On Choices and Investments (07-06-2008)
We in Auroville enjoy a high-quality environment: we live our daily lives with the blessings of Nature; what we have built so far is mostly harmonious; we can still hear the birds, see the stars, inhale the fragrances, appreciate the lines of a roof against the sky, the texture of concrete among the trees, the bounce of sunlight from a lily pond to a polished floor; each of us, returning from some work or some errands in Puducherry or elsewhere experiences gratitude and relief.
Perhaps, these days, this relief is tinged with a measure of anxiety, a sense of precariousness; the question looms: is this all depending on money-power?
Our attention is drawn again to the frustrating matter of how to promote an in kind economy; we experience a disturbing dichotomy between the haunting rightness of this ‘ideal’ way of functioning as a collective and the momentum that has taken us away and apart from its practice.
There is a quiet contentment and pride known by these communities that live on what they produce; for a community to use what it produces and to produce what it needs is the surest way to establish a real independence of choice and to cultivate a real sense of hospitality.
Auroville’s organization is not yet the unified expression of its guiding spirit; it is still a complicated assemblage of various measures, processes and procedures – it is now liable to fill a book with its rules and regulations, which are a world and a dimension apart from the few profound laws it started with – and it has generally geared itself to a cash economy.
It has over the years largely undermined its integrity by forcing its constituent parts, such as Services, Farms, Forests, to fend for themselves (to hunt for cash directly and separately), while instructing its creative limbs to hit the market and convert most of their energies and products into cash. It has legitimized internal transactions that are actually based on cash, not to mention the oddity of our open personal sales advertisements.
Its justification is: we have a formidable task before us, and we just need the cash to accomplish any of it.
And so, it is no wonder that individuals and families resist any institutional shift to a kind of hybrid economy when, as a whole, Auroville has so far accorded little life-value to the goods and products its collectivity is capable of generating. If foods and goods are going to be purchased elsewhere anyway, many of us will prefer to do the purchase themselves and on their own terms.
We had the flavor of such dearness for a few brief years, when our bed-covers were woven in ‘Fraternity’, fresh guavas from the Green Belt were singing energy in the food baskets, our mugs were distributed by the Pottery, cashew apples turned into sweet wine and red rice was somehow delicious and no one would ever think of investing whatever cash came into their hands anywhere else than in Auroville.
But, almost from the beginning, there has been a gnawing confusion regarding maintenance versus development: since Auroville, belonging to humanity as a whole, was to develop rapidly from a red barren patch of land to an international city hosting many thousands of researchers, where were the lines to be drawn between the demand from our own efforts, what to expect from the world at large and how much to rely on the Grace?
Probably there is no ready mental answer; the answer is in the becoming.
But the view here is that it would be meaningful, intelligent, encouraging, stabilizing and revealing to infuse the spirit of Auroville into all areas of activity and, for instance, invest wholeheartedly in all the Auroville farms – not just with cash, but with creative technological assistance (such as this delightful solar battery charging station) and infrastructural support and human resources; or to invite all creative units to invest some of their capabilities in serving directly the needs of all in Auroville.