Saturday 19 July 2008

Today I would like to celebrate feeling alive, though wrangled and mangled. I would like to celebrate feeling healthy in the middle of winter (it is the middle, too. Oh, boy, it’s the middle. Come to Mama, Spring, wrap me up). I’d like to celebrate that it’s Saturday, a beautiful sunny one, and I live in the middle of a country so rich we don’t know what to do with ourselves. I’d like to celebrate living in a city that is full to overflowing with creativity, and I hope to walk in the midst of some of that today. I’d like to celebrate meeting up with my mother off the train, my kind mother who has done a whole lot of washing for me and who is now going to accompany me to the football this evening. I’d like to celebrate that, even whilst a poor worker by the standards of this country, I am able to sit down and eat food prepared by someone else, in peace and comfort. I’d like to celebrate that my mother will probably foot the bill :) I’d like to celebrate that recreation in the truest sense of the word is so rich and vibrant that it surprises me anew that that is the level to which God lives. That is reality, a great macro and microcosm of colour, texture, light and shade, fun and frivolity. I would like to celebrate that that is really what it means to live, and I would like to celebrate the fact that none of us really know what it’s like to live. Isn’t that a celebration? Yeah, okay, it’s a death. But always the death first, the celebration beyond. The celebration is that these small little lives we inhabit, despite their levels of God-fill, aren’t even close to living. Not even close to it. But we shall live …

I’d like to celebrate all this stuff, and I will, and there will be (hopefully) little guilt. But still always, fluttering at the corners of my mind like tassles on the edges of a curtain, are the questions. You know, the questions. I’ve got about 10 that I imagine will remain relatively unanswered in the great scheme of things until some future age when the God-fill is overflowing and the colours are turned up. Or maybe not. Maybe some of these questions will get answered in this lifetime. It’s so hard to know whether the horizons we see are because that is all there is to see in this life, or whether it’s the prevailing culture and systems that insist that this horizon is as far as you go and no further, and in actuality we are all wandering around dazed and confused in 2 square inches of space.

One of the questions, one of the biggest of all, that I ask over and over, not sure if I am moving forward, is this: how do I get to spend three hours fashioning a clay mask, losing all sense of time because I have put on the heart of a six year old, while people starve to death somewhere else? But then, is not spending three hours fashioning faces out of clay going to stop one person dying? The question, of course, isn’t so much about me doing this particular thing while people starve to death. It’s not the fashioning of clay that is the problem here. It’s the question of how much can one person do? Is this too frivolous a pursuit to do while countryloads of people are starving? Is it? I could send money; does that do enough? And what constitutes ‘enough’? And why is the question of ‘enough’ coming up anyway? A guilt appeaser? I think a great deal of things get accomplished in the name of guilt that have no love resonance about them at all and perhaps even do more damage than good.

But even asking these kinds of question show my Western privilege. Is debating whether guilt should be an appropriate motivator just hedging around the reality? Is saying to myself, “Do I sense God asking me to go and help people who are starving to death”, and the answer, “No” – is that also just another way of hedging? Is God perhaps saying, “You’re a big girl. If you have it in your heart to go and help starving people, then of course I will be behind you. I am Love. You get to make many more of your own choices than you think you do. It’s only when you think I am a hard god and am going to take your talents away that you will bury them in the ground in response.”

Okay, then, fine. This is coming a little bit closer to the reality, maybe. Or maybe I’m just pissing in the wind. I’m really not sure. So anyway. What was I saying? Yes. So I can ask whether should I be sitting here and making clay masks as if not doing that is going to make any difference to anything. As if my tiny little life should be counted that way, as comparing itself to a worldwide problem and then saying what it does or doesn’t do is going to make a difference, or even that the two should be compared. Doesn’t that kind of thinking just throw me down in the guilt ditch and leave me there, no further ahead in working out the problem? The guilt ditch never done nothin’.

So what, is it survivor guilt? Is it saying, “They’re starving to death so I shouldn’t be doing anything life affirming”? Well, I don’t know. Maybe sometimes it is. Maybe sometimes we should be down on our faces crying before God. I don’t know. Maybe sometimes we shouldn’t. Maybe we’ll get nothing but table crumbs rolling around on the ground. I just don’t know. But it doesn’t seem to do much good to me. Again, guilt never done nothin’.

