Specifically, let’s discuss the reality that I have very little of it these days.
I cannot lie, since leaving my previous career path last summer there just isn’t as much of the green stuff to go around in my world these days. I also will not pretend that the lack of green doesn’t cause moments of occasional stress. My life is different. There is a good deal less sureness in my world. I have to think before I spend and decide exactly how to pay which bills in what order. I have to bounce things around a bit to make sure there is food in the cupboard and fuel in the heater. I have to work harder to make sure the lights stay on and the debts are paid. I really didn’t plan to be at this place at the age of fifty.
Having said all that, some truths are emerging. I’m discovering things I knew but didn’t believe. For instance, a person really can be happy with less. The list of things we need is much, much smaller than we believe. I continue to have food and shelter, my bills are being paid, and with these things I am learning to be content. The truth is I have an unhealthy attachment to stuff, despite a lifetime of preaching against materialism. Addiction comes in many forms. Some addictions obviously bring great suffering into the world, but all of them do to some degree. Just because I can’t see the sweatshop conditions that exist to meet my wants because those conditions are around a corner of the world, doesn’t mean those conditions don’t exist or that I am not contributing to them. So if I can make a dent in that reality, even a small one, my lack of “disposable income” not only can be but is an actual improvement in the world. In that very real sense I am better off with less.
I’m also seeing the truth of what Jesus said about worrying. It can’t make single hair blond or black (but it can certainly make them gray or perhaps even fall out). We spend so much time living where we are not. Maybe it’s a past that cannot be changed or a future that cannot seen. Maybe it’s in the places we imagine to be the halls of power such as Washington or London or Berlin or the corporate boardrooms on Wall Street. Why is it so hard to see the irony here? When we imagine the halls of power to be in other places and the decisions of power to be in other people we create that reality in ourselves. We actually give other people control of the state of our minds and hearts.
While certainly we should speak to the things we understand to be evil in the world (firmly, carefully, with gentleness and grace), we must not make the mistake of surrendering the power of our lives to others. We do this when we invest in actual circumstance as opposed to our management of our response to it. The question is not what will or will not happen–but how will we live whatever happens? Will we live whatever happens? Many is the soul who has found more life even in death itself than others who have biologically existed into old age but never really seen anything beautiful or lovely or praiseworthy because they kept waiting on circumstance to meet their expectation–because they kept living somewhere other than where they actually were and thereby not really living at all.
So, I find myself with less these days but actually having more. No, “having” is not the word I’m looking for. Our lives do not consist of the abundance of the things we possess. Living is actually the word I am looking for. Embracing uncertainty, breathing deeply, finding joy even in mundane labor. Savoring my life and the people in it and the small acts of generosity I am graced to give and receive. Tasting my food and drink with mindfulness and seeing the beauty and tragedy in the world all around me every day. When I think about it like this, less really is more. But it’s not having–it’s being.