Sunday, May 1, 2011


Christ Church Youth just finished doing the 30 Hour Famine this Sunday after Easter. Anne and I participated, didn't eat, and slept in the parish hall with the kids. (I am getting a bit old for sleeping on the floor!) But it was a thought provoking event for the kids and for the adults.

In some ways I wish we had done it as a parish event, not just a youth event. After all, many of us can give up food for 30 hours, and seek to set aside or to get money to help feed the truly hungry. And most of us become much more compassionate when we have felt the initial stage of hunger.

In 1971 I remember feeling overwhelmed the first time I went to the grocery store after living in Guatemala for 5 years. There was so much stuff. And people threw jars and bottles and cans away! I was shocked by choice and consumption.  I thought about how so many poor people I knew in Guatemala would have been able to re-use all that trash and how sad it was that we just threw it away.

Gandhi said, "Live simply, so others can simply live." Yet how simply? I know that Americans, self included, consume disproportionate amounts of the worlds goods. Yet, if we were to completely stop, what happens to the people who produce the goods we consume? There is some truth to trickle down economics.

I am no longer shocked by conspicuous consumption, but when I find plastic trash out in wild places, or snokeling, or walking along the beach I am saddened.  I am thankful for technology, and yet I wish that as a species we were more thoughtful about the long term effects of our actions. I wish that we could think generations ahead, not just a few years ahead.

Of course to each his own consumption. Some people would be shocked by the number of books I have. (There is no such thing as too many!) Others might be shocked that by the sheer amount of electric power Anne and I consume to cool a house that we are not in for at least 12 hours a day.

Ultimately there are no simple, easy answers. But it would do us all good to reflect on what we need versus what we want.  Jesus reminded us to store up treasures in heaven, and not to be overly greedy for this world's goods. It seems to me that he and a great many other wise people have thought the same. Perhaps they know something I need to learn.

1 comment:

  1. Its funny, Paul, how unaware we can be about our conspicuous consumption- seems a contradiction in terms but I suppose we (and by that I mean "I") can so easily fail to examine our life, Socrates notwithstanding. I don't know if, in my case, it is the press of daily life, or an inbred denial we share as a safety valve....I am in the middle of Four Fish (Paul Greenburg), a book I think you would enjoy, about the fate of the primary fish that humans consume, and the industry and developments in harvesting and farming them. One quote that stood out ..........

    "...natural selection favors the forces of psychological denial. The individual benefits as an individual from his ability to deny the truth even though society as a whole, of which he is a part, suffers. (quoting from "The Tragedy of the Commons" an essay by Garrett Hardin.)

    So, is it that we avoid "looking" at the rest of the world (or examining our own lives) so we will feel better about ourselves? I don't know, but I feel more and more that our teachers- (and by that I include, for us wayward adults, our preachers) - are the important leveling influence in our lives that can cast light on that dark denial for the good of all of us.

    Thanks for light..........