Living at the convergence of faith and art.

Where’s the Wonder in It?

These days, I don’t wonder much about life, it’s purpose and meaning. The way we humans behave; the way we greedily grab, use, and discard everything has dissolved much of my wonder about who we really are and what we’re doing with our lives.

In a pair of documentaries on China; Up the Yangtze and Beijing, I saw the virus of Western culture enveloping that great huge expanse of ancient genius with modern industry. The Chinese are rapidly adopting the Western world’s consumer-throw-away values in a transformation which eclipses the Industrial Revolution of nineteenth century Europe. There is a tidal wave of change pouring into China and it is drowning many of her people.

We humans are, at our core, Havers; we want this and that and when we’re bored with it we throw what we wanted so badly away. Our advertising driven consumer culture transcends borders, races, and ethnic cultures. We seem to think that having more, having it now, and getting the next newest thing tomorrow is the most valuable attribute of our lives. And we seem to invest our very beings into this futile pursuit. For example, we Americans have adopted a great national pride in “being busy” – whatever that means.

As evidence I offer up the preoccupations of governments – the stimulation, development, and preservation of monetary economies. Economies are driven by people buying and selling goods and services. Jobs and the economy are at the heart of the workaday lives of every human. Governments rely on this focused preoccupation to remain in power; for money, and to have someone to rule. Without economies, governments, as we know them, would evaporate.

The culture of Havers races across the globe far faster, far more powerfully, with far more implications even than the Gospel of Jesus Christ – which is of infinite significance. It’s almost as if, being infected with our man-made virus of having, we humans have become a parasite to this Earth as we rape her for everything she’s got to give us, and doing little to return or sustain her.

Becomers – the people who advance slowly, treasure those advancements, and live within the natural cycles of nature – are rapidly vanishing.  Here in America – and I do love my country very much – the Western migrations of settlers trampled and destroyed entire cultures of Becomers.   These are people who are content with enough, and who work and live in a way which enriches, nourishes, and sustains the Earth. The heart of their lives resides in being, and becoming more, not in the material sense, but in the spiritual sense. A bit like monks in a monastery; a bit like, because true Becomers aren’t stuck in a time warp. No, I believe great Becomers have learned what Gleaners have known all along, that you will find bits and pieces of progressive answers in many places, from many sources, and it’s your task to creatively assemble them into something useful without violating your core values of living in sustainable harmony with Creation.

This Becomers mentality has haunted me for almost three decades, and has taken on many forms. At first I thought romantically, as many generations have, that it would be great to live on the land, earning a living by raising food and becoming largely self-reliant. I’m a city-kid though, and don’t know a thing about living off the land, and besides there’s always the tax collector demanding his share of your labors in the name of the law. God save us all from the law; but enough of my sarcasm.

Today Becomers of all stripes are appearing in the form of ecologists, architects, designers, engineers, and spiritual leaders who encourage us to live in harmony with this Earth or suffer our own demise. These are the new Becomers who put their money where their mouths are, instead of wasting their time carrying protest signs.  They combine the talents of the Gleaners and Becomers into a fusion of technologies both new and old. These aren’t fools who cast off something just because it’s been done, or is from yesterday. These are brilliant minds driven by curiosity who ask, “How can we use this long-term, sustain our values, and not harm the Earth?”

Where many Becomers are religiously driven and seem quaintly frozen in the past, the new Becomers realize that landfills aren’t garbage dumps, they’re resource wells. They see materials as something which needs to be constantly remade, and reworked as one generation after another uses, and reuses them. It may be somewhat idealistic, but it sure beats more landfills.

Certainly there are spiritual Becomers, perhaps the greatest of all, who thank God for the very power of creativity to solve the problems we have made ourselves. I may lose confidence in where we’re going, and why, but as long as there are Becomers in this world I have modest hope that we can live lives of meaning and purpose beyond the fast-track, have it now, throw it away culture we’re so terribly proud of.

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