Archive for November, 2012

Poverty, Notional and Real

Monday, November 26th, 2012

So I entered a religious order. Eventually I vowed poverty. But I was richer than I had ever been. Piled up and overflowing. I had not anticipated going out with a brother to buy a new stereo setup for the Guesthouse common room. I certainly never anticipated going out and buying two new cars and paying cash. The serving table in the refectory was Tudor; it was an old monastery refectory table preserved for a new monastery arising in the Church of England. There were old vestments of the age and of better quality than the Coronation vestment is the Tower of London. There were vestments galore, and gold and jeweled chalices and other vessels. And I had everything I needed and much of what I wanted. Books and learning galore. And not just theology but mysteries, though no sci-fi to speak of. And on a variety of subjects that joiners had brought with them. And music to listen to. We lived and worshiped in an architectural gem. It was the architect’s dream, the perfect Burgundian church of 1150. The glass was the maker’s attempt to reproduce the colors of Chartres. We chanted plainsong gorgeously. People came to hear us. Our liturgies were perfect; crowds came to the special liturgies. Eventually what I saw was a monastic theme park.

I am a neer do well I guess. When I talked about leaving, T said I would wind up homeless. I’m approaching that. And B, an older man.  asked how I would live when I could no longer work. On Social Security and Food Stamps, I don’t have enough to live on. I see things I can’t have, like the garlic press at the grocery store; I use a lot of garlic. I can’t afford to take my cats to the vet; Warren is old and needs checking on, but . . . I overspend my food stamps to make sure I have fresh fruit and vegetables, which as a diabetic I need. There are places I want to go, people I would like to associate with, but gasoline is expensive. My social life is very limited by this. I have a small apartment but it is too expensive. I think I need to find a roommate situation and default on my lease. I dunno what I will have to give up for that. I do have a lot of books and things, and a full range of kitchen implements. And then there are the cats; they are my family.

I guess my problem is that we called this poverty. And when I commented on this, the answer was that we were limited. We had to ask permission to buy things that we needed. But still, I was wallowing in luxury. At least from my point of view.

I gradually came to see asking permissions as infantilizing. We talked about making changes, but could never walk away from privilege. Once one of the brothers described our relationships as being like a cotillion. WTF! I had no idea what that meant. And once when we were having some financial problems in a small house, I suggested that we might look at it in terms of our voaction to poverty. A senior brother was instantly enraged.

This may have been where the problem lay. The others came from more privilege then I. Their expectations of life were much greater; perhaps they did feel impoverished.  certainly didn’t. Our cook once remarked that if we ever ran out of money, we could just collect the silver spoons from each of our cells.

I guess it was part of the Society’s vocation to be of a certain class, one I did not belong to by right. after some years, I saw that, though I didn’t think in terms of class until I reflected on it later. It was all angst and rejection between myself and other brothers. When I tried to talk about it, I was rejected. One brother, who was in charge of the house I was in, told me he never wanted to hear another prophetic word from me. Later, when I talked to a priest who knew the community, I said it was a class conflict and he said, “I can believe that.”

Am I learning anything from this? Is it like fasting, which never did a thing for me, symbol without substance, a simulacrum.

Do I have a vocation to poverty? What would it be like to make a positive of all this?
It might involve living with the poor rather than where I do. To be homeless among the homeless?

That really scares me.


Sunday, November 25th, 2012

For days now, when I saw my face in the mirror first thing in the morning, I thought it needed makeup. Where was this coming from? Then the other day I realized that not only do I look like my mother, but like my mother in her declining days, no makeup and uncombed hair. Oh well, I guess I don’t need makeup. But I feel sad for her the way she was in her decline. I’m not in decline, she was.


Saturday, November 24th, 2012

I was alone as usual. I cooked myself a nice dinner. I had added up my thanks a day or so before. And yes, I was a little bored. I have never really liked Thanksgiving. I don’t much like turkey anyway. The dry white meat requires savage lashings of filling and gravy to make it edible. The overcooked vegetables were the epitome of boredom.

And it was all family all the time. Now that’s boredom. They never “got” me. I couldn’t talk about much, and when I had a point of view they disagreed with, I was told I was being stupid. And they weren’t interested in anything. So I didn’t talk. At home I could always eat and get away and do something. But in my teens my folks took to having Thanksgiving dinner with friends at their place. All football, no escape.

So being alone on Thanksgiving is not so bad.


Monday, November 19th, 2012

I’m deep in it, I guess. I realized this morning that I hadn’t brushed my teeth for several days. It’s been any number of days since I actually bathed. I haven’t had anyone or anything to bathe for. I haven’t had any place I needed to go. I am totally isolated. I didn’t make it of church last Wednesday. I just couldn’t get out of bed for church yesterday. I can see why depressed people do such things; I am one. I did buy some food and made myself a nice meal, but this just means I will run out of food stamps earlier in the month. I have no plans for Thanksgiving. Maybe if I’d gone to church yesterday, someone would have invited me. I went and surveyed what’s for sale at Whole Foods just to get out and go somewhere I’d never been. Even if I had somewhere to go, can I afford the gasoline?

I talked to Chris yesterday, about how I was feeling. This morning I felt better. I told him this in Facebook chat, and he replied, “What? Did somebody give you money?” And there goes the mood. I felt like worthless shit. I felt like a bum. I felt like a ne’erdowell. I feel like weeping. I feel like my life is over. I am so tired of asking for money. I am so tired of applying for jobs and hearing nothing. I need work if only to get out of the house. I will volunteer at church, as I have been. I wish I would get sick and die. I really hurt because I think Warren my cat needs to go to the vet, and I have no money. I probably need to see a urologist and a psychiatrist about meds.

I really have no one to talk to about my deepest concerns, ie, another gay men. I don’t know where to look. All of my contacts are at church. there it’s all about family and children. I’m such an outlier, I feel so alien. I have no family. Last week we had a presentation at our seniors lunch. It was all about how to provide for long-tern care when the time comes. I asked her how you prepare for Medicaid. It was all for people who had at least some discretionary income; I don’t.

I have brushed my teeth. I will shower later. I did pray Morning Prayer. And so it goes.

Class War?

Saturday, November 17th, 2012

Daily Office 11-17-12

James 2:5–7 (NRSV)
“Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? Is it not they who blaspheme the Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you?”

I dunno quite how to comment; this seems clear and applicable. But how to apply it? Is it not “they” but we who dishonor the poor and do all those other things listed. Perhaps it is not we personally, but we collectively do these things. They are part of the :system.” They are done in our name, on our behalf, for our benefit. One example is the Occupy folk in NYC. Now they have become Occupy Sandy. Their energy has organized “mutual help.” What they are doing out there in the devastation is not different from what they were doing on Wall Street and other streets in the city. And for them it is all the same devastation. Perhaps it is the abomination of desolation set up where it should not be.

Let us repent.

Showing Preference?

Saturday, November 17th, 2012

Daily Office 11-17-12

Guilty as charged

James 2:1-4 (NRSV)
“My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?”

Years ago I visited a local church and turned away. They were all too stiffly well-dressed. Too much starch in their underwear, I thought. I wasn’t wrong, it was not the place for me, not then. After a lot of turmoil and change I visited again and it became a home for me. And some of these same folk I turned away from, those who endured the turmoil, are my local saints.

Does our affluence turn folk away? How do we know we will be welcome in spite of our circumstances? How do we recognize unwelcome? this scripture holds up a mirror.

In the mirror today, an article in the NY Times about this difference in the relief efforts in New York City:
Take a read in this mirror.