Wednesday, 2 November 2016

A key to a revolution

I imagine like me you have been dismayed, horrified by the state of the whole world.

Refugees fleeing from war and hideous régimes, reviled and excluded. Board members of huge corporations raking in vast sums of money while around them people struggle to survive. People committing suicide, having nowhere to turn after loss of government benefits. Pipelines and tar sands and fracking resulting in terrible ecological damage, so that plants and animals are poisoned and people can no longer drink the local water. A huge nuclear power station planned for the Devon coast in England, even while Japan – one of the greatest repositories of technological expertise on Earth – has no idea how to clear up the radioactive mess pouring into the sea. And war everywhere; lucrative, engineered, sustained.

Everyday when I go on Facebook to see what’s happening, I feel as though I’m looking down into one of those medieval portrayals of hell – a seething mass of torturers and their agonized victims, a chaos of suffering and despair. It seems to come from every possible direction – people skinning dogs alive in China and bludgeoning unarmed water protectors in North Dakota. People in India gang-raping the sisters of some girl who’s had a love affair. People stoning and beheading and setting people on fire. People in Aleppo lobbing bombs at each other across the city. People starving in Yemen and surviving storm and flood in Haiti. Forests rased and animals dying in droves or kept in cages to suffer the hell of commercial exploitation. No end to it. And on the UK and US political scene, the endless acrimonious scrabble for more power and wealth that counts as business as usual.

As well as appalled, I’ve been astonished by the relentless increase of it. Apocalyptic. I haven’t really known how to respond, how to make even the tiniest dent in the great heaving turbulent morass of death and pain and terror and corruption. What to do?

Then an idea came to me – actually while I was watching this rather wonderful film at the cinema. There’s a bit in it where the hero usefully turns the wheel of time backwards. And I thought, what we need is a wheel like that, to turn the tide of human affairs back from the present stampede towards comprehensive destruction.

I wanted a key – a principle – a fulcrum maybe. Because where things are getting out of hand it’s always worth standing still and identifying the small, simple thing that can make a difference because it has a big, effective principle attached to it.

And I think the Holy Spirit put into my hand exactly such a key.

I realized that what all the terrible sufferings of the world have in common is consumption. All war is, at root, about wanting what someone else has got. All exploitation of women by men is about commodifying women. All ecological harm is about growth economics. These are all consumption issues – what I can get out of what you have or are.

I am part of this, I know – by being white in a white supremacist world, by protecting my home and family in a world where many have nothing, by buying cheap things to make the money go round and thus supporting sweatshops and factory farms. It is all about consumption.

Insatiable consumption depends on belief in scarcity – put simply: “I need more.”

I realized that the key to turn the wheel in the other direction, to address the whole force of Mammon, this many-headed guzzling monster colonizing our society, is one simple mantra: “I have enough.”

I thought of the teachings of the New Testament about this – “My grace is sufficient for you” and “consider the lilies of the field”.

 I thought also of the name of God, the I Am That I Am – the self-actualising, self-determining, all-sufficient, uncreated nature of God, whose Spirit is poured out on all people for wellbeing and blessing. And to “I have enough” I added “I Am enough” – not me, I mean, but God’s grace is sufficient for me; I Am is enough. Perhaps, “I Am. Enough.”

And I determined to meditate on this mantra, every day:

I don’t mean this as a smug or complacent approach – not, “I have enough, shame about you.”

There’s that verse in Psalm 84, How blessed are those who, going through the Valley of Baca, make it a place of springs. The Valley of Baca is what we sometimes call the Vale of Tears – life in all its adversity and suffering. What the verse is saying, is that the art of blessed living is learning to discover God’s provision hidden in circumstances of adversity.

So this might mean I wanted white bread and the only sort on offer was brown, but I say, “I have enough, I Am enough”, and give thanks for getting bread at all.

Or maybe I would have liked to leave home and buy a place of my own, but rising house prices force me to still live with my parents. So I say “I have enough, I Am enough”, and give thanks for a roof over my head.