But life is life. We spend enough time in this strange little planet called the West running away from reality, our own pain and torments, our own love. What use is running away also from life and colour and joy? Maybe it’s only through those things, in living more (consuming less), allowing God into the weft and weave that love will burst its banks in such a way as to propel us forward for change, if it’s possible, for help where possible. Maybe the problem is with us, with our hearts. Maybe the problem is that we have enough compassion to feel for those brothers and sisters in the world – of course we do. Most of us do, how could we not? But a bit of compassion isn’t enough to fix anything. Making people aware of things isn’t enough to fix anything. We can have an entire year, each day full of Blah Blah Awareness Day, but it changes stuff-all. Awareness and compassion are not enough. And neither is guilt, so don’t even bother feeling that. This thing is way bigger than any of us. Maybe we don’t even get to fix it. Maybe it just is. Hell, maybe starvation is coming to a store near you sometime in the future. I don’t know.

But maybe part of the problem is that we don’t love halfway near as much as we think we do. Maybe it’s not until love explodes like a tsunami inside of us that we will have enough guts to system override, to system crash. Because maybe that’s what it’s gonna take.

Today I want to celebrate my belief that everything goes on. No matter what the world dishes up to you, no matter even if you starve to death on a dust plain, Love wins. Love wins. Love wins you and it wins them. Today I want to celebrate life and love. And Life and Love. And to celebrate that realising that I really don’t know how to do either is a good step forward, somehow, in this tiny little microcosm that is my life. I’m not sure I have ever really loved anyone in my life. Not in the way I am starting to see that love is. I want to celebrate that Life and Love cannot but burst its own banks into mine and that all of this burning, twisting and turning, this interminable kiln firing, is purposive.

I want to be shown what Love is. Luckily Someone knows. Maybe, as puny as our love is, maybe every one of us is capable of loving so to overflowing. Maybe that’s what all of this is about. Bring it on, Vine.


  1. Sue,
    Please advise me. The next time I get an appeal letter telling me that £5 will save the sight of a nearly-blind person in Africa, or £20 will educate a child for a month, and then find I'm tempted to go out for a meal, or a drink, to a sporting event, or to buy another item of clothing when my wardrobe is already full, what should I do? As the song says, 'What's love got to do with it?'

  2. We don't love halfway as much as we think we do ... I like this train of thought.Enjoy the day ...enjoy the celebration!!!!Be at peace within and without.

  3. Katherine - yeppers :)

    Ahhh, GFN there's the rub, isn't it? I hope the question is rhetorical because I couldn't even begin to answer it. I grapple with this kind of thing all the time. Is going to the sporting event going in some future time to seem monumentally monstrous when you could have saved the sight of 2 children? Eeek. I don't know. What do you think?

    Mork - I did enjoy it, thanks (except for my football team letting me down)

  4. Hmm... One thing I have found is that not every appeal for help is legitimate. Many organizations understand the natural response of people the be compassionate when presented with a dire story. I used to run a non-profit and the appeal letters we would get, YIKES! They would exploit people's emotions to get money. For me, there is only one way to know the difference - ask Papa.

    I have also come to the place that helping those close to us first is the way to go. If those around us are helped, then look beyond...

    I have also come out of a church system where giving was so emphasized - they would spend 30-50 minutes just doing the offering. For me, Papa has told me not to give out of guilt. That is not how He operates.

    Hmm... just throwing thoughts out - I don't think Jesus felt guilty about not healing and helping every person on the planet. He helped who He was sent to and that was enough. I think, maybe, if each of us just focused on our little patch that God says, "Yeah, help that one," it would be amazing. ;-)

  5. And yet ... and yet ... and yet what about when the situation is as GFN says, that 5 pounds will help fix the eyes of a child so they can see or go blind. What happens then?

    I'm not trying to formulate a 'disaster response plan' here in my head, because it seems like whenever i try to do that, my brain shuts down. It's become allergic to formulas and principles :)

  6. Hmm... in that situation, ask Papa if the organization asking for your $5 is legit. If it is and your have it in your heart to do it, do it. I just have gotten way sick of being guilted into doing things. I don't want a formula, either. :-) So I do it on a case by case basis - even when I am driving down the street and see someone.... I guess, in the end, it is a personal thing between each of us and God. ;-)

  7. Well, that's the thing too, isn't it? I don't think we are necessarily required to reach out and help every single person who comes among us. And I agree with what you say about help those in front of you first, but then ... what happens when those in front of you live in the First World, and those who need an eye operation that will cost 10 bucks are out of sight?

    Sigh. I'm just thinking out loud here too, KG. I get so overwhelmed by it all sometimes. That's when I come back to what I was thinking yesterday.


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