Tuesday, March 24, 2009

honestly, i don't get it

i was born and raised, and have made a living and raised my children, and built a life, in the richest country in the world. the richest country by far. maybe the richest and most materially successful country ever, including throughout history - even if adjusted for inflation, technology, etc.
i have absolutely no way to understand this.
i've been to, and worked in missions and relief work in, very poor places.
i care deeply about issues of social justice and care for the oppressed.
i know that rampant materialism and consumerism and greed are incredibly toxic.

i am frustrated by the wireless internet at my house cutting in and out while i'm reading something on the internet. i get sad that my children's choices in which colleges to go to are complicated. i'm overwhelmed by my to-do list of shopping and errand-running.

my wife and the women's study groups at journey are reading Three Cups of Tea; she was telling me a few days ago about how the men and women in this story, who live in Pakistan, are very willing to suffer and live what we would consider an unimaginably hard life ... and yet, they persevere, and have joy and hope, and work extremely hard. as in, carrying building supplies uphill all night, singing as they go, to help with the construction of a school.

i'm not romanticizing simplicity or the good old days. ask anyone who was there; the good old days weren't particularly cute or easy. and contemporary culture has given us modern medicine. and mass communication. and travel. and literacy. and awareness around mental and emotional illness, and family dysfunction, and abuse.
it's not an either/or. i'm not even saying the culture in which we live isn't healthy.

what i'm saying is, i grew up here. i don't know how to appreciate it fully. i want to. i want not to miss what a miracle it is. even though it has huge flaws and drawbacks - i live in the richest country in the history of the world, with the most resources, and the greatest possibilities and options. i want to pay attention to what an awareness of that, even a small one, can help teach me.


paraheadache said...

I gained a small awareness of this the other day when I watched Slumdog Millionaire... if you haven't seen it I recommend it highly. The living conditions they show are appalling... made me more appreciative of my dry, warm home, indoor plumbing, and fresh water.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to have been born an Indian when America was virtually uninhabited, following buffalo herds across the great plains. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to have been born a member of an African tribe or a Jew or other race bound for slavery or genocide. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to have been born a warrior bound for some great battle. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to have been born in a time when I could have walked with Jesus.

Unlikely that I would have made more difference or less difference in the big picture in those circumstances than I will in the here and now of who I am. I don't really know that God perceives much difference in all of that. The questions are the same in that space around me.

I agree that it is important to pay attention and take note and be grateful and humble and concerned and a little afraid and a little joyful and a lot in awe of it all.

JAC said...

it sure ain't easy. i don't know if it's even possible. over here, i feel like i'm "getting it," and i pat myself on the back for being so aware and walking the walk -- but as soon as i leave my village and get around other americans, that life is far from my consciousness. what can we do? we are products of nownownow.