Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Comfort and Mythology of the World

A book I'm reading, Ishmael, has posited a mythology of culture that I'm finding fascinating. One of the questions asked of the student is, "What would the creation story look like from the viewpoint of a jellyfish?" And, then the story is told briefly, including the jellyfish ending its story with "and then jellyfish were born." At other points in the narrative, the guru asks the learner what the "how things came to be the way they are" story would look like from different animals' viewpoints. Throughout this time, the student is composing the human mythology of "how things came to be the way they are".

One of the conclusions that the student draws about half-way through the book is that humans think that the world was created for them to conquer and rule. This puts humans at war with the world, trying to conquer it.

What an interesting thought! Comfort is one of my prime motivators, and I know that my comfort is expensive. The dollars part of my comfort is the least expensive part; what does it cost the worker in China who made the lounge chair that I bought for very little? How much time did it take? Did the worker make enough that day to feed self and family? Does the worker have a clean safe place to live?

Someone had to mine the ore that was used in making the chair supports. What is the life expectancy of that miner? And, the petroleum used to manufacture the webbing on the chair probably came from a country that is not friendly to the United States. What significance does that have for my love of the earth that non-renewable resources were used in its manufacture?

That is only one example of the comfort I love. Food is another. I bought vegetables recently that were grown in a southern hemisphere country, a country where families cannot afford to eat their own produce because exporters pay them so much for it. And, yet, I paid a sale price for the asparagus. I'm not even thinking about the transportation necessary to get these items from their place of origin to me.

How much is my comfort worth? I wish I could say that I would live more simply. I wish I could say that I wouldn't buy as much or indulge myself in fresh produce (even when it's out of season here), but I know that I will continue to satisfy my comfort level.

I was feeling somewhat guilty this week about having indulged myself in the recliner when a friend said, "But you deserve it." No way. I don't deserve this good life any more than my friends who have less, any more than families in danger in Africa and the Middle East. Someone else said, "It's grace, God's grace." That's a really difficult thought for me: that God would give so much to me and deny it others. I'm not that special even though I have a pretty high opinion of myself.

So I don't know why I have so much and others have so little. I don't know why one person has to work so hard when another will never have to work. And, I suspect that mythologies of culture won't explain that nor will theories of economies.

When the student in the book proposed that certain knowledge could not be had, was not available, the guru asked, "Have you looked for that knowledge?" Of course, the student had not. I suspect, however, that some knowledge is simply not available. Some knowledge is so complex and has so many variables that certainty is impossible and causal factors just too far beyond our minds to comprehend.

And, so I conclude that I will probably go on making myself comfortable without too much regard for the rest of the world and hope that it stays far enough away that I don't feel too guilty when I enjoy good food from my lounge chair.

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