Self-Interest and Altruism

By Grace Maselli

Timebanking founder Edgar Cahn, now an octogenarian, has wisdom to share. “Timebanking is an explicit way of harnessing self-interest and altruism,” he notes. Sure, people who join have specific interests and needs, but there’s beauty in timebanking’s alchemy informed by another medium of exchange. Beyond cash transactions, people involved in timebanks tend to assign value to what Edgar calls “physic income.” That which is earned on behalf of the human soul. The spirit. With all of it potentially nurtured by helping others as one’s own needs are also met. For the biggest payoff, empathy and caring are marbled into the equation.

Said another way, the exchange of task-and-time itself, the interplay of doing and giving, has intrinsic value. But currency also comes in the form of self-esteem, Edgar believes. For example, “Teachers take lower salaries because their self-esteem is based in part on the choice to make the world better. You get psychic income from feeling good about yourself.” (Of course, our devoted teachers in Tampa Bay deserve psychic income and dollars, this writer believes.) So here’s a hats-off to TBT and its raison d’être:  “nourishment” of the psyche and community in its multiple and invaluable forms.