Dear Friends,

How do we track what matters most to us? 

Though our bank balance is only a finger tap away, our connectedness and soulfulness are much harder to track. 

I'm compelled by community leaders who create new tools to capture this kind of data. The fitness coach who checks the tally of opioid overdoses in his community. The non-profit leader who measures the sense of belonging among volunteers.

Next week, I'm co-hosting a call for these, and other, visionary practitioners to see what we can learn from one another. Because many of the traditional metrics that our culture tracks are incomplete, if not actively opposing the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible.

For example - our credit score. 

Rachel Odwyer has a remarkable piece in the London Review of Books tracking its history. Created as a way to scale localized knowledge for retailers, a credit score didn't just establish whether you had the money to make good on a debt, but whether you were the kind of person likely to do so. 

Most obviously, racist redlining practices locked out generations of families of color simply because the neighborhood they lived in was deemed undesirable. 

And by the 1960's, Fair, Isaac and Co (hence FICO) created a detailed list of variables used to assess individual creditworthiness. Surprisingly, income and marital status were not accurate predictors, but having a telephone in the house was. Measures like 'effeminate gestures' and an untidy back yard counted against you, just as completing a loan application in all caps decreases your likelihood of being approved for credit today.

Thankfully, new tools like the initiative score, or 'hustle score,' offer an alternative. Instead of leaving people credit-invisible, it tracks assets and strengths - including social capital, health, and education - recognizing the 'investability' of people with low-income, even if they have a low credit score (or don't have one at all.)

Yet however useful these new tools, there is a tension in the idea that we can precisely measure what matters most.

Barbara Brown Taylor, the great preacher, writes that, "As our ability to control the world around us has increased, our respect for its mystery has decreased. Our chief interest in anything – a tree, person, God – is its usefulness to us and not its existence in and of itself."

We're reminded that we must create new tools that reveal the value too-often hidden from view. And yet to know that these indicators are only ever echoes of what matters most.

To borrow another phrase from Brown Taylor's book The Preaching Life, these metrics might best be understood as "detectives of divinity."

That they both uncover - and point us towards - that which is beyond measuring.

Have a wonderful weekend, Shabbat Shalom,

PS. If different assumptions about money cause conflict for you and your loved ones or co-creators, I highly recommend sharing your money autobiographies. A simple but profound practice! 

Uncle Knut was a priest.
He was a practical man, but Latin
was Greek to him.
He died after his retirement, he stood
and dug the site for the new house
when his heart gave way.
He was more an electrician
than a preacher, he began all his speeches
by saying: “I’m not much of a one for speeches”
and he was right about that.
He did not really have much to teach
his parishioners, they had their own troubles
with their births, with their love and their death
and he did not have words for such things.
But he had learnt to repair
electric wires and he visited people in their homes
and mended short circuits and defective
fuse boxes, he screwed lamps into place
and wherever he had been, there was light.

- Knut Ødegård
Copyright © 2018 Casper ter Kuile, All rights reserved.

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