Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Crowd Control

Recently I have been re-reading a book that was recommended by my spiritual director several years ago.  The book is The Spirituality of Imperfection: Storytelling and the Search for Meaning, by Ernest Kurtz and Katherine Ketcham. 

In our day and age of Netflix and short attention spans, the discipline of storytelling has been diminished. However, it remains a truth that a well-told story, like a picture, is worth a thousand words. It points beyond its own limitations to a larger reality that can bring meaning. Jesus told stories. Often they were referred to as parables.

Last Sunday’s sermon was based on Mark 10:17-31. In that passage we encounter a rich man who wanted to know what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus schools him on the Way. The man was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

Kurtz and Ketcham share the following story and reflection that I have found helpful and that I now share with you.

Around the end of the nineteenth century, a tourist from the United States visited the famous Polish rabbi Hafez Hayyim. 
He was astonished to see that the rabbi’s home was just a simple room filled with books. The only furniture was a table and a bench. 
“Rabbi, where is your furniture?” asked the tourist.“Where is yours?” replied Hafez“Mine? But I’m only a visitor here.”“So am I,” said the rabbi.
Greek thinkers, Hebrew prophets, Eastern sages, and Christian saints agree that the “problem” is not material realities but our attachment to material possessions--attachment that hinders us from seeing and seeking our own good, the “goods” proper to us because they fit the spiritual reality into which we “fit.” Material realities tend to stunt spirituality because as we possess them, they possess us. Possessions can lead to obsessions; consumers become consumed with getting things, keeping them, safeguarding them, adding to their hoard. Obsession with possessions crowds out the spiritual. (page 34, The Spirituality of Imperfection.)

What do you think? Is your life crowded? What can be put to the curb? How do we strike a balance? Is there a balance to be struck?  Thoughts and comments appreciated. 


  1. As a child of 20th century North America I fear I am doomed. I have been acculturated to consume - to shop 'till I drop - to acquire the marvelous things advertised to my weak spirit. I clearly hear the words of Jesus yet find it impossible to respond. There is no balance . . . his words are clear. This truly troubles me. I rationalize that others around me are just as weak, yet that is merely an attempt to feel justified in ignoring the call of Jesus. I found this interesting, though of little comfort to my struggle -

  2. I appreciate that you acknowledge the role that fear plays. We'll be exploring the tension between fear and faith at the Faith Formation Forum on Sunday, October 25th. In the meantime I think simply acknowledging that our attachments have served more to imprison us than free us is in itself liberating. Here is where action is necessary. If nothing changes, nothing changes.

  3. Your comments remind me of the phrase I used to hear more in the 70's than now - "oh, they died without having/leaving anything". We have grown up with that fear of having nothing . . .but is that really true if we believe in God? We have everything.