Friday, August 01, 2008


Last night cleaning up after my Chinese take-away meal reminded me of an ongoing quandry I turn over in my mind.

Whatever happened to poverty as a Christian virtue? And what does it mean for my life? I know some monastics still practice it, and in theory Roman Catholic priests still vow poverty. But as a value we understand or advocate as a society or even as a church, where is it?

Simplicity seems to be a more positive word. Possibly because we now see poverty as meaning people whose basic needs are not met, and certainly we wish to prevent anyone from experiencing this. If that is the case then it makes sense to prefer simplicity to poverty. Since my reflection does not want to get bogged down in words, fair enough. Even so, the question remains: do we really give simplicity the attention it deserves?

Our mounting concern for the environment does raise the issue. We who have access to so much realize that our accumulation of stuff puts a strain on the environment. A simple example: I wanted Chinese food last night, so I ordered a reasonable meal. The trash from this meal is enormous. What could I do? I could perhaps ask the restaurant to reuse my dishes next time? Could I just give up the food? And yet sometimes I don't want to cook, and this restaurant dishes up a pretty good garlic chicken, better than I could make at home. Does simplicity mean I should never go to my Chinese take-away? I don't think it is a silly question. What does simplicity cost?

Poverty, or simplicity, is a traditional value of our faith. They were not concerned with polluting the earth. I think they were more interested in polluting our inner life. Does filling our life with so much stuff, so much to do, leave less space to simply enjoy our life, on the inside. I am suspecting this wisdom has got to find more room in my daily life.

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