I am without money for groceries, but I pray “I have enough, I Am enough”, and learn to forage or learn to fast and pray.

Perhaps the most extreme example of this is Jesus, nailed to the cross, his arms stretched wide – I have enough, I Am enough – and unexpectedly, it turns out that he had and he was.

This is not only for the individual, but for communities too. When we see the refugees in Calais needing to come to the UK, we could say in our hearts, “I have enough, I Am enough”, and this would give us the confidence to share.

After all, when we colonized parts of Africa, and India, islands of the West Indies, Australia – so much of the world – we felt entirely confident that they had enough for us, and could shove over or push off to make room. Our logic should apply equally to ourselves should it not?

When our government sees the plight of the poor, their hearts could tell them I have enough, I Am enough – to help, to give, to rescue, to understand.

And it works for morality, for self-discipline: these young men at parties – I have enough, I Am enough – I don’t need another drink, I have enough self-respect to refrain from sexual assault or from peer pressure to behave badly.

If I can make this my mantra, it addresses anxiety and jealousy and greed, it liberates me from the tug and tangle of consumerism. It asserts faith in God.

It’s not like Prosperity Gospel or The Secret – not about manifesting luxurious or wealthy circumstances just for me. It’s saying that whatever my circumstances I have enough and I Am enough – even if that means no more than I have enough and I Am enough to die with courage and in peace.

If my spouse leaves, I have enough and I Am enough to start again. If my work fails where others’ succeeds, I have enough and I Am enough to evaluate it with equanimity. If I suffer sexist or racist discrimination, I have enough and I Am enough to work for a fairer society. If my health is poor, I have enough and I Am enough to do my best and accept what I cannot do.

It is a key to turn the wheel of consumerism back – to effect a revolution. I have enough, I Am enough, says to Mammon as Gandalf said to the Balrog "You shall not pass!" 

Or that’s what I think anyway.


Julia Bolton Holloway said...

I am nought, I have nought, I seek nought but sweet Jesus in Jerusalem. Hilton's prayer
Thou art enough to me, Julian's prayer

Anne Booth said...

I am going to try meditating on that, Pen.

Pen Wilcock said...

Julia - both so beautiful, and two sides of the same coin maybe. The time between now and when I was fifteen and came upon St Francis, I have been on the trail of less - silence, humility, empty-handedness. And now this, which is about fullness. The Amish also practice it; knowing when to stop.

Anne - let me know know you get on - if it speaks wisdom/peace to you, if it makes a difference.

Unknown said...

I've just discovered your blog. I'm in the process of re-reading the first 6 books of your series and am delighted to find you have 3 more published. Last I thought about you and your books you were writing book 7, I think. I've learned so much from your books about how to interact lovingly with others. A problem I have because I tend to isolate. Your thoughts today helped me but I have a question that pertains to how I interpret your mantra and is not meant to be disparaging in anyway about what it means to you. It's the 2nd part "I AM enough". I certainly understand that "I AM" is God, but when I say the mantra to myself I have a hard time getting myself out of the way as I tend to be ego-centric. For me it seems better to say "God is enough". Do you think this is advisable? Or should I perhaps work harder on training myself to comprehend that I AM is God and not my ego? I hope this makes sense. Thank you for any thoughts you have on this.

Pen Wilcock said...

Hi Robin - thank you for getting in touch - good to hear from you. I'm so pleased you've found my writing helpful; it's most encouraging to know that.

I think you should use whatever form of words is most helpful to you.

What I personally liked especially about 'I Am enough' is its multiple meanings.

That it could mean:

~ though I feel inadequate in this set of circumstances, God will provide for me, I don't need to be any other kind of person that who I am. God put me here, so he thinks I am enough to do this job

~ God is enough for me, even if everything else is taken away, even if I fail and am humiliated, the great I Am That I Am is my keeper, my master, my Lord, and I belong to him

~ I am made in the image of the great I Am, and in every living moment I can draw on his limitless resources because I am rooted in him

~ God and I are One, through the great redemption won on the cross; there is nowhere I can go where he is not already in the situation; if I am there, so is he; together we are enough to tackle this

For me, personally, I enjoy that the phrase 'I Am enough' is a bag to hold all that meaning. But I think you should go with whatever works for you. I mean, Gandhi's mantra was "Rama, Rama, Rama," a formula for abiding joy, and it kept him steady through all kinds of trials, but it doesn't really mean anything to me - except that it reminds me of Gandhi himself, and he is one of my all-time heroes.

