Simplicity in the marketplace

As we were gathered in silence this Sunday, it was easy to listen to and to hear the raindrops outside.”

The reference to rain shows that I wrote this account of my thoughts back in October when I was worshipping with the Victoria Friends Meeting – here in the Yukon it is currently -35 degrees and no rain in sight!

I was contemplating on the various ways they follow their journey in their natural cycle. Some of them will fall on the earth, the ground that is receptive to soak them up, to store it for the plants, and to release it in the cycle later. Others will run off and pool in a depression, being available for animals to quench their thirst. Yet others will fall on a roof, go down the gutter, onto the concrete, run off the roadways, into the sewer system and the storm drains. Some of them will need to go through a water treatment plant before they are released back into the wild, allowing them to join the natural cycle again.

Water - the essence of Life
Water – the essence of Life

This made me think of the simple ways and complexities that exist side by side in our lives. As I strive to embrace and live simplicity in my life, I am being faced with many situations that remind me of the raindrops and their various ways of going through our world. For instance, if I buy a bus ticket, I can drop the fare in cash on the bus, making my contribution toward the cost of the transit system. Or I can buy a sheet of tickets in advance, saving some money. But also increasing the complexity of multiple transactions until my contributions will reach the bus company that provides the service. It becomes even more complex when I use a card to pay for the tickets at the corner store. Now we have half of the financial world involved in enabling making a contribution for using the bus. Which one of these ways meets the spirit of simplicity?

How much do biblical stories, such as the episode in the temple with the moneylenders (John 2:14) influence our decision-making? What is the significance of substituting a simple exchange (paying the bus fare) through a complex cascade of electronic and virtual transactions in our world? At each corner, someone is siphoning off a service fee or a little bit of shareholder profit. Is this one of the ways we contribute to making God’s house – the house of peace – into a marketplace as Jean Vanier calls it? Vanier states, “today we are surrounded by a particular culture of money. Instead of using money as a means to help […], money has become an end to itself […]. Corporations do not sell what is best for people, for their growth to maturity and to greater humaneness. They sell whatever will make more money […].” (Vanier, J. (2004). Drawn into the Mystery of Jesus through the Gospel of John. Ottawa: Novalis.) The convenience of card payments is one of the things corporations sell us.

In order to foster a culture of peace rather than a culture of money, we need solitude, silence, listening and letting go. This statement is a summary of the inner journey described in Living Peace: A Spirituality of Contemplation and Action  by John Dear. For me, this process of discernment resonates in advice and query #39: “Consider which of the ways to happiness offered by society are truly fulfilling and which are potentially corrupting and destructive […]. Resist the desire to acquire possessions or income through unethical investment, speculation or games of chance.”

Letting go is an essential part of my experience towards greater simplicity: Reconsidering the not so obvious and taken-for-granted complexities of our contemporary world, of the cultural dictates of a globalized world, and choosing what is best for God’s dwelling place has become part of my resistance to desire and convenience. Contemplating on the many ways the raindrops make their ways to the ground was very helpful for me. I have heard from it that the smaller our footprint is, the more raindrops can do what is best for the earth, for its growth and for its higher purpose as part of creation.

The story was first published in Island Friend, November 2012

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