09 October 2008

Gratitude, again

About a year ago, I wrote on gratitude. One of the things I was grateful for was learning "in so many ways that I'm not in control...."

I'm not in control of the world's credit markets and financial systems. I gratefully give up believing that money is anything more than a unit of information. I may try to stay informed, and try to be accountable for how I get and use whatever money appears to be under my control, but I'm grateful to learn that control is an illusion that isn't worth my mental health.

I'm not in control of politicians' behavior. If I could hold them directly accountable, I'd be asking U.S. presidential candidate McCain, "Do you honestly believe that candidate Obama is in league with former terrorist and present-day respectable citizen William Ayers, or are you simply (and outrageously) trying to scare voters?" I'd ask Obama, "Despite evidence of your ability to see old problems in new ways, are you going to keep appealing to the same old anti-Russian prejudices in order to win the election?" I can ask, but in the end I can't demand certainty.

I'm not even in control of where I live. Right now I'm in Newberg, Oregon, USA, even though I really want to be in Russia--with a new visa. If I spend all my time thinking about where I'm not, how will I enjoy living and being where I am, and the amazing people I meet every day here? And, who knows, even the visa process may have unanticipated blessings.

Just as in (Reinhold Niebuhr's?) Serenity Prayer, being grateful doesn't mean being stupid or living in passivity. Curiosity and control are two different things, and I always have the choice to respond--just not to control. I don't even need to surrender the right to ask God "Why?"--but I do need to thank God that I can do so boldly. There is nothing that can happen to me, or to us, that is outside the realm of prayer.

Right now I'm praying for wisdom for national leaders who think they have control over world financial systems--that the influence they might actually have would be exercised with modesty and justice, and that they all get enough sleep! I'm praying for peace of mind for all those who have anxieties (including urgent and justifiable anxieties) about this period of crisis. I pray against the spirit that seeks scapegoats and shortcuts. Finally, I pray for our communities--especially inside the church--that we learn how to replace individual illusions of control with mutual care.

By the way, you may remember that there's one nationality that can anticipate the world's financial collapse with equanimity. See here and scroll down to the item just before the Friday PS.

Righteous links: Speaking of (impending) poverty, this site provides great resources for crossing the cultural divide--not to mention the social and political divisions--between those in (or from) generational poverty, and the rest of us. Donna Beegle writes with great clarity and without grinding ideological axes. ~~ Why Rick Warren abandoned his Hawaiian shirts. ~~ Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation embark on a new "Journey of Hope." Follow along.

"Backdoor Man," Mishouris Blues Band.(Live at Roadhouse, Moscow--thanks to MoscowBlues.)


Anonymous said...

hi johan!
i never knew who wrote the serenity prayer! i have also never heard it said like this, tho it's clearly the same thing.

If I spend all my time thinking about where I'm not, how will I enjoy living and being where I am, and the amazing people I meet every day here?
ain't it the truth?
i kinda feel like i'm in the middle. and that sometimes i compare my situation to the half-empty side of the fence, and other times to the half-full side. i'm doing best when i don't think of my position in the spectrum of "have and have not" at all. but just do my life.

anyhow. reading this post means i can skip my AA meeting this week, right?

Johan Maurer said...

I hope my little blog isn't making your life unmanageable!!!