Like the ebbing flow of the tides through coastal estuaries replete with all manner of life. It moves between ecosystems from individual to individual like some sort of global time share.
Water in, water out.
We measure it in all manner of ways, but the one that rules this human world is currency. Mostly US dollars. I wonder at the dreamy notion of a gift economy where we enact a system of value exchange that mirrors the ways in which all of our neighbors on this globe do. What would it be like to just show up fully and be taken care of?
When I worked full time as a contract jeweler I experienced a funny sort of value flow. At one point I regularly completed ten to fifteen high end pieces a week. Sometimes more if it was pre Christmas and we were on our fifth pot of coffee for the day.
That’s upwards of twenty pieces by my hands alone. I split the coffee with two other gents.
All things considered, I got paid decently as a bench jeweler. I think at the end of my time at one particularly well paid job I had moved up to $23/hr before taxes.
You do the math and figure at a full fourty hours I earned upwards of $3,300 a month before taxes. At the time that was pretty good. Cost of living was low and I had a simple life. I’d like to think I still do but North County has a way with numbers.
Do the work.
Spend the hours.
Generate product value.
Value flow, like the tides of the Oregon coast, filling pools with fresh food, oxygen, and drift wood. But what really got my attention was the value flow on the other end.
Those pieces I was making? Price range of $150 to $5,000. Some even a a bit higher such that the average was about $800. See where I’m going with this?
I was generating well over $35,000 a month in retail value.
Sometimes more, sometimes less, but that’s the way of the fine jewelry industry. And yet I received $3,300. Bearing in mind that the contractee doesn’t keep most of that either. Between overhead, wages, and costs, it gets whittled down pretty fast.
And yet: in my time as a contract bench jeweler I can only imagine I generated something over half a million in retail value all said and done between all of my contract work. And I might have earned at very most around $72,000.
Now-a-days I tend to under-price for the market, because my overhead is lower and I suppose I have a questioning mind around pricing. And ultimately I’d like to make good work for special people, not break myself producing as much as I possibly can.
The point I’m trying to make is that the value moves. Ultimately, it’s less about what you generate; some trees produce many times more oxygen then they consume carbon dioxide. And it’s less about what you deserve, because let’s be honest, everyone deserves to be absolutely fulfilled.
The thing that I take away from that experience is a notion of positioning.
Where can I position myself so that all of my generated value is used?
Where can I place myself such that the most value comes my way?
What does it look like to participate fully in the flow of value?
Who can I be to maximize what I am,
For the benefit of myself and others,
With minimal loss or externalities,
And an eye for improving?
There was a time when art was considered one of the greatest values of our society. The spine of culture and our way forward through the darkness of an existence unexplored and wild. Artists vied for patronage such that their expenses were covered and they could simply contribute to the tides.
I wonder if I’d have had a patron in that era?
I wonder if my art would have been worthy?
I wonder if there isn’t a revolution coming?
One in which we re-sort the tide pools, cut new trenches, and see what happens when the value flows well. One in which everyone has a chance at living their most authentic life.
But in the meantime, all there is to do is continue putting your best foot forward, producing what calls to your soul, and sending it out into the world. Find that spot that makes you feel whole, and pour your heart out into the sea of everything.
Tell your story in whatever medium meets you and let the tides flow.
Onward and Upward, friends.