I often open certain special, sacred books in a random page as form of receiving guidance. Today I opened “The Prophet” by Kahlil Gibran, one of my favorite mystic poets and spiritual teachers. It opened to a page on Buying and Selling. Here’s what The Prophet said about this:
And a merchant said, Speak to us of Buying and Selling.
And he answered and said:
To you the earth yields her fruit, and yo shall not want if you but know how to fill your hands.
It is in exchanging the gifts of the earth that you shall find abundance and be satisfied.
Yet unless the exchange be in love and kindly justice, it will but lead some to greed and others to hunger.
When in the market place you toilers of the sea and fields and vineyards meet the weavers and the potters and the gatherers of spices,~
Invoke then the master spirit of the earth, to come into your midst and sanctify the scales and the reckoning that weighs value against value.
And suffer not the barren-handed to take part in your transactions, who would sell their words for your labour.
To such men you should say,
“Come with us to the field, or go with our brothers to the sea and cast your net;
For the land and the sea shall be bountiful to you even as to us.”
And if there come the singers and the dancers and the flute players, ~buy of their gifts also.
For they too are gatherers of fruit and frankincense, and that which they bring, though fashioned of dreams, is raiment and food for your soul.
And before you leave the market place, see that no one has gone his way with empty hands.
For the master spirit of the earth shall not sleep peacefully upon the wind till the needs of the least of you are satisfied.
My Reflections on Gibran’s words
Exchanging Value with love and fairness
In the first section, Gibran lays out the foundation of this teaching:
- There is abundance in the word if you know how to receive it.
- The earth, the world, the universe has given you their gifts. Whether these gifts are direct; as in food that you gather, fish that you pick or indirect, as in stories that you imagine, talents that you were granted; abundance comes from exchanging these gifts with others.
- Yet, the compass that should direct your exchange is love and the goal that should weight your scales is justice. If these two values are not present, then exploitation will take hold.
Selling (and buying) are Sacred Acts
In the second section, Gibran says that all exchange of gifts, products and services is a sacred act and that we do well to call upon the Sacred Spirits that guide us to ensure a just exchange of value.
It is clear that when we offer out gifts, talents, products or services we are offering the expression of our Divinity, the fruit of our labor; and this is sacred. It is after all, the fruit of our love.
But how about buying? The teaching, after all is about buying, too.
Imagine for a moment that you did all your buying as a sacred act.
Would you buy stuff that you do not really need, that you will throw away in a month? Would you buy stuff that is not good for you or the environment?
Do not suffer the Barren-handed in your Transactions
In the third and fourth section Gibran enters into the most controversial aspect of this teaching.
“And suffer not the barren-handed to take part in your transactions,
who would sell their words for your labour.”
Who are these people? Is he referring to storytellers and writers? These people sell their words, after all. This does not seem to be the case, as in section five, the Prophet specifies that those who create things that are not tangible products, but are food for the soul, are also to be included in the exchange.
Who, then are the “barren-handed” who use their words as a means of exchange?
They must be people whose hands are not already full with gifts that they have created or gathered when they come to the exchange. In other words, they come to the exchange empty-handed and then use words to intervene in the exchange.
It sounds to me that marketers, lawyers, publicity people and other intermediaries who get the goods by intervening in the exchange, without bringing their own pre-made gifts to the exchange fall into Gibran’s description. Yet I do not think that it is fair to dump all these people in the same boat. After all, they are contributing their know-how, which is their gift.
Then, who exactly could this part of the teaching apply to? who are the “barren-handed”?
I would have never imagined that Gibran and Seth Godin had anything in common. Yet, as I read this passage, I remember a post in Seth’s blog that I read last June. It is entitled “The Perfect Crime” and in it Seth refers to the crimes that are being committed against entire communities by the very effective marketing of corporations that exploit our own lethal desires (like eating junk food, overindulging in bad foods, etc.). He is calling them to assume responsibility in manipulating these wants to gain profit at the expense of what is good for humanity.
It seems to me that Seth’s reflection gives context to Gibran’s meaning.
It is when our marketing, legal representatives, distributors, PR people, or other “messengers” and intermediaries representing us, our brand or our creations come to the table with “empty words” that we need to either exclude them from the exchange or invite them to connect to the genuine exchange been made, and to their true gifts (and values) so that they can offer true value in the exchange.
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Let no one go Empty Handed
Finally, in the last section, Gibran reminds us to make sure that no one goes empty handed.
How can we do this? How can you ensure that no one who comes to your marketplace goes empty handed?
Here are several ideas:
- If you are a restaurant, for example, join a program that picks up your food before you close and distributes it to shelters and those in need of food. Find more information about this here: http://www.wastedfood.com/food-rescue/
- If you are a cloth designer, you can donate some of your older designs to agencies like Dress for Success, among others. Here’s their URL: http://www.dressforsuccess.org/
- If you are an artist, you can donate a piece to an auction for your favorite cause, or even do a yearly riffle among your subscribers to win an art piece. Here’s a website that lists such auctions: http://www.charitybuzz.com/categories/74/catalog_items
- If you are an expert, coach or service provider, make sure that your videos, bonuses and other free promotion give true, solid value, not just fluff. That way, those who cannot yet buy from you do not go empty handed. They can learn and improve from your free stuff.
- If you are an entrepreneur, have a wide range of products that start with free and go to $5-$25, then go up the scale to your highest-end offer. That way, the people who come to your market exchange, all get some value.
Do you have other ideas for ensuring that no one goes empty handed?
What do you have to say about my interpretation of the “barren-handed” who come to the exchange with “empty words”?
How about buying and selling, both, as sacred acts?
I’d like to know your thoughts.