The other day a friend – a 24-yr old woman – asked me what I felt about “gifting circles” – what I knew about them and how it jived with me.
I said I felt that these gifting circles prey on an innate greed* along with an innocence and naiveté in people. They operate under the guise of ‘female empowerment’ or ‘manifesting abundance’ and the ‘law of attraction’ (which is about the most materialistic spiritual belief system out there) and this ‘circle of sisterhood’ where women can share what they are going through, etc. Yet, at its core, there is this offer of an up to $40K ‘dessert’ they will receive when they reach the inner ring/top of the pyramid/head of the table, etc. Having nothing to do with sisterhood, that is the ultimate driving force leading people to join. After all, most women already have a circle of girlfriends to share with.
There’re plenty of buzz words these circles incorporate to give themselves an air of authenticity. The circles and their leaders use terminology found in all sorts of feel-good spiritualisms while shrouding their own deception. To many, it seems grand: you get a circle of women who are willing to listen to your problems and you will get a fat check when you exit. That ‘exit’ of course comes with a sense of ‘achievement’. You have to buy into it but, theoretically, you will find others to join.
In the end, however, it’s a completely unsustainable system. Perhaps the person at the top can walk away with some money but everyone else is shafted. You only have so many friends who won’t second guess your request for $5,000 to join a ‘women’s group’ where you will, in the end, also get to receive $40K.
The sadder part is the person at the top of that pyramid [scheme] often convinces others that she has ‘manifested’ some kind of ‘abundance’ and that her new clothes, etc are a sign of her newfound spiritual connection when in fact that abundance was simply acquired from the women at the secondary tier. The women in the secondary tier then are led to believe that they too can advance to that top-tier candidacy of great abundance manifestation if they get other to join and that it will, in part, reflect their own spiritual achievements.
Part of the ploy – the brainwashing – is that, when the top person leaves and the others can’t actually come up with any new members, women are guilted into thinking that they weren’t supposed to ‘expect’ anything to begin with when, in fact, that carrot is dangled in front of them the entire time. The only real reason they join is so that they will get that check.
It’s sad to see that this still goes on. It’s existed for, well, as long as there has been the concept of the pyramid. It seems that there will always be one person or group that is looking to exploit another person or group. It doesn’t matter how it’s dressed up – what sort of pretty clothes it wears or cars it drives or the colors of its skin: it’s a pyramid scheme plain and simple. Early on, it was called ‘multi-level marketing’ in that one person invited others to join them, purchase things from them, etc and the invitees were asked to invite others. But even this, while involving a lot of hustling on the member’s part still around a tangible product.
Rather than actual products, the women’s ‘gifting circles’ offer spiritual achievement. It’s better to offer a belief system than a tangible thing because when the person doesn’t get that ‘thing’ then they can be brain-washed into thinking it’s their fault: their own lack of belief, faith, trust, etc. In any case, the people invited then go on to invite others, and so on. Of course, members are instructed to not share it with anyone – it’s quite secretive. Those who are asked to join are told how special it is to be invited. But always remember: any person who asks you to join is just eyeing you for your $5,000 check. Eventually, after some female empowerment and some abundance manifestation, you give your money and then you have to go find more people to join… and eventually YOU will be at the top of the pyramid. Or so they say. In the meantime, the person at the top has left to wherever she has convinced the others that their ‘powers of manifestation’ have allowed them to live grandly.
My friend told me that she always feels uncomfortable about these invitations but when she would speak about her feelings, those who asked her to join would get defensive. I suppose this is a common reaction. No one wants to feel like they are being taken advantage of. No one wants to feel like a mark, a chump. No one wants to feel like they are being scammed, especially when it’s dressed up in such nice, feel-good language. But the truth is: that’s what it is. It’s a scam.
