Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Fasting on the way to the Feast

The 100 Mile Diet has been this weeks read; the authors, journalists by trade, possess a quick ascerbic wit, though are a bit more crude than I'd choose at points. I earmarked several pages, wanting to go back and think about offered conclusions a bit more thouroughly. I am unlike both in many ways- they are a common law couple, childless, void of a guiding faith, skeptical, prone to live on the edge. And yet, we have more in common that one might first consider. I related easily to their self-imposed initial scarcity. Their search for answers to simple, yet profound questions, looking for answers that go beyond basic assumptions. They scratched hard beneath a layer of what is acceptable and expected and found some shocking facts and statistics, a lot of history and a yearning to go deeper. "The problem everywhere nowadays turns on how we shall decide to live. Neither the government leaders not the demographers have been able to supply an answer." (pg18). Yep, there's the question. Francis Shaeffer asked it years ago at L'Abri as he welcomed disenfranchised intellectuals to come and eat and learn and live with he and his family answering the question, "How Shall We Then Live?"

For many, it's business as usual. What you see is what you get, until you don't simply accept the usual. "There are degrees of eccentricity, I suppose...there are reactions to the soul-shock of modern life with all its cold seperation and routine violence, and not so different, perhaps, from the decision to eat close to home for a year. With our regular sojourns into the fields surrounding Vancouver, Alisa and I had seen the relentless advance of the city. The change had always seemed sad in the way that any loss of innocence is sad, but now it seemed like lunacy, impossibly wrongheaded...the conversion is a fundamentalist act- a pattern that assumes we have been liberated forever from the need to live in a real place, in real time." Kind of like banks that loan money that isn't there and politicians that make promises that, in reality, can't be kept. The world of make-believe and spin. The new normal.

The technological world, with it's globalization is taking over small and intimate things and leaving countless, unknown victims in its wake. Shockingly, or not, over 17,000 Indian farmers killed themselves in 2003 alone in response to being unable to feed themselves and their families. Government failed to protect them from agroindustrial imports and they faced crushing debt to continue farming up to modern standards. The gift of work and sustanence had been taken from them and literally crushed the life out of them.

I was asked recently what it was that I did to make a difference in the world. By the standards of many, not much. I stay home, keep a sorta tidy but lived in house, garden, cook, wash dishes, raise kids, homeschool, read. I've earned degrees and led programs and actually worked for pay long ago but in reality I've lived in seemingly inconsequential places doing nothing truly spectacular. To quote the 100 Mile Authors, "I have traveled these ethical pathways in one way or another for twenty years now, choosing to ride a bicycle in homicidal traffic, to re-use my tin-foil and buy less. It doesn't make me feel "good." It makes me feel like an alien....my being has done little to change the world. My actions are abstract and absurd, and they are neither saving the rain forests nor feeding the world's hungry." (pg 17)

So then, Why. Why do we live like aliens, barely scraping by in a place that offers some but not much in the economies of many. And How. How Shall We Live? We've lived in such a way that our oldest is an oddity in a conservative Christian school because we eat homemade food and shop rarely and read more than watch. Even where like-mindedness seems obvious we are aliens because we've choosen a narrow path. I write that, believe me, not in any sort of pat on the back way, but descriptively. To have homeschooled for a couple of years is hip, the new "concerned parent." To have done so for well-nigh 20 years is a bit off. To have 3-4 kids is a show of faith in the world. To have 5 is to not understand the mechanics of birth control and that there are people starving in the world. And on.

The "100 Mile" authors explain their compulsions as an experiment. And, in many ways, that is why we live the way we do. It is a grand, life-inclusive experiment to see where a life of faith takes us. Living by faith for answers, job, income, direction. Living to hear, in response to a Creator that we can experience, despite the noise of the world. Living to give up, no matter how precious and expensive it might be to do so, in a world that demands that we get and aquire and position. That we are where He wants us, doing what He would have us do, no matter how simple or seemingly inconsequential. We are banking on a Living God who is True, who we will sit with at a banquet and who will radiate peace and prosperity, making all of this seem like the dream before the waking.

No comments: