I've just returned from a four-day Thanksgiving holiday with my husband, Herb, in a place of sunshine and adult fantasy - Las Vegas. I looked forward to the trip for months and fantasized an out-of-mind experience while in Vegas, leaving duties and responsibilities behind. Now, back in Reality (with a capital "R"): I've spent the last several hours catching up on emails and online news. I'm fretting about calendaring dates in 2009 that have come in via email and wondering how I will choose which activities to follow up on and which to drop, because next year is already becoming overbooked, and I’m just not that important.
As I sort through the 2009 opportunities, it is clear that not every invitation is one worth accepting. In many ways I am grateful for the so-called recession, even though it has hit our retirement funds hard - down over 40%, because it has caused a reassessment and reprioritization of everything. That is a hidden gift for those of us who find it difficult to discipline ourselves to do the reassessment and reprioritization on our own impetus. Part of God's profundity and mystery is the use of unlikely scenarios for teaching us dense humans. Not only does God have a sense of humor, but it's a wry one with sharp ironies folded in.
The Episcopal Church's triennial governing body, General Convention, meets for eleven days in July in Anaheim, and I'm scheduled to attend in its entirety as the first alternate lay deputy for the Diocese of Colorado. There are also a Province VI synod meeting in June, a Deputies of Color Orientation weekend in April, and an Episcopal AsiAmerican Chinese Convocation leadership meeting in January. I ponder the idea of meetings and their purpose, effectiveness and costs. Choosing to participate in the leadership of my church is beginning to feel like signing on to the Department of Repetition, Redundancy and Self-Importance, and I'm not liking it very much. The costs tend to get expressed as dollar amounts and time expended, and many have decried the misdirection of attention to self-redefinition and maintenance and away from mission to the poor, the sick, and the lonely. I’m feeling the costs in terms of loss of core identity from knowledge of self as steward in God’s creation to self as meeting minion. I suspect I’m not the only one who feels this way.
Meanwhile, Reality has included readings on a cacophony of the world's seemingly irreducible, interlocking problems. I say seemingly irreducible, because I sure hope that the world's problems are not unsolvable - if we can just chunk them down into manageable pieces. Mother Teresa, when asked her advice on addressing the overwhelming problems of the world, said that you start with the ones in front of you.
Many of the articles arrive through news services, and a handful are sent by friends. I was surprised to read how the rise of agrifuels is aggravating world hunger in third world countries, where agricultural lands once used to grow corn for food is now being transferred to growing corn for fuel, reducing the amount of food corn and raising its price. A film clip and review of the Sundance award-winning film, "Frozen River," is depressing in its storytelling of racism against Native Americans, smuggling illegal Chinese and Pakistani immigrants across the Canadian border, and broken families with absent fathers. Malaysia, which is my uncle's country of origin, is considering enacting a fatwa against "masculine" women whose appearance and image are like a man's, which causes me to consider the importance of the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals and their emphasis on improving the educational and poverty levels of women in the poorest parts of the world, thus improving the status of women across the planet.
The Butterfly Effect, otherwise known as the interdependence of all things in Creation, is the essence of chaos theory, or might I suggest, of God who holds all of Creation in God’s perfect knowledge of the interlocking infinity of iota. My humble contribution of an act of conservation or kindness ripples through Creation in untold ways. Not knowing the consequences of one’s acts is part of the interlocking humility required to live together as one world. As the Beatitudes teach us, it’s easier for the woman living on the banks of the Ganges or the African walking to a displaced persons camp to know that grace-filled humility than for us first-worlders who have been inculcated with a sense of our “right” to knowledge. Not knowing the consequences of one’s acts of kindness is the essence of charitable giving – giving motivated by love of others with no expectation for even the reward of knowing that I made a difference in anyone’s life, giving not connected to any expectations at all.