I think it’s noteworthy that almost every woman I know has been invited to and/or is a part of these. And almost every woman I know has turned them down. I feel blessed that I know a lot of women who are strong critical thinkers, who can see through the lies quickly. Those same women have strong support groups of friends and family who don’t require that she give them money and don’t dangle a future payout in front of their faces. The ones who are the critical thinker types either engender a defensiveness in those who have asked them to join or they get shut out of any future invitations and are eyed suspiciously. Rabble rousers! Trouble makers! Boat rockers!
Most importantly, these women who are less likely to be drawn into the gifting circles are all on paths they feel confident in. They are entrepreneurs, students, teachers, professionals. They’ve found something that makes them feel good about the work they do and adds to the quality of their lives and the world at large and don’t have a sense of lack around that. I think it’s a bit of a commentary on the nature of our social structures in general that people don’t feel so good about working for someone else. They don’t want to take pride in that work. They feel it squashes their desire for self-direction and gets in the way of the lifestyle they would prefer to lead. The gifting circles are sort of a parasitical reaction to that lack. Rather than go to school or take the time to get really good at something, there is a preference instead to find ways to siphon money from others while coating it in a coat of sweet sisterhood sharing.
Look, it’s ok. We’ve all been scammed at one point or another. Consider it a lesson in ego. In desire. In understanding greed. And, most importantly, giving a bit more time to that voice that questions, that doubts, that seeks to understand more. If someone ever tries to silence that – then you should question all the more.
I think that, an important thing to maintain in this world of so many ideas for sale all the time is a sort of philosophical skepticism. Question things! If people chide you for questioning, then it’s likely that you are challenging them because they haven’t done much questioning themselves. So question, consider, and dissect – especially someone is asking you for money! Learn, understand, know. Make informed decisions. You will be all the happier for it.
Recently a woman in Guilford, Connecticut was convicted of running just such a gifting circle. Why was she convicted? Because it is fraud, plain and simple and if you do the math, you will see how incredibly unsustainable its structure is.
*Yes, I think that, in humans, there is an innate sense of greed. I think that all of the ‘seven deadly sins’ are parts of the human body/condition. Our choice is whether we feed them or not. But they are always there – sloth, lust, greed, avarice, etc – waiting to be fed.
Many thanks to the women who offered their insights for this. Especially to M and to [Anonymous]. They offered those insights because they care.
There’s much to be said for the value of doodling. I’ve probably even said a bit of it already. I think so much importance is put on the idea of ‘a finished drawing’ that it’s sometimes possible to loose sight of the looseness of the spontaneous flow. In fact, the specificity of a ‘finished drawing’ (as if it’s this grand eloquence) can cause one to over think what one is setting out to do.
When I make a drawing of a painting I’m going to create there’s a lot of, well, doodling that goes into those first intimations of the image. When an idea comes to me it’s never a fleshed out thing. It’s sort of like a big broad brushstroke over my mind that says ‘something like this.’ Then what follows is: a lot of scribbles, dashes and dots, lines and curves, of trying to understand my lines, my motives, my reasons for making it.
On top of that gets added the symbolism: the story around each thing and why it needs to be there. That is sort of an added layer on top of the experience of the thing itself. Deeper down – there’s simply a drive, a desire, a strong urge for the thing. And that, I think, is the thing to follow. Everything else becomes ‘too much thinking’ and only serves to subdue get us back into our heads and out of our… Everything.
This is where a looseness comes in – a softness in the approach (even if it’s fierce and visceral. No, especially if) and allowing of oneself. I think that, with every piece of art, there is an initial spontaneous experience of the thing: an inspiration, a flash, an idea – that broad brushstroke. The initial sketches that follow should seek to capture that spontaneity. Often, in those first explorations, it’s a bit of a blurred idea. It shimmers on the horizon of my imaginations. I am only just tasting it – getting the first hints of it. It’s like a new relationship – it’s so exciting. And I capture a curve, a composition, a sense of scale.
