Some days I am so burdened by the have-to’s I wonder what it is I do to change the world. Some days I am so disappointed by the nature of humanity, its greed, its ego, its pride, its hubris, that I just want to scream into the faces of those that disappoint me. And, again, I wonder, how does my little petty rage change the world.
Then. Then there are some days where I find the broken human, in the middle of the night, seeking grace, heart breaking open with suffering, and I let them in my car, and I feed them with words of hope, and I see the others in that car, piling in, despite their own hurt and real means for hopelessness, and offering that person the same. And we rebuild the world, together, one single soul at a time. In those moments I remember. I remember it all. I remember what I will probably forget again tomorrow.
- We don’t heal or change the world alone.
- Impromptu midnight moments of kindness do change the world, one invisible person, seeking love, at a time.
- For all the grace-less greed, hubris, denegration, and ego in the world, there are layers under those layers which people are accessing everyday, sometimes without knowing it, to combat the hubris and the hate, the ignorance and the greed – and, what I must remember that is the hardest of all, often the two dichotomies are contained in the same simple being.
I must remember, especially when I don’t want to, that the greedy or ignorant person in one moment, may also be someone else’s grace in the next. The world contains that tension and so I am reminded, so must I. Both for my own failings and falling short, and for all those I might judge for their explicit or implicit representation of the same paradox, hypocrisy, or dichotomous nature. The other thing I must remember is that, just maybe, we have to see the dichotomous nature, and acknowledge that this is the full circumference of humanity.
We all contain within us the capacity for absolute grace and absolute cruelty. We all have equal capacity for absolute selflessness and absolute selfishness. Few of us pass through this life without diving into the pool of both qualities, often in nearly equal measure.
I am so flawed, so aching, so broken and I also have the capacity for deep compassion, empathy and kindness. And so do we all.
A Communion of Humans
To commune is an action. So, why have we taken communion [for those of us that are Christian] as merely the symbol without the calling. We take it and we are consumerist about it – we pay our dues by sitting in pews, and we are then given our symbol without it being a call to action. How have we lost the meaning in the ritual? How have we deadened a tradition that is meant to emphasize action and aliveness in every breath?
How have we forgotten to commune with hurt, brokenness, and desperation while symbolically absorbing both the root and the solution to both – communion and communing?
Do we want to commune or do we want communion? Perhaps we need a moment of famine. Perhaps we shouldn’t take symbolic communion again until we can find a way to commune with the suffering and breaking world. Not broken, but breaking. It breaks every minute. It breaks while we sing our historic hymns, and while we bend on our knees in our ancient pews, and while we take this bread without giving anything away, without feeling even the discomfort of scarcity, while people have nothing. We preach abundance from the pulpit, but do nothing to share our own abundance with those that have so little.
A Year of Brokenness: The Myths of Scarcity & Abundance
This, for me has been a year of humility, a year of experienced scarcity. I have felt it physically- as my medical issues increase and often my own limbs atrophy under the weight of their own ineptitude. I have felt it financially – having moments where I have had to worry about simple things which previously I would have not had to even consider – like will we be able to get a new roof before we lose our homeowners insurance, or will we go into collections from the debtors at my door, or how will I pay for groceries when my bank balance is below zero more weeks than not. I have felt it spiritually – as I find my own vacancy of physical, emotional, and financial abundance.
All these things have led me to the kind of despair that a person of hope “shouldn’t” feel and a mistrust of the concept of abundance. As I experience a sincere moment of dimensional poverty it is so hard to consider abundance to be true. I have felt the weight of it in my heart. I see in my time of scarcity great hypocrisies of wealth, concrete abundance, and reiterated greed, over and over, lavished on those that may never understand real scarcity – in any dimension.
In all of this, through my pain, pettiness, and short-sighted spiritual conception, I have been shaken loose. I have been given the freedom of absence and less-than which allows me to see outside of the smallness of the tangible or the concrete. I have been given the gift of learning the secret of true abundance and true scarcity which has nothing to do with the [literal] roof over my head or the money in my pocket or, even, the food I am able to set at my table [or not].
I have come to this absurd, almost obvious understanding, that at the root of it all abundance is an experience of the world and our lives as they are, which we can see as abundant, if we choose, despite our circumstance. Insanely enough, I have taught this for years, in my trauma and healing work, but have never felt it so universally and viscerally than in the last year of my life. Abundance and scarcity are both found in a state of mind. I could die in a state of spiritual abundance, from physical starvation, or I could live in a state of spiritual scarcity, while lavishing myself in fiscal or emotional obesity.
One of my greatest teachers, Victor Frankl [author of Man’s Search for Meaning] reminds me, in new and evolving ways, at different stages of my life a couple of simple principles:
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
The one thing I guess I can always say, till the moment I die [hopefully] is that even in the greatest amount of consumerist scarcity, I have found my own personal conduit to abundance. I have, for better or worse, verbal abundance. No one can take my words. And so I write. And I write. And I write. When there is nothing else left but words, I write. You can take my house, my food, my physical independence – one way or another I write.
And so I live a life of abundance, and I have to remind myself that scarcity is what I make it.