Monk In The World

To be a monk is to have time to practice for your transformation and healing. And after that to help with the transformation and healing of other people.

Thich Nhat Hanh

Monday, August 10, 2015


I  posted the below to all my granddaughters on their blogs. It is a continuation of my reflecting on my decision to retire.

Dear Lovely Ladies,
This month I am writing the same thing to all of you. Right now Papa is pondering his retirement from his present vocation. There is much to consider in this kind of decision. Mostly, the decision surrounds the AMOUNT OF MONEY ONE WILL HAVE TO LIVE ON.

How much is enough? What does it mean to live?

Regarding the "how much?" question:

Not as much as one would think if we have our spirits aligned with the truth regarding the second question.

Many see this major decision as a financial decision, especially those of us who have been saturated in Capitalism.

What do I mean by that?

In her chapter titled The Emptiness of Accumalation, Joan Chittister writes:

In a capitalist society consumption is a national virtue. It is its backbone, its engine, the mainframe at the very center of the society. We measure our society’s well-being by keeping precise records of the amount of consumption we do. We use percentages to signal how much better or worse we were at buying things this year than we were last. We celebrate our gross national product when we never even consider calculating our gross national distribution of goods, and we define buying as a sign of national health. It’s buying, after all, that sustains the economy. And sustaining the economy is what a capitalist system is all about. “The chief business of the American people,” President Calvin Coolidge said, “is business.” 
At the height of the worst national tragedy in U.S. history, the 9/ 11 terrorist attacks in 2001, President Bush ended his first television message to the American public by telling them that the most important thing they could do in the face of such a devastating attack was to “keep our economy going … to go shopping more.” The whole world must have drawn breath on that one. 

In the face of the first foreign attack on U.S. soil since the War of 1812, in the middle of the smoking rubble that carried the ashes of over three thousand civilians, there was something about the message that rang hollow, that broke the heart, that lacked soul. No talk of 
discovering reasons for such an attack. No talk of reaching out to allies in the Middle East. No talk of bringing the height of U.S. justice to this devastating situation. No talk about being our spiritual best at such a time as this. No, the god who would save us from this disaster, Bush was clear, was the god of the free market.

Chittister, Joan (2015-02-24). Between the Dark and the Daylight: Embracing the Contradictions of Life 

I wish I could say my spirit is perfectly alligned with the "truth" but I am one of those people who likes to shop, confusing what I "need" with what I "want". I have been, like you, saturated in the virture of consumption.

Chittister continues:

And yet, why wouldn’t we be a society of consumers? What other basic value do we learn in a world where developing excess want is more important than meeting basic needs? In societies such as these the people who manage to accumulate the most things are considered the most successful. So we sell and we buy and we buy and we sell, all of us trying to catch up and keep up and get more tomorrow than we had yesterday. We live in a whirlwind of exchange where we market to three-year-olds on the television sets in their playrooms and begrudge retirement monies to those who spent their whole lives making the very things we want everybody else to buy. The problem, of course, is that the never-ending marathon of marketing that is required to maintain such a system is now sucking the rest of the world into it, as well. Poor societies, which cannot afford the goods we buy, make the goods wealthy societies consume at lesser pay and great cost to the quality of their own lives. At the same time, the quality of our own lives, drowned in adult toys and public playthings, are just as surely being smothered by them, too. Judging from the front page of every newspaper we print, every television program we watch, every deteriorating school and bombed-out neighborhood and pitted road and overloaded electrical grid and homeless family in the nation— in a nation awash in the flotsam and jetsam of things— there’s something missing that is far more important than the gadgets we have chosen in its stead. We are bartering our souls for the sake of what will be tomorrow’s refuse.

Chittister, Joan (2015-02-24). Between the Dark and the Daylight: Embracing the Contradictions of Life 

So what is the answer? How does one make this decision in a responsible way, knowing we still have to "live", pay our bills and eat? Is there a different kind of "retirement planning" That can make this decision easier?

Chittister ends her discussion this way:

...The price we pay for the accumulation of things is a high one. For the rest of our lives we are condemned to fear the loss of them and to live forever with the taste of continual insecurity in our mouths, unending neediness in our hearts and the inability of soul to enjoy what we have and be grateful for what we love. 

The things of the soul— the joy of life, the love of beauty, the gift of friendship, the integration into nature, the pursuit of truth and the depth of the spirit— grow in open land, bare of the baubles of life, free of frenzy and devoid of the chaos of accumulation. Then we are rich. Then we are strong. Then no one can take anything away from us because we have already relinquished it. Or, as the philosopher Epictetus wrote: “Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.”

Chittister, Joan (2015-02-24). Between the Dark and the Daylight: Embracing the Contradictions of Life 

Chittister helps me to see what a great "spiritual adventure", not a "financial adventure" I have before me now.

What a great risk it is to feed the spirit and not the ego!

It is the Gospel!

It is dying and rising!




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