But then, with time and exploration, I get to know it. All it’s nuances and quirks. The places that don’t line up with my vision. The pieces that feel awkward and unaligned. Like a relationship, if we force it, it gets uncomfortable and it implodes. It doesn’t work. So we need to go at it with a measured grace, a sense of space, a softness, to explore the hows and whys of the thing and see if it doesn’t want to be – or is trying to be – something else all together.
Making Art is a relationship and when we get involved with it, there’s a need to allow it to be it’s own experience, it’s own expression, outside of what we want it to be. And it is difficult. Relationships aren’t easy to maintain. And making art is the same. It takes work, perseverance, and dedication. But the inspiration is the fact of what it can be, what it has been, and what we get out of it. It’s what keeps us going. It’s what keeps me going.
I’m not all that stoked with most of my paintings while I’m working on them. They are a mess! They are unfinished and coarse. It’s like we have to work through our stuff. But I’m patient with it. My early drawings for a piece tend to be haphazard, unclear, and, often, not quite right.
So one needs to be able to allow for looseness. For sketches to be just that – sketches, ideas merging into each other, and ourselves losing ourselves in the process. And then, of course, the trick is to carry that ‘losing yourself’ through the entire process: from sketch to drawing to painting.
What I’m getting at is that, when you are starting out trying to get an idea onto the paper: be patient! Allow yourself new drawings, experimentation, and exploration. Play with the basic dominant shapes before you try to tackle the details. Visualize the big picture… feel it out… then try drawing sketches of the dominant movements and ideas…
Here’s a gallery of some of the drawings I made for ‘The Myth of Freedom’. There were other drawings but they were even messier. Little rectangles with wheels drawn in them, trying to visualize the curve I wanted. It takes me a long long time to transition from a drawing to a painting.
In any case, if you are in the midst of trying to get your idea out – your feeling – your visions – and they aren’t quite right: don’t give up! Breath! Be patient! There’s no retreating from that edge!
Nese Devenot interviewed me recently for www.RealitySandwich.com.
From her Introduction…
Among the newer iterations of visionary artists – a cohort that includes Amanda Sage, Luke Brown, Adam Scott Miller, and Andrew “Android” Jones – Michael Divine has carved out a niche all his own. His evolving style is unmistakeable even from a distance: sweeping vistas, vaulting archways, and numinous geometries establish epic scales of wonder and discovery, while stylized figures express an emotional intensity that seems incongruous with the simplicity of their forms. Energetic tendrils and cloudy billows are pierced by sharp lines and distinctive edges — contrasts of form that mirror the juxtaposition of colors, which often arrive in a mix of pastels: coral and turquoise, sunset golds and royal violets. The total compositions are encounters with – not just depictions of – divine insights and profound meditation. Viewers enter the fold of a capacious awareness that strikes viscerally, at the gut level, resulting in a transference of epiphany.
Read the full interview here: http://realitysandwich.com/216755/transference-epiphany-talk-michael-divine/
Near. Far. High. Low. Sunrise. Sunset. All’s relative. The sense of perspective and point of reference. Most of all: the limits that define us: the breadth of our breath and the width of our brow. All our stories and all our beliefs. Our laws, our traditions, our ideas of love, of economics, of mine, of yours. We create systems and structures that define us and tell us how to live in community with others. All of those systems: imagined ideas, dependent on each other and, most of all, on the belief in the solidity and actuality of this ‘I’. I am this. I am not that. I have this. I do not have that. Where am I in this picture? Where do I fit? And am I getting what I deserve? Am I giving what I should be? And does it translate to YOU?
Every image has a perspective and offers a glimpse of what-i-see-from-here. There can be so much to a little sky scape on a little canvas. And, then again, nothing at all. Paint, arranged in a specific array, that evokes a sensation. And a flurry of ideas.
If even it is a moment of sweetness, of non-linear, non-denominational, non-theoretical thought in the course of your day… A dash of color, a reminder… We are all here on earth, under the same sun, the same sky… There is no real reason to not love each other.
5″ x 7″
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