Tuesday, September 21, 2004

enough already...

one of the lies i learned as a child of alcoholics was that there would never be enough. i don't know if it's because my parents were raised by depression era parents, but i have grown up with the fear that there will never be enough.

of anything. i literally grieve the bottom of a peanut butter jar, and conversely a new jar of peanut butter gives me great joy. (i cringe as i write this but it's the truth).

i still remember the day i was talking to my counselor and she ran to her office and offered me her closed hand. she dropped something into my outstretched hand and blessed me with these words, "there will always be enough". i looked into my open hand and saw a penny with a heart cut into it. i placed it on my key chain and use it as a reminder of that day truth replaced the lies.

there will always be enough. i don't have to hoard pot roasts in my freezer for company, i can actually make them just for my family. i think the lie of deprivation comes straight from the pit of hell.

i taught on parker palmer's book 'let your life speak' a last winter and one of the most poignant points he makes is about the effect that the theory of evolution had on western culture.

survival of the fittest became a sociological mindset - we must fight for resources, we must take care of our own - we must survive. what biology has shown us is that cells and humans both do best when they work in community. together for the same cause, instead of the concept that they are fighting for what little is left in the world.

christy's blog on power reminded me of this concept. power and control is something i both fight, and hoard. she has challenged that if we are generous with the power we have others will benefit and community will strengthen, and we won't be so concerned with the power that we don't possess.

palmer uses the metaphor of the seasons to teach us about cycles in life. it is a rich, earthy metaphor that resonates with the overarching truth of god. these are eternal laws like gravity, if we can embrace them instead of fighting them we will become much more able to participate in the community each of us truly desires.

here's a quote (it's long, but oh so worth it, really!):

"this fact of nature is in sharp contrast to human nature, which seems to regard perpetual scarcity as the law of life. daily i am astonished at how readily i believe that something i need is in short supply. if i hoard possessions, it is because i believe that there are not enough to go around. if i struggle with others over power, it is because i believe that power is limited. if i become jealous in relationships, it is because i believe that when you get too much love, i will be short changed.

even in writing this essay, i have had to struggle with the scarcity assumption. it is easy to stare at a blank page and despair of ever having another idea, another image, another illustration. it is easy to look back at what one has written and say, 'that's not very good, but i'd better keep it, because nothing better will come along.' it is difficult to trust that the pool of possibilities is bottomless, that one can keep diving in and finding more.

the irony, often tragic, is that by embracing the scarcity assumption, we create the very scarcities we fear. if i hoard material goods, others will have too little and i will never have enough. if i fight my way up the ladder of power, others will be defeated and i will never feel secure. if i get jealous of someone i love, i am likely to drive that person away. if i cling to the words i have written as if they were the last of their kind, the pool of new possibilities will surely go dry. we create scarcity by fearfully accepting it as law and by competing with others for resources as if we were stranded in the sahara at the last oasis.

in the human world abundance does not happen automatically. it is created when we have the sense to choose community. to come together to celebrate and share our common store. whether the scarce resource is money or love or power or words, the true law of life is that we generate more of whatever seems scarce by trusting its supply and passing it around. authentic abundance does not lie in secured stockpiles of food or cash or influence or affection but in belonging to a community where we can give those goods to others who need them - and receive them from others when we are in need.

i sometimes speak on college campuses about the importance of community in academic life, one of the most competitive cultures i know. on one such occasion, following my talk, a man stood in the audience, introduced himself as occupant of the 'distinguished such-and-such chair of biology,' and began what i thought - given his rather pompous self-introduction - would surely be an attack. instead, he said simply, 'of course we must learn to live in community with each other. after all, it is only good biology.' biology, the discipline that was once driven by anxious metaphors like 'survival of the fittest' and 'nature red in tooth and claw' now has a new metaphor - community. death has not ceased, of course, but now it is understood as a legacy to the community of abundant life.

here is a summertime truth: abundance is a communal act, the joint creation of an incredibly complex ecology in which each part functions on behalf of the whole and, in return, is sustainable by the whole. community doesn't just create abundance. community is abundance. if we could learn that equation from the world of nature, the human world might be transformed."

let your life speak, pages 106-108
heck, i know the church would be transformed...

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