Posted by: Mike Ferruggia | December 14, 2010

Poverty: Yes or No

I admit it, I’ve been grumbling a lot lately. It would be nice to have a lot of money. Good people can do good things with money, and life wouldn’t have to be such a f’ng struggle all the time. You could eat all the right foods, buy nice presents for Christmas for your friends and family, and get to work in a reliable car. You could go to the doctor when your back hurts, and on and on.

And the money theology of the televangelists is seductive. God wants you to be prosperous, and there are numerous citations in the Bible to back it up.

But I’ve recently been reminding myself of the good old catholic theology of poverty, a concept embraced for centuries. The great saints and contemplatives took vows of poverty. St. Francis threw off all his clothes and went to live in a cave. There is great value in poverty, not only in our own spiritual development, but in what we can offer to the world in lieu of money purchased things.

Yes, I would love to break the back of poverty, I would love to sow a financial seed and see the harvest come rolling in. Magical thinking. But I also remember that throughout my life I have embraced poverty and the poor, that I saw the value of a life lived by Mother Theresa and Dorothy Day and the Benedictine monks and all the yogis and gurus of India, and all the tai chi and chi gong and taoist masters, lineage masters in China for instance that have had to work in factories to make a living while being living legends of taoist practice.

It is more important to be rich in integrity and right action. And in love and compassion. And in practice and discipline and contemplation. There are a lot of people in this world who would have a very hard time being poor. I remember many periods in my life where I “proved” myself, showed myself that I could make do, get by without, show some self sacrifice. It’s good to be in a place where I can pay the rent and keep the car going and eat–I jokingly tell people that the best diet is poverty.

So, the difference is embracing it, and then it loses its choke hold on you.

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