Let something essential happen

Let something essential happen

Mar 9, 2014  |  Lent, Sunday Letter

 “Musing takes place in a kind of meadowlands of the imagination, a part of the imagination that has not yet been ploughed, developed, or put to any immediately practical use … time spent is not work time yet without that time the mind becomes sterile, dull, domesticated. The fight for free space – for wilderness and public space – must be accompanied by a fight for free time to spend wandering in that space.”

Rebecca Solnit in Wanderlust: A History of Walking

This LENT let’s spend time wandering in the meadowlands of the imagination.

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Lenten Prayer of Preparation

Oh God, let something essential happen to me, something more than interesting or entertaining or thoughtful.

Oh God, let something essential happen to me, something awesome, something real. Speak to my condition, Lord and change me somewhere inside where it matters, a change that will burn and tremble and heal and explode me into tears or laughter or love that throbs or screams or keeps a terrible, cleansing silence and dares the dangerous deeds. Let something happen which is my real self, Oh God. Amen. [Ted Loder]

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On Thursday I presented a class to a group of Master’s students at UCT. I am guessing most of the students in the class were around 25 years old. I really enjoyed being in their energetic company and stimulating environment! Education really is a precious gift.

So I asked them where they saw themselves on the socio-economic class – upper class, middle class or lower class. Everyone said they fitted into the middle class.

Then I asked them if I wanted them to come and work for me after they graduate what would they be willing to work for. “Anyone willing to work for R10 000 p.m.?” There was no one willing to work for that sum. There was one person willing to work for R15 000 and only a handful willing to work for R20 000, but most were still hoping for more.

The trap was laid. (I felt like a certain advocate …)

Then I informed them that only about 10% of South Africans earn more than R10 000 p.m. So earning anything above R10 000 p.m. immediately places one in the top 10%. And there is nothing “middle class” about the top 10%.

I also grew up believing I was middle class – yet I too am well into the top 10%. In fact with my education, housing, secure job, car etc. I am probably knocking on the door of the top 1%. Just like the UCT students I struggle to confess the truth of my financial life: “Hi my name is Alan, and I am RICH.” But only when I confess the truth of who I am can I begin to have a more honest relationship with my money and a more generous relationship with those around me.

Secondly, only when I realise that I am on the top and not in the middle can I perhaps re-channel my energy from trying to reach the top (because I am there already) to making the system more just and compassionate for all.

Thirdly, only then may I be convicted and convinced that I can live with less myself – because after all so many others live with less than I do. When I am liberated to live with less I may be healed of my anxiety that comes with thinking I always need more.

May this be our experience this LENT.

Grace, Alan



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