The economics of flowers

I came across a new word recently:

agalmics (uh-GAL-miks), n. [Gr. “agalma”, “a pleasing gift”]
The study and practice of the production and allocation of non-scarce goods. [1]

“Non-scarce goods” refers to things like digital products that can easily be reproduced (music, films, ebooks, computer games etc. – you can give me a copy and still have the original; neither is diminished). Our current economic system doesn’t deal well with this, and vast amounts of copyright law has been generated to try to get a handle on it.

And of course, most people want to be credited for what they produce, and everyone needs to be able to make a living. As someone who would like to live as an artist, you would think making money from my art would be an ambition of mine. And to some extent it is. But as long as I can make a living and do art, the two don’t necessarily have to be connected. In a post-scarcity economy [2], this would be entirely possible. This is an economy where people’s basic needs are met, and is expected to involve technology and automation, giving people more free time to be creative and do the truly human things machines can’t do for us. It’s not such a distant fairy tale anymore. Basic Income is an idea that is being taken seriously in a number of places [3].

I am very much in favour of a post-scarcity economy. Who wouldn’t be? But perhaps even to reach it, we have to develop a post-scarcity mindset. We don’t have one at the moment. Our actions, and our political policies, are often based on fear of lack; the closed-in exclusivity and absence of compassion that comes from a desperate need to preserve what we think is rightfully ours, often through fear of harm coming to those nearest and dearest to us.

What has this got to do with tulips?

Not a lot really, except that while I was working on them I started thinking about the verse “Consider the lilies of the field”, from Matthew 6:28.

And it suddenly occurred to me that this was advice for society as a whole; a call to let go of this politically entrenched fear of lack. How would things be better if we stopped worrying about what might be taken away from us, and focused on the things we have in abundance?

There are other non-scarce resources; things that can be given and still remain, sometimes even increase; knowledge, inspiration, love, trust. (I don’t know what the word for this is. Anyone care to coin a term? Expantives? Cornucopics?) Being generous, with these things and with others, might actually lead to life being better for everyone.

I don’t know why I had the idea for tulips, apart from that they are easy to stencil, but once they were there, I wanted to put words around them. Looking at the three flowers, each with three petals, it clearly had to be in haiku form.

The text of the haiku is as follows:

Consider flowers.
At one with the sun and earth,
They want for nothing.

Imagine it now;
What if we had all we need?
Nothing more to fear.

Perhaps we will see,
One day. Then we can all be
Lilies of the field.

From painting, to spirituality, to politics, to poetry.  Ah, the life of a scanner.

Notes on making

The background was painted in blue, pink and purple acrylic paint and covered with watered-down gesso. I stencilled the flowers in two parts; the outline and then the middle petal, then painted stems. Finally I drew sketchy black lines around the flowers and wrote the text around them in fineliner pen, going over the words to give them a sketchy look too.

 


[1] http://omniorthogonal.blogspot.com/2007/05/word-and-concept-of-day-agalmics.html

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post-scarcity_economy

[3] http://www.wired.co.uk/article/finland-universal-basic-income-results-trial-cancelled

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