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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Bailouts and the Rule of Benedict...

The other day, I was ranting to some trusted friends about how angry I was when I came across a Facebook ad that promoted getting 'bailout' money that was not being claimed. When I clicked on the ad it went to a blog where someone was telling about how they got $12,000.00 in unclaimed government grant money and then they paid off $10,000.00 in credit debt and took a family vacation. Then they went on to tell people how to get their own chunk of money, for themselves.

I was furious.

When I told my friends, one of them replied, "Welcome to the Republican party."

Their comment caused me to think...

My problem is not about Republican or Democratic approaches to policy; but about the responsibility of we citizens have in the state of our nation. If the Republican or the Democratic party makes money available to help others; it is not my right as a citizen to take that money to save myself while others who are in more dire straights than I am sink. That is the opposite behavior that is needed to help this nation to rise up honorably from our mistakes.

I felt that the person in the blog was promoting the same irresponsible choices that have helped this nation towards the mess we are in; and then turning and taking more from their national brothers and sisters to help themselves. They put themselves first and the rest of us, last.

Today, I read in "The Rule of Benedict: Insights for the Ages" by Joan Chittister O.S.B., words that underscored these thoughts for me (italics mine):

"...if the preservation of the globe in the twenty-first century requires anything of the past at all, it may well be the commitment of the Rule of Benedict to humility.

The Roman empire in which Benedict of Nursia wrote his alternative rule of life was civilization in a decline not unlike our own. The economy was deteriorating, the helpless were being destroyed by the warlike, the rich lived on the backs of the poor, the powerful few made decisions that profited them but plunged the powerless many into continual chaos, the empire expended more and more of its resouces on militarism designed to maintain a system that, strained from within and threatened from without, was already long dead.

It is an environment like that into which Benedict of Nursia flung a rule for privileged Roman citizens calling for humility, a proper sense of self in a universe of wonders. When we make ourselves God, no one in the world is safe in our presence. Humility, in other words, is the basis for right relationships in life."

I am struck, quite forcibly, by the state America is in today and what Rome was like in Benedict's time. And, quite oddly, I take comfort in the fact that Rome is still there -- but it is not exactly as it was. I hope that we, as a nation, may begin to learn and explore the concept of humility that, to borrow Joan's words, "directs us to begin (...) by knowing our place in the universe, our connectedness, our dependence on God for the little greatness we have."

May we 'begin (together) again.'

Monday, February 09, 2009

A ramble back in...

In September, I wrote that I thought I would be able to post here more often.

Well. Life is full of surprises and I have been seeing how my intentions do not always form my life. (Whew!)

All that said, I noticed a shift in myself last week where I wanted to begin here again. And, as far as I am able to see at this moment, I think I will be able to be more consistent again. I have, for the past few weeks, become more 'disciplined' and intentional in my writing pursuits. There is something opening and expanding there and I think it wants to grow into this space as well.

What is interesting to me -- and would take too long to explain -- is that I want to begin to use this space to talk about the economic crisis and how I experience it's impact upon America and me. There are so many things shifting... and even though they are scary, I think they are healthy shifts. I think we have a HUGE opportunity before us.

I have listened to NPR and all the experts talking for quite some time on this issue, but the other week I came across Speaking of Faith's series: Repossessing Virtue. I think it is wonderful and rather 'holistic' and it is causing me to see and experience things in new ways.

For me, this economic crisis began a long time ago. I have personally been walking away from the 'craziness' of consumerism that has been prevalent in America since before 'Y2K'. Not knowing what would happen and anticipating the potential crisis of Y2K caused me to look at how our family lived. It made me search for the historically consistent, sustainable 'ways' in which to live. That search broght me to look for ways of connection and helping/serving that would strengthen the way our family lives within our community. A lot of the changes that came about were very 'small' or 'unassuming'; yet they have brought about a level of peace that I am grateful for. A quick example is walking or biking to the grocery store near me instead of driving into a suburb to try to get the 'lowest' prices on something. When I walk to the store, I take the dog -- and I usually bribe my children with truffles if they will come with. The dog gets his exercise, as do I and the kids, and people often greet us and we meet interesting people. I have consistently noticed that I usually have a sense of happiness and joy after these times. It is good to be together and to nuture the places of healthy connection in our communities; it pays off.

I feel like the economic crisis, if we will allow it, will help us to re-discover these ways of being together again in America... and I do not mean in just 'pie-in-the-sky' ways. I had to deny myself things in my turning from consumeristic and isolated ways of living -- I had to overcome tremendous 'fears' that were keeping me isolated -- but as I did it, I began to taste something so much more authentic and real and sustainable that it began to 'grease the wheels' and make it easier to turn.

My hope is that I may find others onthis journey and that we are beginning to turn in our individual ways to discover and learn help each other.