And some people love the Jesus Prayer of the Orthodox Church ("Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner"), find it beautiful and inspiring and have it as their mantra. I just find it gloomy and depressing.

For me, "I have enough, I Am enough" means something like "Together we can do this - we don;t need to buy anything or add anything or take anything from someone else; the resources are all here, and they are infinite."

Hope that helps, and thank you for asking the question - waving from England! x

Unknown said...

Thank you for your answer. I like the Jesus Prayer also, but the "a sinner" part is hard for me to say, all though I can comprehend its interpretations, still I find it hard to say completely and that perhaps is its transformative power. However, I do now feel from talking with you that it is time to let go of my own ego-centric focus and learn to open to the true meaning of "I AM" and that it is not separate from who I am, because "i am" cannot be separate of "I AM".

Ganeida said...

I ended up with Philippians 4:8 ~
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

As a result I am avoiding as much as I can the news & FB ranting ~ not to put my head in the sand & ignore the sad state of the world but because it is depressing & gloomy & bad for me. There is much good, much beauty, many fine & wonderful people & God's still on His throne. I am no good to anyone if I allow myself to become depressed & angry by the state of the world. By changing my focus I have hope & hope to offer.

Pen Wilcock said...

Hi Robin - What you say - '"i am" cannot be separate of "I AM"' - yes, that's my feeling too.

Hi Ganeida - ah, I love that passage; I have it carved in stone and fixed to the front wall of our house, for people passing by to see. I love the approach some of my contemplative monastic friends take; the leader of the community peruses the news, and tells everyone else what matters especially require prayer. So they are not thrown off balance by all the turbulence, but remain faithful to the task of holding so many suffering people in the Light.

Ganeida said...

Yes, I knew of that practice, Pen. It is very wise I think, as well as being scriptural. ☺

Pen Wilcock said...

:0) x

esther said...

Ah,that,s my life,s motto : I HAVE ENOUGH
Helps me thru tough times or before I wanna buy something ( and then I don,t 😉)
Our greed is destroying us..

Pen Wilcock said...

:0) x

Suze said...

For years I have been dwelling on Philippians 4:13. It is time for many of us to realise the great and abundant blessings we have in our western lifestyle. I may struggle but it is nothing compared to the plight of those without food or clean water, without adequate shelter or clothing, without a chance of education. The list is endless.

Pen Wilcock said...

Amen. x

Mother Hawthorne said...

Thanks, Ember. A mantra that came to me, which I've probably told you about, is:
It doesn't matter.
It's not important.
God is.

I learned the 'I have enough ' from you, and find it a good reminder. I like this addition of 'I Am. Enough.' - as you say, it has lots of layers of meaning, just as the 'God is' at the end of mine does.

Have already booked in for the Gispel Simplicity day next year, and looking forward to it xxx

Pen Wilcock said...

I'm so glad you will be coming to that day. I think it's time we who have a commitment to simplicity begin to put our heads together and allow some kind of affiliation to emerge. Like a spider's web.
Your:"It doesn't matter.
It's not important.
God is."
Yes. You posted online a photo of it written in your handwriting on a scrap of paper. I kept a copy of the picture, and added it to the folder of images that sequence through as my desktop background. So I see it from time to time, and think of you.



Anonymous said...

My husband and I are considering naming our home, 'Chy an Lowr' meaning 'House of Enough' in Cornish.
Or, maybe, 'Tikvah', the Hebrew word for 'Hope' because life is not easy for us but because of our Christian faith
we live in hope! :)
Tough decision.

Pen Wilcock said...

Either of those names would be beautiful!