Tuesday, March 27, 2012

At the border

Talking on the phone today with my bank, I realized, as usual, that the situation is much less dire than it appeared at 2:30 in the morning. They're already disputing the charges, I should get the money back, globalized economy and massive banking leverage and adjudicated insurance claims and credit-card fraud etc. etc. So then I begin thinking about what it means to have my banking information stolen three times in three years, begin to pay attention to synchronicity, begin to believe that perhaps someone in the universe is trying to tell me something. About money.

Do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life, goes the saying. But what if you can't earn a living doing what you love? What if pursuing a dream means living consistently below the poverty level, as I have for the past eight years? More questions without answers. Sorry.

I've tried to claim the title of poor. After all, the people I most aspire to be like are poor. I wrote an entire essay about how if we take the call to live like Christ seriously, then we should actively renounce wealth, become poor ourselves, in order to be like Him. “The fox has his hole, and the bird his next, but the son of man has no place to lay his head.” All of the Christians I most respect actively took on poverty—Saint Francis, Mother Teresa, the monks and nuns who vows to be poor forever, pulling the name over their heads like a mantle. Saint Francis even gave all of his family's wealth to the poor and went to live in a cave with birds.

But there's a culture of shame that surrounds the word poor in our culture, as if the poor aren't working as hard as everyone else, or aren't as worthy. We're all equal in America, after all. Just some are more equal than others. If nothing else, these ordeals are teaching me how it feels to live on the edge of security, where one little hiccup in my financial life can send me into a place of doubt and fear, not knowing how I'll pay my bills or how many penalties or how much judgment I'll incur.

Of course, I have an education and a middle-class family and sufficient talent to pursue a six-figure job with benefits and a retirement account and perquisites if I wanted one. Does it make me somehow less of a person that I don't? I argue that it brings me closer to my calling, closer to the noumenal realm of the Spirit. Yet Jesus, when he needed funding, could call up a fish from the ocean with gold in its mouth. But can't I, too? That's the promise—you can tell the mountain to uproot itself with only the faith of a mustard seed. All that's lacking is my own faith.

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