In his bookFlow: The Psychology of Optimal Enjoyment, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi says, ¨Twenty-three hundred years ago Aristotle concluded that, more than anything else, men and women seek happiness. While happiness itself is sought for its own sake, every other goal – health, beauty, money, or power – is valued only because we expect that it will make us happy.¨
In our current economic paradigm, the goal is seemingly to accrue financial wealth, or to at least gain a sense of fiscal security so that we may go about the business of then attaining happiness. Though it has largely been proven that money cannot buy happiness, we are still somehow predisposed to seeking after this illusory currency in a madcap attempt to prove it for ourselves. Nevertheless, it is becoming abundantly clear, based upon our economic instability, that we need to redirect our focus from the acquisition of money to the realization of happiness. The system of time-banking is proving itself to be a worthwhile tool in doing just that.
“Time Dollars aren’t a substitute for money,¨ says Edgar Cahn. ¨They are a way to do things that money can’t do and to claim back the realm of community that money has invaded.”
While there is a certain sense of satisfaction in accruing monetary success and being able to purchase whatever one may need, it can hardly compare to the sense of security one gains in having a supportive community where those needs are met simply through participating in the community. Money does cultivate an individual´s independence and can often ensure the fulfillment of security needs, however, it does not offer the same depth of fulfillment that one may find in an interdependent community which meets those basic needs and goes beyond them to also cultivate the belongingness and love that human beings require.
“When we cease to use money as our only ruler,¨ Cahn continues, ¨we begin to realize that we live in a world of two economies, not just one. One is the formal marketplace measured by-and consisting mainly of-monetary transactions. This is the realm of supermarkets and shopping centers, offices and factories that the media calls economy. The other economy is the informal networks of helping in families, neighborhoods, volunteer groups, and the like.”
Time-banking offers the possibility to move beyond the paradigm of competitive capitalism and into the realm of collaborative participation. By encouraging people to participate in their community development rather than simply throwing money at it, citizens are able to gain a greater sense of fulfillment, and thereby a greater measure of happiness, because they become part of something greater than themselves.
“This is uncharted economic territory,¨ Cahn says, ¨a currency that makes people feel good about themselves for helping others.”
When all is said and done, don´t we all just want to feel good?
Steve McAllister is the author of The Rucksack Letters and How to Survive an Estralarian Mind Meld. He posts regularly at The Unbroken Path and is currently the Director of Operational Development for the Common Wealth Time Bank in Sarasota, Florida. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.