Saturday, June 12, 2010

Description of Society

Our book club recently read A Paradise Built in Hell by Rebecca Solnit. The main, and rather repetitive message is that during times of natural catastrophe and man made disaster, people come together in a spirit of camaraderie that does not exist in every day life; racial, ethnic and economic barriers disappear and a sense of joy and humanity emerges. This beautiful expression of the human spirit is rarely reported in the news, and if it is, it is attributed to the special character of the area. For example, during the 1906 quake in SF, the San Franciscans claimed that the Utopian spirit that emerged was due to the character of San Franciscans, not human nature.
One passage that really spoke to me was a portrayal of our society by J.K. Gibson-Graham, two women writing under one name.
"They portray our society as an iceberg, with competitive capitalist practices visible above the waterline and below all kinds of relations of aid and cooperation by families, friends, neighbors, churches, cooperatives, volunteers, and voluntary organizations from softball leagues to labor unions, along with activities outside the market, under the table, bartered labor and goods and more, a bustling network of uncommercial enterprise."

I love this description of society. It describes the life I live and the lives of those around me. To be isolated in the idea of work as life, is to miss the point of existence. I think the best marriage of work and personal life comes when you find something you are passionate about, and make it your life work. Right now, being home with my son feels very close to this concept. My hours feel worthwhile. Yet, I yearn for more. I think more will come as Ezra gets older, and we have more complex conversations. Yet, already he challenges me for answers that I am still trying to answer for myself.
"Where does God live?" for example. "God lives everywhere." But what does that answer mean to a three year old? And does God live in the heart of a non-believer? Most likely not.

I pray I do not need a catastrophe to awaken a spirit of comaradarie within me. I am already thankful for my life beneath the tip of the iceberg, with all the layers of interconnectedness, friendship and support. It is the tip of the iceberg that so many of us are struggling with right now.

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