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Thursday, October 09, 2003

Volunteer Poverty Experiment

One time I was deeply troubled that the idea that my self image was connected to how much money that I did or didn't have. So I decided this idea was to be one that I wanted to explore first hand by making myself destitute, volunteer poverty style. I found that when I was destitute in a place where I had lived for twenty plus years, people I knew just took care of me. Since that part of the experiment didn't seem to really work, I made myself destitute in another place where nobody knew me. Same result; new people appeared who would feed me and take an interest in my situation. One of them even gave me a huge chunk of money because they thought I should have it, stressing that some victimhood of the past made me deserve being singled out to recieve thousands of dollars that they gave me. How very odd.

So from these experiments I surmised that, unless I just wanted to stop eating and delibrately refuse to seek food, I was never going to starve. Obviously, it's easier being a destitute person in a rich area than in a poor one. In a rich areas, more people are just throwing away free stuff if you can think of something to do with it. I observed since I seem to live off of what others toss out or ignore, it was of more benefit for me to live in areas where there were more resources of that kind.

Somehow my experiment in volunteer poverty during these times have given me a tremendous sense of freedom. It gave me something near to identifying with how little the third world lives. It freed me to understand how happy I could be with pretty much nothing. It satisfied me somehow, gave me this sense that beyond money is a definition of myself-hood. It also made me feel bottom-line secure, with a huge rainbow of possibility between poverty (as defined by most people where I live) and the bottom line of what I actually, really need. This experiment led me to redefine "what do I really need" in practical, innovating ways. It has served me ever since. I'm living now in some socially defined "poverty" state, but feeling very, very rich with the time & ability to travel and exercise some of my creative possibilities.


  1. YOu have to think though...would you see this time of enlightenment differently if you had been born that way? It is a hard question in many ways...I like the post! Keep it up!

  2. There was a time in my teen years where I had no money at all. But yes, that sensation that there are unlimited opportunities possible still existed. Infrastructures that make these opportunities possible existed, such as mail, roads, etc. It's always easier to generate money in an environment where others have more money than you do. So, yes, interesting question. I have a question for people - where did your current attitude about money come from?

  3. Attitudes about money originate in the long-distant past and is an interesting study in itself. Internationally our money system is based on debt, and depends entirely on the honouring of debts. Hence bankrupts are blacklisted for 5-10 years before they can again borrow.

    Money can represent degrees of success, from philanthropists to outright criminals, money represents success. In a way, money equates to work. We are free to choose our work but not free to escape money (except in your very interesting personal experiment above!)

    The question: What to do to earn money is a fundamental one that begins in education. Education is one of many tentacles of the money system. Our political systems are owned by the money system.

    Without our money system we would need to survive by working for necessities. A challenge is not to envy those with more. Life is much more than money. Like water, money is an essential constituent of human life. Just like in the ant world, each ant must follow the rules. An ant that goes off on its own faces a life of constant danger! Some ants work harder than others!