A small circle: Wayward    
 Wayward4 comments
picture30 Nov 2003 @ 16:40, by D

Photo: Koyaanisqatsi

We live in a world of knowledge and technology aplenty, but one that is clearly lacking in wisdom and spirituality. We are taught to want money, to retire as early as possible, to get ahead whatever the cost to others, to worship at the altar of the self, and to be in control of everything and everyone at all times

But those values are a recipe for extinction, a blueprint for human destruction. They are precisely the values that have destroyed the rainforest, melted the polar ice cap, and deprived peasant farmers of their lands. These values have left babies of color dead in their mothers' bony arms, old women to sleep in public parks, and one out of five preschool children in the United States in poverty. In the richest nation in the world, 20 million are hungry and 40 million have no health insurance.

— Joan Chittister

Work is our gift to the world. It binds us to the rest of humankind and to fulfillment. It lets us give back as much as we take from life. But the work of this century has become, at least for us, what we call security. Annual defense spending by the United States is three times the combined annual defense spending of Russia, China, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria. This year, we are spending anywhere from 47 to 80 percent of the 2004 budget on the military, depending on how you calculate. If you include the necessary borrowing, the price of homeland security, and the cost of the current war, you understand then why next year we will be cutting back on subsidies for housing, Head Start, and medicine. We can't afford development. So infected have science, industry, and the political process become by inflated military contracts that we doggedly, patriotically, and immorally resist downsizing the military-industrial complex for fear that the country will be economically damaged. But the simplest arithmetic tells us that spending a billion dollars on the production of guided missiles creates about 9,000 jobs. If we spent the same amount of money on pollution control, it would create 16,000 jobs. A billion dollars on local transit creates 21,000 jobs; and a billion dollars on educational services creates 63,000 jobs. According to Employment Research Associates, a $40 billion economic conversion program in this country could bring a net gain of more than 650,000 jobs.
We have covered the earth with concrete. In 20 years, Chicago has added 46 percent more landmass in mini-malls while its population grew only 4 percent. And we wonder why children have little respect for the land. While we pump pollution into our skies we question growing rates of lung cancer and the incidence of childhood asthma in the United States alone. We're producing items that don't decay. We're packaging things in containers that can't be recycled. We're filling our food with preservatives that are poisoning the human body. And we wonder why we don't feel well today. Worst of all, we've failed to see any of these things as moral, spiritual questions.
Narcissism has become a hallmark of American culture. The idea that we, above all the others in the world, are unique, superior, and entitled to expect endless resources, cheap energy, and high wages here, thanks to slave wages there, has become a signature of the American dream. It's also a sin against human community. The function of community is to enable us to be about something greater than ourselves. Today's culture tells us that we ourselves are enough to be concerned about, and that if we do that, everything else will take care of itself. I take care of me, you take care of you, that's going to be good for everybody.

But that kind of unenlightened altruism has brought us to a deterioration of the centers of our own cities, while the suburbs flourish and the greatest corporate greed that the world has ever known has created a sense of human alienation that is corroding our neighborhoods, our children, our culture, and the very core of American life. (…)
We've made ourselves the gods of the 21st century to whom the rest of the world pays tribute, asking sacrifices from those least able to afford it. Yet even our own children lack food. I live in the ghetto where our soup kitchen and pantry are the only lifeline for many of our neighbors: elderly women, sick men, educationally limited teenagers, America's new permanent underclass. While our politicians compete for office on the size of their tax breaks for the wealthy, we abhor welfare for the poor in the form of food stamps, subsidized housing, and day care. Welfare for the rich that we call tax breaks, we applaud.
We need the wisdom of humility now. We need that quality of life that makes it possible for people to see beyond themselves, to value the other, to touch the world gently and peacefully and make the whole world better as we go.

Joan D. Chittister: How Shall We Live? (Spirituality & Health)

Joan D. Chittister, O.S.B., is a best-selling author and popular speaker. Her books include Illuminated Life: Monastic Wisdom for Seekers of Light and Wisdom Distilled from the Daily: Living the Rule of St. Benedict Today. She is founder and executive director of Benetvision: A Resource and Research Center for Contemporary Spirituality and an active member of the International Peace Council.

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30 Nov 2003 @ 20:34 by martha : Yes D
Thanks for reminding us. Did you know that 80% of the American work force want to change their jobs. I am sorry I don't have the link but the % is easy to remember since it is so high. An indication of a tremendous unhappiness in how life is being lived in my country.
The larger question is how do we present this thinking into mainstream American consciousness?

Thanks mmborders. Yes, I suppose that's part of the larger question: {link:http://www.fastcompany.com/online/31/toolbox.html|A living or a life?}
There are also alarming health and environmental concerns: {link:http://www.testfoundation.org/thimerosal.htm|link}. But it's all linked together and comes in the end to the same moral and spiritual questions of profit and ethics: {link:http://www.johnedwards2004.com/corporate-accountability.asp|link} and {link:http://www.ethicalconsumer.org|link}


1 Dec 2003 @ 05:08 by swan : My children and I lived at poverty
level for a number of years. I had to go to food shelves, use food stamps and wonder where our next meal was going to come from. Those were the years between my leaving my ex husband, returning to school for a masters degree and finally finding a job that would support us. It took me years (10) to recover financially and emotionally.

For the past 18 years I have worked with clients who live in poverty, who have no money to pay high utiility bills, buy food, and clothing for thier children. They live in survival mode all of the time and the stress of that creates an environment where child abuse can easily happen. Housing is at a premium and people in poverty can't afford the $1000 a month it cost for rent so they live in substandard housing.

Working for a non profit agency means I don't get paid what the service is worth. So people in this field don't do it for the money. I work with these families because I want to give them hope. To shine a light on thier beauty and value and help them see there is way out. Sometimes my work is bringing them food, or clothes or helping them find resources to pay thier bills. Teach them how to break the cycle that has gone on for generations in some of thier families.

Something has to be done, you are absolutely right, Diane. My personal way of fighting this war is to work with it's victims.  

3 Dec 2003 @ 13:40 by i2i : Thank you, swan, for posting this.
I have met both swan's children and i just want to add that these hummingbirds are a tribute to her mother and to her spirit.

In the article quoted above Joan Chittister goes on and asks:

“Would your one life, my one life, possibly make any difference?”

“Well, the rabbis teach that when Moses tapped the shore with his staff, the waters did not roll back. And then when he tapped the water with his staff, nothing happened. But when the first Jew walked into the water, then the water parted and Israel was saved. The miracle of the Red Sea was not the parting of the water, but that the first Jew walked in. Only then did the others follow."

"We can ignore and accept things as they are or we can choose to grapple with them. We can surrender to them or we can struggle to change them. We can run away…or we can take our disintegrating world back again one heart at a time, starting with yours and mine. And we can if we will, like Moses...and one solitary Jew at the edge of the Red Sea, take the first step to lead our own people to new life.”  

4 Dec 2003 @ 09:45 by swan : Thank you Diane :-)
I am really proud of my hummingbirds..they are even more beautiful having left the nest and grown into adults.  

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