Trust and the Art of Asking

I’m not sure what you’ll think of Amanda Palmer. She is, well, different, perhaps particularly from the kinds of folks that usually show up at our churches. (Although perhaps for that very reason we should listen to what she has to say!) She’s a former street performer turned alternative rock icon. She’s known for pushing boundaries…in her art, her appearance, her lifestyle. She’s bold, brash, unconventional, and at times irreverent.

But I think she’s also onto something. Something important, something beautiful, something so deeply human that it is also and simultaneously something divine. She is onto the art of being in authentic relationship with those with whom you do business. Amanda, you see, has decided not to make people pay for her music, but rather asks them to, even lets them, however they can or want to.

When she was a street performer, she depended on the direct support of the people she was entertaining. And she soon discovered that that way of making a living could be about more than just making a living, it could be about developing relationships with people. Not just exchanging commodities – a performance for cash, etc. – but rather an act of mutual support.

When she became a rocker, she continued the practice, inviting people to support her band directly, giving them places to stay, food to eat, advice on what to do on the area, whatever, in exchange for attending the concert. It was a way, she describes, as coming to trust each other.

Her efforts – highlighted most recently by a remarkably successful Kickstarter campaign – have not gone without criticism. But Palmer persists in advocating for a mutually dependent way of making music and making a living, one where you need to see the people you never see and where they step up to support the artists they are enjoying. It is, as she discovered, recovering the art of asking and re-imaging the request for support not as a sign of weakness but as an invitation to relationship. As she says at one point in this provocative and eloquent Talk: “For most of human history, musicians, artists, they’ve been part of the community — connectors and openers, not untouchable stars.”

What intrigues me is the possibility of extending this to other venues. What if we went about publishing this way? Or running our congregations? Wait! We do run our congregations that way. Except have we invited people to see their giving as an act of mutual relationship, of trust, of falling into each other trusting that we’ll catch one another?

The idea throughout is to move from contractual arrangements to relationships. And it’s a powerful one, not just for artists but for all of us. So watch the video and, if you have time, let me know what ideas stir around in your head. What else might we approach via relationships of trust, where we seek intentionally to support one another in our various ventures?

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