I think a lot about how, particularly in the Before Times™, I wanted to redefine wealth. I shared:
the time to cultivate them both.
I felt pretty good about this definition, but also couldn’t help but acknowledge how, due to capitalism, much of it hinges upon access to material goods. This access varies from the ability to fulfill basic needs (that I was taught to prioritize through taxonomies like Maslow’s hierarchy): like food, shelter and safety, to the very zenith of that hierarchy as it relates to self-actualization. I've been told Maslow stole this idea from the Blackfoot indigenous nation and that it doesn't represent what they originally conceived. That makes sense to me because hierarchies tend to represent distinctly modern western thought based on this-or-that binaries. To me the answer is more complex. Self-actualization is the material good.
Physiologically or psychologically, I’ve been most compelled to consider the question: do you want to be well? Whether pulled from activist, author and scholar Toni Cade Bambara, or the Bible, the question forces reflection and is more rhetorical than anything - the answer being, yes, of course I want to be well! Yet, if we want to be well, we also want to self-actualize. And both are determined by our ability to be in community rather than to amass material goods.
Wanting to be well is about being connected. We are our greatest material resource.
When I think about traditional capital versus community, I think about even how the words are conceptually taken up within education. The fact of the matter is capital has been taken out of its home discipline– and from economics it burst into the social sciences in a most perverse way. Throughout education and particularly language education, we claim young people need social, cultural, linguistic and intellectual capital to be successful. These capitals are construed as entities that can be reproduced, invested and augmented through institutional, or, temporal investments like being in school or around white-middle class folks. But they're also construed as being innate to particular bodies and families, leaving many of us scrambling to find ways to increase our capitals since we are non-white and not middle class. It's odd to me that when we think about the connectedness of indigenous and/or Black families, the multi-generational habits, the ways of learning, knowing, and being that are interdependent and call for reciprocity, love and connectedness, we see anything but immense wealth.
In my personal journey, my answer to: “Do you want to be well?” is now a resounding YES! While I've prioritized material resources over connectedness as a result of institutions like schools which groomed me to do so, it has only cost me. After extensive self-work and reflection, my connections with people, histories, traditions, sharing and supporting (and of course, receiving that in return) has quite literally healed me –yes, even physically. Capitals in the form of social or even fiscal access without regard for relationships alternatively left me in constant competition, scrambling, and stepping on others along the way.
So I leave you all with the same question that I ask myself daily. Do you want to be well? And if the answer is yes, I urge you to reject capital, reach for community, and get this healing!