(Making A) Living On The Edge - elf Pavlik

I’ve seen many contributions from Pavlik on the P2P Foundation mailing list but I only met him for the first time at a hackathon in Berlin in December. I was intrigued by his choice to live without money and wanted to interview him for (Making A) Living On The Edge precisely because his concept of making a “living” is so distinct.

Pavlik is in Berlin at the moment participating in the Occupy Biennale and has been living strictly moneyless and stateless for over 3 years. He doesn’t use money, accept any nationality or use state documents which sees as exercising his freedom of how he wants to live. He spends his time participating in different gatherings and projects and specialises in ICT and looks at how new tools can be used to change the way people collaborate and organise to move away from hierarchical structures towards flatter structures.

He first moved away from using money when he was living in San Francisco about 4 years ago and had the opportunity to learn what he actually needs. No living thing needs money, he says, but some people use money to get the things they really need. He came to the conclusion that if could access to the things he really needs then he didn’t money - money only exists in relations between people he adds. “Money only exists in the human imagination - all the bills and coins and credit cards, if a small child looks at it, they see plastic, metal, paper, the money only comes from conditioning,” he states.


At the moment Pavlik gets the things he needs through sharing. He works on projects without asking for anything in return, supporting causes he cares about. Similarly when people support him with food and shelter, he hitchhikes to travel from place to place, it happens just because people want to support him and what he does. No money is exchanged.

He sees that also with information technologies it is possible to move away from the dependancy on one system especially what he considers to be very crippled and pathological state currencies with all they entail. It’s possible to move to a system with a diversity of systems which take relationships into account - so if people know and trust each other there can be more liberal ways of accounting, not really accounting but supporting each other and trusting each other. In relationships with a little less trust it is possible to use different sorts of accounting such as resource sharing or some form of alternative currencies.

Pavlik only moves around the European continent and cannot leave a certain part of Europe due to his decision not to use state documents and he usually travels to participate in some gathering , staying with people, cooking and eating with them. If he stays in the country, he helps to grow food and in general sees his life as part of a wider ecosystem. He doesn’t like direct exchange - “I do something to get something”, preferring to do things to support, doing favours for friends and others, and in the same way receives support himself. In this way there is no element of debt,  “I did something for you, now you owe me something” instead “I did this because I really wanted to support you”.

He finds that relationships without the use of money are friendlier but admits that he still faces some challenges, of how to organise things as people are used to using money they ask for money and they expect money back but although it involves more effort, he finds a higher quality of relationships which are more honest and more direct, more based on care and kindness. He sees the use of money as a vicious circle but thinks that by spreading a culture of not using it, more people can stop using it and can get to a critical mass. He believes it can become obsolete in a short time if enough people stop participating in it.

I asked him about other currencies, such as bitcoin. He says he doesn’t like bitcoin himself, and focusses on a diverse environment of different ways accounting between ourselves, which may include monetary currencies, but he concentrates on a system without them. He says bitcoin as a monetary currency and appreciates that people try to experiment but sees it as something, in the beginning at least, for geeks, and it doesn’t look at a larger ecosystem or relationships or what is needed to support certain services and resources, all problems which are similar to state currencies.

Economy vs Finance

Pavlik sees economy and finances as completely distinct - he considers economy to be relation and flows of services and goods, and collaboration and community whereas he sees finance as a tool to work with the economic relations. Therefore he sees a financial crisis as the system of mainstream currencies cannot work by design but he doesn’t see an economic crises as there are amazing technologies, 7 billion people who can communicate in real time worldwide, lots of resources still, and knowledge of how to reuse and recycle resources. There are some environmental challenges due to the misuse and abuse of resources and nature but mainly there is the problem of people getting stuck in the finances which have to collapse. He sees that those challenges bring people together to say that they don’t want to continue in that way. Often they can’t often specify what they want to differently, but they want to come together to discuss problems and how, collectively, different possible solutions can be found.

“The way I see these groups related to Occupy and other related movements is that people don’t have precise expectations of what we want, we just want to come together and look for solutions, different solutions for different problems”, he says. Instead of in mainstream political culture where the parties claim to have solutions to problems, the people there say they don’t have solutions but have certain ways of communicating and processes which may help find solutions. Pavlik appreciates the difference of saying, “if you face problems, possibly you need to participate in finding solutions, don’t expect Papa or Mama to solve your problems”.

Sincere trust that life brings him everything he needs

It’s a beautiful life lesson about the difference between (real) needs and desires. He developped these past years an extraordinary sincere trust that life brings him everything he needs. I am convinced that this person must be very happy, because he has no fears of shortages. Instead of focusing on what he could be possibly missing, he is grateful for what he receives, and thinks about giving first. He is so confident in life that he lets himself be completely provided for. Life meets this trust by filling all his needs.

There are people who spend their whole lives working endlessly, without ever really enjoying anything, to raise money for their retirement. When it comes to retirement, they become extremely anxious and worried about running out of money.

Surrender is very powerful. It is the opposite of resistance and it happens as a result of establishing trust and faith that what you have asked for will be delivered to you.

The way that the majority believe money must be obtained is through their efforts by working harder, or putting forth more physical effort such as working more hours, or doing more things, often in careers that they find to be unpleasant or undesirable.

Pavlik’s story teaches us that there is no stress or anxiety, but rather a “knowing”, which speeds up the creative process. Pavlik reminds me of monks’s lifestyles.

