Platform Talk on the Gift Circle Sunday 11/16 at 11am

This Sunday, November 16, I will be giving the platform talk at the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture. The platform begins at 11am and ends at 12:30pm. I will be speaking for 20 or so minutes, and then taking questions.

Indie folk rocker Kelly Fragale will sing for us.

The title of my talk is the same as the title of this site: “The Brooklyn Gift Circle: An Experiment in Sacred Economics.”

Here’s the blurb:

“Our economy’s infinite growth myth demands that we trade life’s joys and wonders for a metastasizing array of commodities. The Brooklyn Gift Circle, sponsored by our Ethical Living Committee, invites us to join a flow of generosity that meets needs without money. For example: I edit your novel, you care for his cat, he lends her his lathe, she makes me a chair. In this flow, we come to rely on each other. Helen Zuman will discuss the Circle’s beginnings and context, what it’s revealed about gifts and community, and how life might change if our economy held everything sacred.”

If you’ve yet to join us for a Gift Circle, this is a great opportunity to gain additional context. If you’ve already participated, you might enjoy taking some time to reflect on the experience.

The platform will be followed by a potluck lunch in BSEC’s beautiful sun room. All are welcome.

Gift Circle September 20 at the 2014 NYC Permaculture Festival

In permaculture, we try to think like a forest. In a forest, there’s no such thing as waste. One species’ detritus becomes another species’ food. There’s also no such thing as drudgery. In doing precisely what it’s best suited to do, each creature benefits the community. Consider the earthworm: Its castings feed its plant neighbors; its tunneling aerates the soil for them.

In a Gift Circle, we channel our inner earthworm.

What surplus can we disperse to others who would love to have it? What work delights us as much as those we do it for?

How – here in our urban people-forest – can we connect needs with wants in ways that enrich both giver and receiver?

Please join us for a special Gift Circle at the 2014 NYC Permaculture Festival, Saturday, September 20, at The Old Stone House in Park Slope, Brooklyn. The Festival, devoted to “Building Resilient Communities,” will feature great music, a picnic dinner, a panoply of skillshares, and a talk by Dan Kittredge on the links among soil, nutrition, and climate change. Hope to see you there!

(For the Fall 2014 – Summer 2015 schedule of Gift Circles at the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture, please go here.)

 

A Brief Report on Our First Few Meetings

The following is a slightly modified version of an article I wrote back in May for the BSEC newsletter, reporting on the Gift Circles first few meetings. Go here for the Fall 2014 – Summer 2015 schedule of Circles.

According to Sacred Economics author Charles Eisenstein, “Community is woven from gifts.” Since January, the Brooklyn Gift Circle – inspired by Eisenstein’s writing and sponsored by BSEC’s Ethical Living Committee – has been convening once per month, in the Library, to weave community.

Each meeting follows a simple format: First, we each state one or two needs (for work, objects, skills, services, space, time, connections, and so on). Second, we each offer one or two gifts (gifts, like needs, may take many forms). Third, we express gratitude, in particular for gifts received through the Circle (bearing witness to generosity helps it grow). We leave time at the end for givers and receivers to connect and arrange for gift delivery. This isn’t barter, so we aren’t making exchanges. Rather, we’re giving freely, in hopes of creating a flow.

How well has the Circle been working? Here’s a sample of gifts delivered so far: basil plants, tool use, a phone cord, counseling, a handpainted poster, healing bodywork, gardening and career advice, help avoiding eviction, help with moving and household chores, a job as an arborist. Some gifts have reached beyond the Circle to friends, families, and organizations we care about. Inspired by the Circle, one member helped a friend secure an apartment; two other members welcomed newcomers to their block with a note of introduction and homebrew. When ten to twenty of us come together for any given Circle, we bring not only our own needs and resources, but those of everyone we’re connected to. Access to each other’s networks is itself a gift.

The Gift Circle has also yielded a couple Craft Nights – gatherings to work with our hands (at whittling, sewing, painting, and such) while enjoying each other’s company. Even darning socks can be fun, in a room alive with conversation.

At one time, convivial work was the norm. So was living in villages. When we share our wants and needs and the stories behind them, when we offer our gifts, when we craft in company, we build both knowing and trust. We learn to rely on each other. We add fresh strands to the web of relationship upon which all our lives depend.

Fall 2014 – Summer 2015 Brooklyn Gift Circle Schedule

In partnership, once again, with the Ethical Living Committee of the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture, we have scheduled our second series of Gift Circles. We’ll hold one Circle per month from September 2014 through June 2015. All events will take place on Thursdays, from 7-9pm, in the second-floor library at BSEC (53 Prospect Park West, between 1st & 2nd Streets, in Park Slope). As always, all are welcome. If you have thoughts or questions, please email Helen Zuman (madgelma at hotmail dot com).

Here are the dates (all Thursdays):

September 25, 2014

October 23, 2014

November 20, 2014

December 18, 2014

January 22, 2015

February 26, 2015

March 26, 2015

April 23, 2015

May 21, 2015

June 25, 2015

What is a Gift Circle? It’s a ritual for restoring and honoring the sacred web of relationships upon which our lives depend, through offering and requesting help in the spirit of the gift.

Each Gift Circle follows a simple format:

1) We each state one or two needs (for objects, skills, services, time, space, etc.).

2) We each offer one or two gifts (which, like needs, may take many forms).

3) We each express gratitude, in particular for gifts received through previous circles.

If you’ve never attended a Gift Circle before, and are feeling shy about sharing with strangers, don’t worry! You needn’t speak up until you feel ready.

Summer Hiatus

We are taking a break for the summer. We have no Gift Circles scheduled for July-August 2014. We will resume monthly meetings (at the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture) in September 2014. Details of the next series of Circles will appear here as soon as the schedule is set.

Thanks to everyone who attended one or more Circles in our inaugural series and contributed to our flow of gifts. Thanks also to BSEC’s Ethical Living Committee for sponsorship, and to the entire BSEC community for space and support.

First Series of Gift Circles Scheduled for January-June 2014

Welcome to the Brooklyn Gift Circle! In collaboration with the Ethical Living Committee of the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture, we have scheduled our first series of Gift Circles for January-June 2014. All events will be held at BSEC (53 Prospect Park West, between 1st & 2nd Streets, in Park Slope), in the second-floor library.

Here’s the schedule:

Thursday, January 16, 2014, 7-9pm: Intro to Gift Circles

Thursday, February 27, 2014, 7-9pm: Gift Circle #1

Thursday, March 27, 2014, 7-9pm: Gift Circle #2

Thursday, April 24, 2014, 7-9pm: Gift Circle #3

Thursday, May 22, 2014, 7-9pm: Gift Circle #4

Thursday, June 26, 2014, 7-9pm: Gift Circle #5

You need not attend the Intro to participate in one or more Gift Circles.

What is a Gift Circle? It’s a ritual for building community through offering and asking for help in the spirit of the gift.

Each Gift Circle follows a simple format:

1) We each state one or two needs (for objects, skills, services, space, time, etc.).

2) We each offer one or two gifts (which, like needs, may take many forms).

3) We each express gratitude for gifts received through previous circles.