In the moment.

June 15, 2017 § 2 Comments

There is a way to live in the moment that does not impart the peace and sunlight of Zen.

In this relentless present there is no calm, no oneness with the universe.

A place of isolation and aloneness, this endless “now” goes by the name of Poverty.

Those who live in poverty in this affluent country stand perpetually in the snow looking through a brightly lit store window at all that is out of reach. And the needle of time barely moves.

The poor try to luck their way out, but poverty is the scratch-off ticket that never yields to luck, but is ditched instead in the convenience store parking lot where it lies with it’s worthless brothers soaking up the rain.

Outside of opera, the garret of poverty creates no romance.

Poverty grinds away the veneer of romance, leaving quick-and-dirty, and grab-it-while-you-can.

Romance requires shine and props and a wine bottle with a cork.

Poverty is the knife that is only truly felt by the one who carries it between their ribs. No matter how well-intentioned, how loving, how empathetic, the blade of poverty cannot be felt by someone ladling soup in a church basement.

Poverty offers no obvious escape route, no convenient grip with which to pull yourself up.

No way to push the horizon of time out for a broader view.

Poverty is right now, and that right now is slick as ice and as non-negotiable as gravity. Crawl up and you will slide back down until, finally, you are just too worn out for another attempt.

Aside from the rare example, like Jesus, poverty does not beatify, fill with light, ennoble, uplift.

No, poverty is a dark place for which your sweater is too thin, your courage too small, your back too bent, a place in which the pale candle of hope is too often blown out.

Note: I usually put hope into my posts–hope that works–but we are in a period when meanness prevails, and the poor are being told to take care of themselves, to get up on their hind legs and walk.

Until our wealth is more evenly distributed poverty will hold many of us captive in a the relentless now of privation. The “haves” have no genuinely useful suggestions to offer the “have nots.” No bromide about education, bootstraps, or saving for a rainy day will make a lick of difference, and steering the poor toward religion is to deny the very message of religion, which is that the faithful themselves are called upon to roll up their sleeves and love thy neighbor in a way that is practical, and emotionally costly.

Those of us who are safe and warm find it is easy to judge the throwing away of milk money on a lottery ticket as foolish, but the poor are just trying to get from this meal to the next, this dry spot to the next, this cigarette to the next, this moment to the next, and even the flickering possibility of relief seems worth a shot.   

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§ 2 Responses to In the moment.

  • craig reeder says:

    This piece makes a powerful impact with its keen insights, and the exquisitely poetic language pays respect to the serious topic. Thinking about it made me feel grateful for having had the privilege of teaching at FAMU for some years, an institution that represents hope and a way up for so many at the bottom of society. It has served this purpose for well over a hundred years, and let’s hope if can continue making a difference for so many into the future. And may I add that the Front Porch Library may be having a similar formative effect on many young lives. Kudos!


    • Yes, an institution like FAMU (and maybe even the Front Porch Library) can create a longer timeline. Sometimes the hardest thing is seeing beyond the moment to something more meaningful, something larger.


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