Thursday, May 7, 2009

I Have Had Enough

Although things seem to be turning around a tick, I find myself wondering if I am responsible for the recent economic downturn. Not me personally, mind you. But my attitude towards both money and possessions.

It isn't that I don't like stuff. Stuff is cool. I enjoy stuff. But I seem congenitally incapable of wanting things that are somehow better than the things I already have. Take motorcycles, for instance. I ride a 2000 Yamaha YZF600R. It's a bit aged, and looks more and more like a Mad Max ratbike as the years slip by. But when I bought it used a few years back, it was only after very carefully considering everything I was looking for in a bike. Fast? Check. Decent looking? Check. Fuel efficient? Very. Comfortable? Reasonably. It has a touring range that puts big touring Beemers and Gold Wings to shame...I've seen over 300 miles on a single tank. It's exactly the bike I wanted. And it still is. New bikes are appealing in the abstract, but there really is no reason to get one so long as my current ride is still running well.

So I fail an entire industry.

Or take our van. It's a seven year old Honda, again bought used. Though it's starting to show it's age, I still marvel at just how thoroughly it meets our needs. So I fail the struggling automotive industry. Or our house, which is a rumpled little hobbit-hole rambler built back in the early 60s. Sure, things need to be fixed and replaced...but it's not a starter home. It's plenty of space for the four of us. It always will be. We just don't need or want anything more, and so I fail the housing industry.

And I fail at that task willfully. Joyously, even.

Yesterday during my walking meditation, right before things got intense, the Hebrew word dayenu fluttered down and alighted in my consciousness.

It's a part of the Passover celebration, and is typically recited as a way of giving thanks for all of God's blessings. It means, roughly, "it would have been enough." During the Passover meal, that term is said over and over again, as the participants give thanks for each of the ways in which Israel was delivered from slavery. Each of them alone is enough to merit joy and thanksgiving, even if none of the rest of them had occurred. It is an expression of basic satisfaction.

Dayenu is, I think, the greatest enemy of consumer culture. Having that as one's attitude towards the life in which we find ourselves is a liberation the endless grasping acquisitiveness of our society. It is a counterbalance against that gnawing, desperate sense that we are not good enough, or smart enough, or rich enough, or pretty enough, and that we must constantly struggle with one another to prove our worth.

This is a particularly useful thing for a pastor to grasp. So what if my church doesn't seat 4,500 in each of our five Sunday services? So what if I'm flagrantly imperfect? For those ways my church is a joy, and for the ways I am able to make a difference, it is better not to fret and anguish and scheme. It's better to just say, dayenu, and let that attitude of gratefulness define all else.

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