What is debt? And why is gratitude the place to start?

The origin of the word debt goes back to Latin, debitum, “something owed.”

When we look at what we owe we open up to infinite possibilities. This morning, for example, I woke to do my usual Tuesday run. It was raining, and this was wonderful, as rain has been missing for the last  few months. I ran in the rain, down to the beach, and then watched the colours of the sky change as the dawn emerged. (Pretty awesome…don’t you think, from the photo?)

Our 14 Billion year old Universe started with an explosion of energy. It was that same energy that allowed me to run, to breath, to process oxygen, created some 300,000 years after the big bang, in my body. The same oxygen! (Seriously that is amazing…) In lungs that had evolved from fish. In a body that started with bacteria. To gaze at the sun, the same one you are looking at if it is daytime as you read this. The sun that provides all the energy humanity will ever need.

Here I am running with a heart full of debt to the majesty of the Universe. The very best expression of my ‘repayment’ of this debt is in gratitude. Deep and profound gratitude at the sheer majesty of this world I am blessed to inhabit. Only music and poetry can adequately describe…

And to throw aside any consideration that I, or humanity, is the centre of this Universe. For we are mere teenagers, toddlers even, in the scheme of Universal unfolding. I am a guest.

You are the honored guest.
Do not weep like a beggar
for pieces of the world.


Yet here we are,  and we treat this world as if we are the epicentre, and everything is there for our disposal. Resources. Commodities. The fish in the ocean are not resources! Nor is the forest, the minerals in the earth! That we can reduce anything, or anyone, to resources..human resources…to commodities… these actions are our first serious act of falling into the dark side of debt. Taking the stand that we can take from. At our whim. That we do not owe Universe anything.

Hmm…this is probably not the definition of debt you were imagining I was to write about? My teachers have trained me well. As Bucky would say, start with the Universe first. Or in other language, always go to Source. To untangle any mystery we need to find Source.

And the source of our dark indebtedness is this…our hubris and anthropocentric stance. That the Earth is here for us to take…to consume.

The wonder of this is that with amazing ease we can switch to the light of debt and fall on our knee’s in gratitude. Bow to how much we owe Source. As Brian Swimme says…it may take us the whole of this century to actually get (gnosis) that we come from stars. That the forest has figured it out millions of years before us. For when we get this we can only be in awe, reverent to the magnificence of an intelligence that flows through us and with us at all times.

Our role is not to exploit, but to partner, to take in gratitude from surplus. To do no harm.

This action, this practice, is the beginning of healing our relationship to debt.

In my next post I will talk about the debt that brings with it generations of pain and shame. For today, breath in the oxygen that has been present for billions of years, feel the sun on your skin, kissing you with an abundance of light, energy, vitality. Bow in gratitude to the debt of being fully alive. Act with kindness to someone who cannot today find kindness.  Put yourself in right relationship with the Universe and the debt you owe it.

We are beginning a dance…freeing debt from the dark place that it inhabits in each of us. Or…imagine a world in which you did not owe anything…did not owe gratitude…did not owe participation…did not owe partnership…did not owe your gifts to others…

What a lonely place that would be.

To read Part 1. Our debt system thrives on shame and fear

To read Part 3. Debt as indenture – the modern form of slavery

Photo credit: Christine McDougall (that would be me..taking on the morning I wrote this post, March 25th 2014.)

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