and most strife. It is the ranchers vs. the farmers. It is old immigrants vs. new immigrants.
And it is absolutely, refutably, experientially FALSE.
I will give three examples; resources, time and love.
There are enough resources in this world. Sure, we will run out of oil at some point. But until old Sol quits on us eons and eons from now there will be sources of energy; sun, wind, tides, hydrogen, fusion, etc. We will need to change. There is enough food in this world – there is no excuse for a hungry child anywhere. There is enough work to do in this world. The reason that some do not have enough, and hear me -- people all over the world are truly deprived -- is not because there is not enough to go around, it is because what there is, has been criminally distributed, and shamefully wasted. Communism is an attempt to address this criminal distribution. It has failed – not because it is a bad idea – but because the implementers, time after time, have been seduced by criminal greed. Capitalism says that if you rely on individual initiative and a free market that the distribution will be corrected by opportunity and philanthropy. Capitalism has also failed because its implementers have been seduced by criminal greed. And criminal greed is almost always based in the myth of scarcity.
We hoard because we fear.
Hoarding is not God’s way. The Hebrew children in the desert were given one day’s manna in the desert – the stuff rotted if you tried to keep it over night. Jesus prayed for “daily bread”; reinforcing this concept again and again. Don’t worry about next week’s bread, trust and work and it will come. God’s way is to use what you need and share anything extra with someone else. There is enough.
One of the most nefarious incursions of the myth of scarcity into most of our lives is the belief that there is not enough time. That life itself is too short. We run at a frenetic pace and wail at the lack of the 25th hour and the eighth day. This belief rules many a life, and ruins the quality of life. It is impossible to simultaneously savor and rush something.
The truth is that time is darn near infinite, at least from our perspective. Almost every faith teaches that you, or at least some part of you is infinite, immortal. There is something else after this. We don’t know or agree on what that something is, but most of us believe in it. And since this life includes the possibility of quality and meaning, there is no reason to believe that the something out there will not be at least as productive, and meaningful. Our sensation of rushing time comes from bodies that age, and our propensity to chop time up into tiny bits, so that they seem to fly by.
What we do not have is the ability to do two things at once in any really qualitative fashion -- This from a woman who can multi-task with the best of them. The truth is I don’t drive as well when using the phone, and drinking coffee, and listening to music. I don’t pay as close attention to my loved ones when I am preoccupied. I do not have infinite choices. I have many choices, but I must choose how to spend my time, and the responsibility flipside to the freedom of this choice is that I need to relax about the things that I do not choose, and trust that the universe will take care of them. When I do this, when I concentrate on one good choice at a time, when I trust, then time slows down. I savor things, enjoy them, and remember them better too. There is enough time to do everything that I really need to do – because I do not need to do everything. I’m just not that important.
The most relationship-wrecking, and hence human-wrecking, application of the myth of scarcity is that there is not enough love to go around. We believe that if the object of our desire does not love us, that no one ever will, so we get pathetic or controlling. We believe that our friend shouldn’t really have other friends because that will in some way impoverish us. We believe that God is a worse parent than we are, and cannot love all of us equally. We buy into the lie that God has favorites – us, if we are arrogant in our fear – or them if we are victimized in our fear.
The truth is that love is the most obviously infinite resource in this reality. It is renewable. It is multiplicative. It easily trumps death. People who lose a loved one grieve, but love again, without losing the love they had for the one who has gone on to another expression of life. Mothers and fathers love each of their children completely without robbing the others. If we believe that love is unlimited and time is unlimited then there is no reason for jealousy. We are given these miracles to teach us about the truth of God’s love. God’s love is infinite and so is ours if we let it be. There is enough.
(this post is printed in Le Flambeau School of Driving - 2016 - on Amazon)