Tuesday, February 28, 2012

living water

We have all seen those pictures of starving children with visible skeletons as eyes stare blankly at cameras capturing a moment in what well might be their last days. We are left not knowing whether those who brought cameras also provided sufficient food and clean water to keep alive all our unfortunate fellow human beings.

In many parts of this world, living water is a matter of live and death.

 This photograph showing a starving Sudanese child being stalked by a vulture won Kevin Carter the 1994 Pulitzer Prize for feature photography. He committed suicide the same year this picture was taken. 

From the beginning of the television campaign to “save the children” in “the developing world,” in countries such as Ethiopia and Somalia, or Haiti and The Sudan, there has also been a global campaign to gain control of the living waters  that are essential to life for all of us. Living Water:  our mountain streams, our natural springs, rivers, lakes and ponds, even as of late, rainwater … sources of fresh water across the globe are the single most important source of life on Earth.

Corporations have been trying to, and largely succeeding in, gaining control of most sources of living water for many years.  Because of this reality that a few corporations have imposed upon the rest of us restrictions of access to living water the solicitations to “end hunger” are much like raising money for gasoline for vehicles without wheels.

Starvation exists as a result of three basic causes: 1. Depriving people of a plot of land on which to grow food; 2. Depriving people of the essential knowledge and tools to cultivate small plots of land, and  3. Depriving people depriving people of access to living water with which to grow crops and sate thirst.

In general, the second cause is easily negated through cultural history; most cultures have developed or learned basic knowledge of agriculture and passed it down through generations. The same is true of agriculture tools that fit local environs. Then, too, many people are provided barren land on which to live yet their acreage remains barren because the primary resource of water is hoarded by a few. Native Americans living in the American Southwest can attest to this.

I’ve been told that  a human quest for “decadence’ is what drives “progress,” and that this desire for decadence is therefore good because of its utility. In cultures like the former Soviet Union, the argument goes, deprivation of means to be decadent led to systemic failures, thus proving the good of decadent desires for the enrichment of humanity … “the profit motive works.”

I disagree with that argument, and this is why.

Efforts to gain control of all sources of living waters on this planet are an epitome of that same “desire for decadence.” Those who seek such power intend to overcome every limitation for themselves, thus to position themselves “to enjoy whatever decadence one’s heart (or loins) desires.” Many have long ago achieved that status.

Yet, those who live for decadence are empty and unsatisfied. One sated pleasure is immediately replaced with a need for another. Rarely is an alcoholic ever content with his last drink, if ever.

The Gospel of John provides a connection between this quest for decadence of today and the concept of living water. Yeshua had met a Samaritan woman by a well, and said to her of the water from the well: 

    Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, …”

This is the cycle of decadence, or of appetites whether simple or large, such as an appetite for power or pleasure.

Water has been, for millennia, a symbol of the spirit. It is a symbol of life, fittingly, for all life depends upon water. Those starving in barren lands, deprived of clean water, are deprived of life. Those who deprive others of access to water are spiritually dead.

It is also strangely apt that the Samaritan woman at the well represented a “decadent” lifestyle, as she had had a number of men, “husbands,”  in her bed through a passage of time. A great many of us live this way today, passing from one “comfort zone” to another with little thought to spiritual continuity.

Many of us, in the same superficial way, answer pleas for donations of money to causes such as those pertaining to starving children. We write a check or make on online contribution without contemplating the difference between cause and effect. We are quick to provide a bottle of water without a single thought that what is needed is a stream of living water  that will alleviate the perpetual thirst and hunger of many unfortunate people.

John 4.10 records:  Yeshua answered and said to her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water."

We are told elsewhere that “those who are the least among you” and “who it is who says to you, 'Give Me a drink,'” are one and the same when it comes to charity. In other words, those starving children are in need of living water  to sustain their lives, just as those who provide that living water  must also partake from the heart.

The human will  has the power to prevail. We can do this on Earth, while we are here. Whatever living water  we provide to villages and isolated rural communities will provide them with “perpetual life” while they exist in body, and an opportunity to contribute to humanity as a whole. Collective human will  is required to overturn the present concentration of Earth’s living waters  under the control of a very few who profit from its control and sale.

When we reach a point of each community supporting itself, there will be no excuse for war and deprivation, its related death and disease.

These are some aspects of living waters  as they apply to humanity today.

And yes, beneath the surface, unseen yet vitally important is the connection between what is written here and the exclusive meaning given to living water  as Yeshua intended. May you never thirst. 

