Don't let your schooling interfere with your education.
~ Pete Seeger

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Stuff and Poverty

Okay, back to the Peace Conference I attended about a month ago. It was a powerful event, and I met some rich and powerful people.

I met Marshall Rosenberg, who travels around the world mediating conflicts and creating peace. He chooses to live on a poverty income so that he doesn't have to pay taxes that support the Iraq Occupation.

I met Julia Butterfly Hill, who spent over two years living in a tree to save its life.

I learned about Mohandas Gandhi, who gave away all his possessions to live a life of poverty in service to his people.

I met Bonnie Tinker, who lives on her non-profit, and has been arrested many times in nonviolent demonstrations against oppression.

After the conference, as I drove to pick up my kids, I thought about that, and how I couldn't give up my stuff to live a life like that. I've got kids, for god's sake. A job. How could I give all that up?

Like a ray of light, I suddenly understood how I could. It was so clear that I exclaimed out loud.

I can surrender all my stuff in my heart, right now.

So I did. I gave up all my stuff; essentially gave it away. I don't own anything, I just use it. If I lose it, loan it, or have it taken away from me, I'll use something else.

I don't own my house. It's just where I live. If I lose it, I'll go live somewhere else.

I don't own my job. It's just where I serve right now. If I lose it, I'll find a better way to serve.

I don't even own my kids. I love them, sure, but if something happens to them that separates us, I know that they will be taken care of. And they're going to grow up and leave anyway. They're their own people.

A sense of freedom swept over me. What a celebration to have an insight like that! I realized in that moment that I am free. I can make decisions about what to do without fear. And that's pretty darn cool.

Now the only problem is how to keep that sensibility. I've had moments since when the cares of everyday life creep in and take that sense of freedom and choice away, but for the most part, it's been working. I still have that sense of possibility. I've still given everything away in my heart. I'm still free. And I've set an intention to keep that freedom and unattachment to my stuff.


David Carrel said...

That is definitely tough to do. Sounds like a very Christian concept, and I guess Hindu and maybe other religions, I am not sure. But as a Christian, that really hit home.

Seda said...

I don't know that it's so Christian, David. It just is. Seems pretty universal, to me. I guess it's in keeping with Christian teaching, certainly with what Jesus said and how he lived, yet it's just as much a Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Pagan, or animist concept. I think it arises naturally from eliminating fear and embracing life, and of the people I know who show it most perfectly, none of them, I believe, are Christian. In fact, I think they're all pretty much non-religious. But I'm glad you like it, and that it fits in with your Christian philosophy.

Terri said...

Welcome to nonviolence. By not attaching to material things we are no longer afraid of being robbed of them. If we can't own the resources there is no longer reason to kill for them. All great wisdom traditions teach us this, yet we still struggle with the lesson. Ghandi, Buddha and Christ were the best living examples. They were the role models of how to love our enemies.
Christ only taught and modeled nonviolence - when he disarmed Paul he disarmed all soldiers. Christians followed his teachings for the first three centuries, but then the religion was co-opted by the state, Constantine realized that if he joined this growing religion he could control it, force it into idolatry - worship of state and material things. When Christians became hired killers for the state, they gave up any right to call themselves after the name of Christ. At least we still have the Quakers, Mennonites and the Amish as a reminder that Christ does still live in a few hearts.

David Carrel said...

Yeah I meant that it is probably a more universal concept, but one that should be held more closely in Christian circles, but usually isn't. I believe you when you say you probably don't know any Christians like that. We are mostly stubborn, prideful, and definitely unwilling to give up our comforts for the cause of Christ.
Terri, very interesting point of view. I hope that there are more Christians than you listed that have Christ in their hearts, although I admit that many times it does not appear as though we do.

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.
~Helen Keller

Reading List for Information about Transpeople

  • Becoming a Visible Man, by Jamison Green
  • Conundrum, by Jan Morris
  • Gender Outlaw, by Kate Bornstein
  • My Husband Betty, by Helen Boyd
  • Right Side Out, by Annah Moore
  • She's Not There, by Jennifer Boylan
  • The Riddle of Gender, by Deborah Rudacille
  • Trans Liberation, by Leslie Feinberg
  • Transgender Emergence, by Arlene Istar Lev
  • Transgender Warriors, by Leslie Feinberg
  • Transition and Beyond, by Reid Vanderburgh
  • True Selves, by Mildred Brown
  • What Becomes You, by Aaron Link Raz and Hilda Raz
  • Whipping Girl, by Julia Serano
I have come into this world to see this:
the sword drop from men's hands even at the height
of their arc of anger
because we have finally realized there is just one flesh to wound
and it is His - the Christ's, our