Monday, September 23, 2013

Wanting What I Already Have

Recently I have made a commitment to begin my days reading something spiritual. My first selection is by Joan Chittister, OSB, a profoundly wise little book, Wisdom Distilled from the Daily: Living the Rule of St. Benedict Today. It amazes me how this book, published in 1991, before the world wide web, still speaks of the same challenges we now face: how to live a holy life in a world that is ever closer and more connected, with technology that dominates our time and consumerism that invades our consciousness. "In a world in which the planet has become the neighborhood and our personal lives are made up of unending streams of people," she writes, "the Rule of Benedict with its accent on the spiritual qualities of life lived in common may never have been more relevant. I have begun to see under the covers of this age-old monastic rule a semblance of sanity to the insanity of   the world around me." (p. 11-12) What would she have made of the "unending streams of people" I can speak to  and they to me via the timeline of my Facebook page? Or a world in which I can download an entire library to my Kindle in less than an hour? Or a BOGO culture in which I get two blouses when I only really needed one, just because the second one was free?
The craziness of this massively inter-connected world is that amidst this plenty we can find ourselves very empty indeed. The shallowness of constant conversation via email and social media does not make up for the lost intimacy of a real, deep, nourishing conversation with a true friend. A closet full of clothes can hide the few, precious, beloved garments that bring back the best and brightest memories. A shelf full of books can camouflage the wisest and most life-changing favorites (like this one) amidst all the others I've "been meaning to read." Wisdom Distilled from the Daily gives us one approach through the ancient Rule of Saint Benedict as interpreted by this wise woman. "We have to come to understand that we have been allotted our portion of the goods of the earth; we have not been given the goods of the universe for our own personal consumption. We own this earth in common with the poor. We have to learn the difference between needs and wants so that the needs of all can be supplied, which doesn't mean that my own life must be narrow or restricted. It simply means I must come to understand the difference between having it all and having everything." (p. 72.)

Having it all vs. having everything. Having it all doesn't make me happier, it just creates more work, more things to dust, more things to wade through. And it leads to a world where a few have too much and too many have too little. Having everything is simply having that--and only that--which is necessary to live a life in balance, where work and leisure, solitude and companionship, the mundane and the sacred exist in equal measure. That kind of monasticism does not require I renounce my family or give away all my possessions or move into a convent. It simply means that I must focus on wanting what I have rather than trying to have whatever I want.

No comments:

Post a Comment