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Biographical Disclaimer Part One

      When I was thirteen years young, I was confirmed in a rite of passage in Saint Therese of the Little Flower Catholic Church, Coral Gables, Florida. At that time I took a confirmation name Francis after Saint Francis of Assisi. By that moment in time I had already spent countless hours in deep contemplation alone in nature, in the tropical forest of Viscaya, in a place called Simpson Hammock, or walking along the shoreline of Rickenbacker Causeway or perhaps sitting beneath or in the branches of a tree anywhere.

Sometimes I would simply sit in a church listening to the groans of wooden pews, watching sunlight pass through stained glass windows. Others times I would go for long, aimless walks throughout my neighborhood or into adjoining ones, noting differences in houses and surrounding landscape.

When I learned about Saint Francis my reaction was, I get it.  It is fair to say that I sensed an affinity for his teachings and that that understanding influenced my life along the way, perhaps profoundly.

But no, emphatically, No, I cannot claim to have followed his example in most things. During that period of my life I tried to become pious but failed miserably at that. Knowing this, I would never claim to be “holier than thou.” On the contrary, I’ve done my share of sinning and then more.

Yet, there is one influence from St. Francis that stayed with me most of this life: accumulating large stores of money has never been my priority. I admit this. It may well be “a sin” against modern society but at best the pursuit of money for its own sake has been a secondary interest, if it ever did make it to the number two rank. It has not been “my Cup of Tea.” 

Of course, this put me out of step with the large majority of my peers in our global culture. And of course, I’ve lived within certain limits because of this. 

Perhaps I’ve missed out on a lot of “due decadence” during my life up to the present, although I have no regrets about that. 

I’ve had to work as I grew up, beginning at age eleven, as our family of five siblings and one (continuously) working parent of two at home had few nickels to rub together.  

Saint Francis, though, gave me an important gift or perspective on life, that one may retain one’s dignity as a human being, a “Child of God,” while subscribing to poverty, either involuntarily or voluntarily. Francis chose poverty of his own volition, yet no sane person would claim that he lacked personal dignity. By our standards and knowledge of his contemporaries, Francis lived in rags but would not be labeled “White Trash” as some would tag people today. 

At home, conditions were such that some of my siblings and I went to work before becoming a teenager. For me, it was delivering newspapers by bicycle, folding pizza boxes, learning to make pizzas and other goodies by the age of fourteen, and various other things as opportunity came along. It was a school away from school  for me.

While collecting for an afternoon newspaper, The Miami News before it was purchased and shut down by The Miami Herald, I met hundreds of older persons living in a historic district of Miami, just south of the Miami River and on both sides of Miami Avenue. The famous nightclub-bar, Tobacco Road  was in my territory. In visiting many of those customers, I could not help but notice how each coin was carefully scrutinized and counted when making a payment. I knew that many in that area had to do this to live, and to eat every day, and I sensed that many also would skip meals in order save for the end of the week or the end of the month. Time after time, someone would be home when I rang but not answer the door. I made it a point to lose their stub for that week, and often for multiple weeks, and hope for a payment the next time. It’s no exaggeration to say that a third of my earnings were left behind this way, and I continued this practice for about six years with the two newspapers, leaving the day’s propaganda at doorsteps seven days a week. 

Looking back, I have no regrets for leaving thousands of dollars behind me in this way because from so many of those endearing, wonderful, struggling people, some the poorest of subscribers in the city and others among the wealthiest, I learned something about life that’s endured. 

Many of us will age, and reach 70, or 75, or even beyond 85 years. The world will change rapidly and in exceedingly profound ways around us through the energy and activity of younger generations. For one reason or another, I learned before my Confirmation, many of us will arrive at a place alone, living alone, and we will have to be cautious with each expenditure. It is also predicted that many of us will need to work until our last day, if that is possible. For millions of us Baby Boomers economic conditions will not be as good generally  as they were for elderly persons I met in the 1960s. 

I’ve seen  the future that many of us face. The necessity of frugality is nothing to fear, and there is nothing undignified  in thrift, or in poverty. Personal dignity is, as Saint Francis taught, very much a state of mind and a state of being.
Thus, it is far worse to find oneself alone, isolated, or friendless  in our declining years, unless that is a personal choice for solitude. This can and will happen to some of us, especially those who define self-worth in terms of material things, then find that there is little of that left during waning years of one’s life, or at any time.

Now, we are at point in history that can best be described as an upheaval. The significance of current changes that are happening in political, social and economic venues all point to this, although for many the collective crux may be imperceptible or elusive to define. Nevertheless the upheaval is happening all around us. Because of this, I cannot stress enough the importance of reaffirming and strengthening any bonds you may have with others. Whenever possible, set aside differences that may split apart families and friendships in your life, and learn to follow the Boy Scout Motto: "Be prepared."  (Also, read my post “Give Forgiveness.”)