The Demon of Saving, Keeping, Hoarding
Angels, demons, and hoarding? One of the simple goals for which I need discernment is getting rid of stuff, especially papers and books. I’m hoping that this Lenten practice might clarify some things for me so that letting go becomes easier.
I wonder how I, as an impoverished American, could relate so strongly to a 17th-century French nobleman, Voltaire? Yet I felt him as a kindred spirit. I learned French, not “my” culture. I also studied Spanish and Hebrew. Come to think of it, even my English isn’t native. I should be speaking German, Norwegian, Swedish, and Russian. Sometimes, for mysterious reasons, people feel a strong and deep connection to an “other.” I’m reluctant to criticize all such connections. As my friend, Arlene, pointed out, Catholicism itself is a
On the other hand, if everything blends into a mush, might we lose some important legacies? Maybe we need both: cultural magpies and cultural guardians.
What does Good News Mean to Me? An Act of Contrition? Near the beginning of my 1888 Sunday School Companion, I find An Act of Faith, An Act of Hope, An Act of Love, and an Act of Contrition. Interesting order. First, faith, hope, and love, and only in the end, contrition. I like that.
The letter also mentioned that on Ash Wednesday, when Catholics receive the ash on their foreheads, they also receive the words, “Repent and believe the Good News.” That was news to me. I’d forgotten or never known that Ash Wednesday was connected to repentance. But a point to ponder.
I wasn’t raised Catholic, but from my years at a Jesuit university I gained a greater awareness of the enormous scope of Catholicism, many pieces of which I now see as valuable for me. Even Lent which had once seemed an unpalatable and needless mortification of the flesh to achieve social control through self-degradation (or possibly because by early spring, people were running low on food) suggested meaningful possiblities. I read a few works whose names I wish I could remember which made me think some Lenten practices might be helpful psychologically and spiritually.
I’m not denominational. When I told my husband, an ex-Catholic, that I was going to use the Sunday School Companion as a source of prompts for my own Lenten practice, he said, “You can’t just cherry-pick the parts you like.”
“But that’s exactly what I want,” I said.
Looking over the history of opposition to direct democracy in the United States, we find the electoral college stands on sordid ground. Recent results discourage new voters and make the U.S. a laughingstock when we claim to “export” democracy.
Multiculturalism is an often-lauded ideal; in practice, it can be so hard to sustain. Painful misunderstandings, language difficulties, fear of shifts in power, new ways, even new foods, suspicions and misinterpretations come between us. Small wonder that many gravitate to the known, if stagnant.
Herbert Hoover, like many politicians in the Bay Area today, believed that the market and private philanthropy could solve all ills even while shantytowns (similar to San Jose’s Jungle) cropped up around every major city: the direct result of mass unemployment, mass eviction, and bankruptcy.
Then as now, people constructed homes of cardboard, lumber, tin, and canvas. They dug holes in the ground. And they situated themselves near waterways. One of the largest Depression-era “jungle” was located outside St. Louis by the Mississippi River, a settlement of 5,000 people with a “mayor” and four churches!
What happens when you close a struggling school “for the good of the students” and farm the kids off to charters? Very few researchers have talked about public schools as a source of precious jobs in desperate communities. What happens to the student whose mom used to be a “lunch lady,” a job with benefits, who now is unemployed? At a Working Class Studies panel at Georgetown University, teacher and education blogger Jose-Luis Vilson pointed out that the loss of public employment hurts the black community especially.