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Scarcely Abundant/Abundantly Scarce

Updated: Mar 8, 2021

As I move through huge life decisions (my own and ones made for me), I've been thinking about the relationship between abundance and scarcity. People wax poetic about having an abundance mindset as opposed to a scarcity mentality. Folks expect the two to be purely separate, mutually exclusive, polar opposites, antithetical. But, if there's one thing I've learned, it's that thinking in dualistic terms about anything is unhealthy and damaging. It's always more complicated.

For many reasons, viewing the universe as abundant is a richer orientation (so to speak). If the world is abundant in your eyes, you behave as such. This is great when it comes to supporting important causes financially, or building confidence for scary choices with unknown outcomes. If resources are abundant, there is just less risk out there in the world for you. Everyone can potentially benefit from this worldview. Sometimes folks with an abundance perspective seem to look down on those that see resources as more scarce. Or at least critique them. In many cases, I think that's a fair critique - especially when somebody who clearly has an abundance of riches has a strong scarcity orientation to the detriment of others.

Like everything, there is a contextual consideration. While we combat climate change and engage in environmental justice, it's not the time to be carefree about limited resources like drinking water or the net-positive carbon emitting materials that produce power and electricity. This is a developing edge for me and I don't model it well. Specifically, I really dislike being hot and therefore run my AC far more than the average person. I'm also not great about turning the sink off while I brush my teeth. I have access and the financial means for these luxuries. There is an abundance in my own life. Yet, what is the cost of that abundance beyond my own bank account? Who am I hurting with these choices? There's a necessary element of scarcity when you consider your actions in relationship to others.

I've been reading Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower. It's phenomenal and prophetic. The protagonist in Butler's post-apocalyptic setting, Lauren Olamina, is necessarily cautious about her life and property. In her world (which isn't so different from ours, especially as we move closer to climate catastrophe ourselves), it's obvious and wise to see resources as scarce just to survive. Yet for her, there is abundance beyond the material. There's abundance within community and among the stars. And it's up to us to plant those seeds. We can learn a lot from Lauren and I hope you take the time to get to know her if you haven't already.

Scarce yet abundant. Abundant yet scarce. The colors beneath the worldviews tend to blend in with one another. In relationship with one another.

What areas in your life feel abundant? What about scarce? Which mindset do you have? What have you thought about other people who have the opposite mentality? What time and energy have you spent finding out why they might see the world through that window? How can one be oriented toward both scarcity and abundance? How can you plant the seeds of abundance?

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