Religious studies scholar Rebecca C. Bartel on debt as a fulcrum between prosperity Christianity and neoliberal market reforms in Colombian society, and her book Card-Carrying Christians: Debt and the Making of Free Market Spirituality in Colombia from University of California Press.
Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.
Earlier in the year, Chuck read a communication from a listener who seemed to wonder, since any action one takes, with whatever intention, gets coopted by the capitalist machine that contributes to destroying people’s lives, and no one, without exception, has yet been able to escape from the snare, wouldn’t it be better just to remove oneself from the Earth, in order to at least minimize one’s bad impacts on the planet, and cease the process of feeding the system with well-intentioned efforts, all of which eventually arrive at negative outcomes?
I mean, if this really is Hell, why should we continue to stay here?
I hope that listener has resolved this issue to their satisfaction. Nevertheless, should anyone else be positing similar questions about the value of carrying on, here are a few things to consider. And believe me, I need to take this mental journey as much as anyone.
In the simplest terms, if this really is Hell, then the option to leave is a red herring, and you’d probably end up somewhere even worse, or at best back where you started. And if you survive a suicide attempt (I’m assuming I’ve been coyly discussing suicide here, though I don’t really know myself that well) you will be stigmatized and possibly lose what little freedom you have. And being trapped in a mental hospital, at the mercy of a system that’s currently discussing bringing back electroshock and lobotomies, is worse than what you might be wishing to escape from.
I assume everyone agrees that it’s possible to do a modest amount of good to improve the lives of others in a small way, every day. Someone is in pain right now, and you can relieve that pain. That alone, whatever the unintended consequences down the line, is worth the price of admission.
Don’t beat yourself up for your inability to escape the moral convolutions of human existence. I mean, if you think about it, it’s an egotistical point of view. Who do you think you are, Supergirl? Jesus? Buddha? Jimmy Carter? Florence Nightingale? Leonora Carrington? Esther Freud? Esther, daughter of Mordechai? Joan of Arc? Edith Piaf? Zora Neale Hurston? All of them with human flaws, some with pretty lousy ones. Ask James Baldwin about Zora Neale Hurston some time, if you ever get reincarnated into the past, which is likely.
What I’m trying to say is, it is... read more
Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink. It’s quite a paradox.
We’ve all either come into conflict with those with whom we have an inexplicable bond, over things we care about deeply, or avoided conflict with these others over them, but the conflict is always there, always lurking amid potential interactions. And we’ve each had to navigate these minefields in our own way. This is the shameful story of one of my navigations.
Early one day, I opened my email to find some very strange messages: three friends had written to console me. Apparently, a mutual friend of ours had sent an email to me, cc’d to the three of them, that lambasted me so harshly they were concerned for my welfare. One was apologetic, as the author of the email was her husband. Another, the mother-in-law of this fellow, averred that she’d “always liked me,” as if I were already swinging from a structural beam, or had taken a header off the roof of a skyscraper or a picturesque cliff. The third person copied in – just a good friend who had himself witnessed the writer’s and my brewing antagonism over the years – I think, urged me not to take anything in the offending email to heart.
I hadn’t read the email in question, because I had long ago had my email-handling software funnel all correspondence from this fellow into a folder labeled with his name, a colon, and the value-free word “crap.” After reading these other, sympathetic, emails, I went and found the offending missive in that folder and, rather than read it, shoveled it into the email furnace. For that reason, I got all the delight of getting my wounds salved without receiving any of the wounds. It was all salve.
Had I read the email, I’m sure I would have needed the soothing voices of the concerned folk. I even got a few more apologetic texts from the wife, so I told her, and I paraphrase, “I didn’t read it. I have too much respect for him to want to think of him saying nasty things about me.”
And the fact is, it’s true. I think he’s an amazing person. He’s a unique combination of traditional and unorthodox, has a rigorous yoga practice, and goes above and beyond the dharma he considers it his duty to follow.
He lived in Seattle for a while, where he worked for Microsoft, started a pop-up restaurant, and did a few other things to accumulate enough... read more