Poverty of Spirit
I grew up in a religion that preached “poverty of spirit.” It was a high-church Christian religion with lots of rituals, pomp, icons, and incense. As a child and an adolescent, I was told that poverty existed on a higher, more spiritual plain than wealth because, if I were poor, I would not be distracted by the material world.
I was taught, in no uncertain terms, that just as it would be impossible for a camel to thread its way through the eye of a needle, that it would be a cold day in hell before a wealthy person would ever enjoy eternal bliss. From that small kernel of a moral presumption, I learned to be suspicious of wealth and to pursue “higher,” more spiritual goals. I saw no contradiction between the poverty message and the comfortable, sometimes extravagant lives of the male messengers. Continue reading
I grew up in a religion in which confession was a weekly ritual. As I child, I remember standing in line outside the confessional waiting anxiously for my turn to go into a dark private room and begin with the words, “bless me father, for I have sinned.” Then I would recite my litany of sins, both venial (minor-league stuff) and mortal (big time, major-league material that could land you in Hell for all eternity).
For an eight-year-old, mortal sins were deliciously angst-ridden. I remember agonizing over these epic sins that went beyond the vague, clumsy and occasional “impure thoughts” into the realm of a touch or two, or those times when I would just linger in the corridors of fantasy (I was the youngest of four boys and the inevitable “girly” magazines would end up under somebody’s mattress).
Before I started to write an essay on surrender, I went to my twitter page and tried to send another one of my many “What are you doing” twitter messages. Up popped a mysteriously serious black-and-white message, “HTTP Server Error 503.” I was back in Kafka land, the world of high-tech jargon, a cosmos that leaves old-timers like me speechless and cantankerous.
By doing some google research, I found out that my provider (whatever that means) is allegedly “working on the problem,” but that I should expect a delay. Given the fact that I have no clue about providers, I was forced to surrender to the land of technological obscurity (And, by the way, I’m from New England: I’m a guy who doesn’t like to be “beholdin’,” especially to some invisible “provider”).
After experiencing this mixed curse of temporary high-tech impotence, I felt gently nudged to start writing my essay for a twitter-friend in Vancouver. So here I am, my initial procrastination morphing into foxhole surrender.
Because I was well into my adulthood before I began to figure out who I am, it is difficult for me to see where the desire to know about myself could ever be a bad thing. The self-knowledge journey continues and, I hope, will be with me for the rest of my life.
On the other hand, there are those who would probably stereotype me as an effete, self-indulgent dilettante wandering around the ring of shamans and spiritual teachers, decadently immersed in questions rather than answers.
Sociologists have given us pretty accurate stats about the majority of us marrying or having intimate relationships, endogamously—that is, inside of our class, race, religion, and/or economic status. Exogamy is the exception, not the rule. Even if we know someone from another culture in the workplace, most of us still go home to our homogeneous and segregated communities.
The notion of marrying or living inside one’s own heritage and culture was constantly reinforced when I was growing up in the 1950s, an era that was in denial about how deep the racial and ethnic divides actually were.