Food for thought for a model of Man

Thank you Cataspanglish and Pavlik, you are provinding food for thought for the applications and business model of my model of a Luminous Man. (Michel Filippi, Des hommes et de notre civilisation)

Why are people like Pavlik behaving in this way, why do they adopt different radical lifestyles? What are the underlying causes of this? How would society look like, if everyone was living like Pavlik? My model is about the physical changes, what happens in the physical body, in the DNA of human beings, when one behaves like Pavlik and others, and the impact this would have on society.

Inspiring experience


I’m also looking for living without any money exchange, Elf’s experience showed me it’s more than possible, thanks for that.

I’ll try to get in touch with him to share my latest work and project such as demopolitique and the open source university project i’ve talked about briefly.

Thanks for the share.

What about kids?

A comment posted on Facebook:

Interesting. I wish you’d asked him about kids

It just seems exponentially easier to lead a moneyless/stateless life as an individual, and much less so as a parent or even as a partner. Lack of security (what if…?) is bearable if it’s just you, but few of us can imagine choosing such a precarious situation for our kids. I’m sure there are days when he goes hungry. It’s not the same if your kid goes hungry.

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What makes kids happy? From what conditions does it spring?

It would be wonderful to live in full surrender like Pavlik does. I would love to leave and go somewhere for a while. Live like a monk. (although I suppose it would be a nun, in my case. I prefer ‘monk’, or even better ‘saint’). Live like a saint.

Nirgal and I have been discussing about these things lately. I am a single mother solely responsible for my son, and it therefore it is not possible for me to behave like this. His father did. He decided that he does not want the responsibility, so I ended up with the full load. Is this fair? How come men tend to do this more often than women? Anyway, that’s another story… There are parents - male or female - who do this. One cannot judge them, they must have their reasons for doing it.

I made a choice: I decided to make to experience of motherhood. I made the choice to be a parent. And now I live with the consequences of this choice. I accept it. It is a wonderful experience, and I don’t miss for a second the ‘lack of freedom’. I don’t feel this at all. It is another kind of possibilty which allows to grow as much as the monk style, for instance, and it has made a tremendous change in my life: it transformed me. I tell my son every day that he is ‘My Wonderful’. I thank him everyday for being in my life. I have showed him gratefulness since the minute I found out I was pregnant. I don’t even have a trace of resentment for not being on my own anymore. I never e-v-e-r showed this to my son.

My 6 years old son is glowing with happiness. His face shines like the sun and kids are attracted to him like magnets. When he meets his friends, they cutely hug, they throw themselves in each others arms with passion and with such spontaneity that it surprises everyone.

At the school parents’ annual meeting, his teacher told me: ‘It shows that your son is happy’. You know what? It made my heart explode of pride and joy!

I have not been rolling on gold these past years. The fact that I do not have much money is precicely a main factor that allowed my son to grow the way he does. Of course, it is a mix of factors, which could be evaluated. But I can see that it has a substancial impact on my son’s condition (and my own happiness condition as well).

Do you know that happiness leaves a trace in DNA? I wish I could do genome analysis of both my son and I, to test my hypothesis.

curent state of things ≠ future state of things

I agree that person taking care of children currently would have much harder time living my present livestyle, but even nowadays I see posibility for such family to live moneyless. Myself in such sitation I would stick more to living in a countryside, with community(ies) where people grow food, build natural buidings, and trully care about each other.

Still currently I choose to focus on supporting development of rich diversity in our economical tools, again focusing mostly on variants not build around monetary atrifacts. I believe that within next few months we can have some of them working. I see not technical barriers that once we have such alternatives, we can render current monetary system obsolete even within a year or two :smiley:


I plan to read comments and answer questions in a day or two


At this moment I participate in an Intensive Dragon Dreaming workshop in Berlin: Dragon Dreaming International – Everything is a temporary node in a process of flow

In a day or two, once this workshop ends I will take some time to read comments here and reply to them. Thank you for having patience :slight_smile:

“I want to meet…”

Hello Elf, Nadia met you in Berlin a while back, and she was talking about you quite a lot. I would definitely be curious to meet you. Any chance we could get you over to Strasbourg? Chris, what do you think?

Sounds good

He sent me a mail yesterday about coming, saying he’d make his own way there of course :wink: What do you say Elf?

He is for real

I would love to meet him in person too!

He is the living proof, he demonstrates a way of living (moneyless) that could become mainstream in the future.

I have been looking at various business models these past months. I discussed this a lot with philosopher Michel Filippi, possible business applications of a model of a future man. We looked at a couple of business models from India, but these did not really please me.

I find much inspiration here. Much inspiration.

Even if some people do not understand my ideas, do not see their purpose and their application, I am glad to find out that men that have points in common with the portrait I imagined in my head, these men, they exist. He is for real.

see you in Strasbourg :slight_smile:

sure i could hitchhike to Strasbourg for this event, please let me know if i still need to do some ‘paperwork’? i’ve already put some basic information in my profile here and today can add information about some of the projects i participate in…

This is looking like fun

Hey Elf,

I’ll write you a private email. We are up for covering your trip and stay - there is this little glitch that you don’t touch money and you have no papers to cross borders, but let’s give it a go anyway. I am curious to see to what extent we, an institution, can accommodate somebody as un-institutional like you.

A book

Elf, I am just curious: have you read Distraction by Bruce Sterling (review by Cory Doctorow)? To me, you could be someone from that fictional (yet plausible) world…

lately stuck reading RFCs :wink:

hey! to stay honest in last years i have’ve gotten bit stuck with reading techy stuff - specs, manuals, howtos etc. i hope to start reading more non IT work now and novels (maybe even poems at some point :wink:

Just to share, wonder if you have heard of this project and your thoughts about it?