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The Significanse of Path Paraphernalia
by Charles Keil
We’re opening the "Paraphernalia" store (click on a rock along the virtual Path at 12/8path.org) with no great fanfare, no chindonya wandering the neighborhood to wake up customers with drum, cymbal and sax. Rather, we need to reconcile commerce with the dontbuyin website that asks cyberserfs to barter, beg and borrow rather than buy.
Note that most of the stuff we sell is very small, light, won’t take up much space in the landfill, if that is where it winds up. We think everything for sale here is so valuable that it will be passed from hand to hand, circulating as gifts that expand consciousness slightly and shrink egoes just a hair.
Take the “surrender flag lapel pin” for example, made in China of metal and ceramic; it will last and last and, if the simple pin part should break, you still have the white flag. This can signify surrender to Gaia or the Deeper Power, can be taken as a flag of peace and openess, blankness, not the flag of any particular state. Your grandchildren and great grandchildren unto the 7 th generation may know from this flag that you stood for peace, surrender, acceptance, serenity, during a time of very destructive and senseless wars.
The “chill globally & groove locally” bumper sticker was thot up by Dickster Jamoke as a good joke and is smaller than the usual sticker, perhaps better seen on the side of a conga drum or instrument case than on a car bumper. Not only do we need to stop wars, slow down trade to the essentials only, dampen the industrial fires that bring on global climate change and disaster, but by grooving locally more and more we can turn off the evening news and the prime time sitcoms! Why live vicariously thru the SISTIM (Simulacra Images Spin Typhos In Media) on the TV when you could be grooving with a small group for free?
The "one stroke wonders" are a continuing exploration to see what can happen with one stroke of a fan brush loaded up with different shades of blue (and sometimes a touch of red) water colors. Many of them are intended as enactments of a quotation from Pema Chodron: "Out of the blue, you just drop it." (Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living 1994:66, 80) which echo not only ancient Buddhist wisdom but the basic instruction of @@: turn it over; let go; Thy will not mine. The "happiness" seal in a lower corner signifies that these one stroke wonders have a potential exchange value if you, or any person you give it to, wants to turn one in for a Path "token" or to pay a poet, musicmaker or other creator "in kind".
The "token" is any troy ounce of silver with 12/8 stamped on one side and @ @ stamped on the other. Currently (March 2007) an oz. of silver is fluctuating @ around $12.80 so this "defaced currency" (reminding us of Dog wisdom in ancient Athens) may rise or fall in value with the metal. If silver should rise to $20 an ounce the "token" might be priced at $40 and the one stroke envelope and card at $80.
By establishing a ratio of value between one stroke wonders (with the happiness seal) and tokens (with the 12/8 and @@ stamps) as circulatable gifts, tokens of esteem, that can be given to musicmakers and dancers and poets on the Path, we are trying to remind everyone that exchange value, gift value, can be expanded and extended without using the 'filthy lucre' or 'pretend paper money' of any state. The Tiv elders I met in Nigeria remembered a time when women/sisters were exchanged in marriage to create two high prestige marriages; cattle and coppers and well woven tugudu cloths were exchanged; foods and crops and hardware were exchanged; values shifted up and and down these three tiers one tier at a time. X amount of yams or millet might be exchanged for a copper or a cloth, and Y number of cloths might be exchanged for a wife in marriage. When the British introduced pounds, shillings and pence into the Tiv three tier economy, high prestige exchange marriages were outlawed at the same time, and everything was reduced to money: Tiv were disgusted and said, "the white man has spoiled our land," in other words, attacked our family values, our honor, the value of our cloths and cattle, and even our yams and millet have less meaning and value because they can't be converted up the scale of tiers.
Path paraphernalia have the potential to be enhanced by the value or prestige of poetry-music-dance exchanges; "dropits" and "tokens" can be exchanged with each other or for poetizing, musicking, dancing valuables; and more mundane goods and services might be bartered for by using dropits or tokens. We are trying to create spheres or circles or cycles of exchange values that could become more and more valuable over time echologically and ecologically as the musicking-poetizing-dancing gets better and better in each locality and "the land" is healed by these exchange processes rather than spoiled by reducing everything to conventional money. (Who knows, in the EarthMother-worshiping future, men may be exchanged by clanmothers [John Mohawk, "Culture, Courtship, Marriage & Music" Echology #2 1988] and the less prestigous arranged marriages might use much-circulated or kula-ringed tokens and dropits in exchange for a groom skilled in music and diplomacy.) Hopefully the dropits and tokens become more and more valuable as they pass from hand to hand, people put their marks on them, write little messages to gift recipients on the backs of cards and envelopes, put stamps or marks on the tokens to further "deface" or "reface" the currencies, as our core values shift over time. Hopefully, people will always want to trade some paraphernalia up the scale for music, poetry, dance, paintings, further and further away from state paper and filthy lucre.
The one piece of anti-state paper everyone needs is the piece of foolscap that I fold up to make the "Bateson booklet" -- The Roots of Ecological Crisis (much abridged edition) -- which contains a concise analysis of the crisis we are in. 3 for a dollar.
And the GAIA Praia suggests a daily practice in the tonglen tradition, taught by Pema Chodron, that will help us cope with the "wheels of destruction" described in The Roots of Ecological Crisis. Also 3 for a dollar and suitable for illuminating.