Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Summer Abundance

Early late summer: while some parts of the country swelter, others on the West Coast are having the coolest summer on record. Wine grapes are being stripped off vines by the truckload, for fear the remainder won't get ripe. The vines have been hedged and leafed, exposing voluptuous bunches hanging from the spurs of the cordons but they are still very green. In spite of the cool weather, string beans dangle from the vines, squash and pumpkins swell, and the first blackberries are ripe. Tomatoes are behind; so are peppers. But there is a lot of fruit waiting to turn red and yellow, to feast the eyes and the palate. It is said that in some parts of the country if you leave your car unlocked you're likely to find it full of produce.

Abundance, one would think would awaken a like abundance in the heart, a kind of overflowing joy. And so it does. But it can't hide the struggle and the fear of the poor getting ever poorer; one can't help think of the biblical passage 'to those who have shall more be given, and to those who have not, even what they have will be taken away.'

But it isn't only the world economic situation that is the problem. There seems to be a certain kind of person who needs to take away the little that the poor have, and there seem to be certain kinds of personalities who may or may not be destitute who threaten such people in a way that they seem to attract perpetual dispossession. They are somehow not equated with other human beings: single women suffer from this a lot, but there are men, too. It's another one of those moral conundrums that baffle me.

The dean of a major cathedral that shall remain unnamed once invited me to speak. He paid all his other speakers in the series but for some reason he was bound and determined he was not going to pay me. All of the other speakers were doing very well, thank you; the dean had a fat salary and a beautiful house. But I in my poverty and impermanence was to have nothing.

I had arranged to stay gratis in a retreat house in the city and suddenly realized by intuition that the dean was planning to use his muscle to change my reservation and force me to stay with him and his wife so I would be "obliged" to speak. My phone call to the retreat house telling them under no circumstances to let anyone change my reservation, not even the dean of the cathedral, beat his by thirty seconds, I was later told.

I was so angry to be exploited like this that I stood firm: no money, no talk. In his self-delusion the dean evidently thought I wouldn't dare stand him up, or pass up the chance to speak in a cathedral, but stand him up I did. I had never agreed to do the talk, but in his arrogance and contempt he had gone ahead and scheduled and advertised it.

I was sorry to disappoint people—it's the only talk I have ever missed—but then I never agreed to it in the first place. And while I realise the exposure might have been good, experience proves that exposure rarely leads to follow-up, survival cash. Instead, one gets a reputation as an easy mark.

What motivates the sort of person like the Dean that they are determined to keep others down and out? Though they themselves are rolling in dough, they are adamant that those who have something to say but are not part of the system should be exploited? Why would it have hurt Mr Moneybags to financially compensate me for the information and presentation he evidently badly wanted for his cathedral? Again, I could use some help with this.


Blogger Josh said...

Sister Maggie, please post once again the names and contact information of the persons whom you trust to pass along to you cash contributions.
Thank you for your wonderful and helpful posts.

God's manifold blessings on your head.

5:53 pm, July 28, 2010  
Blogger Maggie Ross said...

Thank you, Josh, and bless you. It's as follows:

The Rev'd Roger Greene

St Timothy’s Episcopal Church
8101 Beechmont Ave
Cincinnati OH 45230

6:14 pm, July 28, 2010  
Blogger fs said...

Your post has been running through my mind, Maggie. I'm sorry these things happen, but they do, and they have long troubled me as well. Of course I don't have any idea why this Dean behaved the way he did.

Jesus hinted at different levels of reality operating here on earth. There is what he called "worldly" power, and there are those he referred to as "blessed" in the beatitudes and of whom he spoke in his parables. I'm pretty sure that people who seek out positions of earthly power are either already ensconced in the world's value system, with it's immediate and ego-enhancing rewards, or will be tempted in that direction by virtue (so to speak) of their position. It sounds like that is the realm in which this Dean lives and moves and has his being. You may be correct in sensing that single women without financial means are perceived as somehow "less worthy" by the value system to which he subscribes.

Then there are those we recognize for their authentic goodness and kindness. In my experience, these people are rarely notable within the "worldly" constellation. Yet, in the constellation toward which Jesus draws us, they are of utmost significance. They earn our love and trust simply by being who they are, authentic and real and too unselfconscious to be anything but humble.

So the question of exactly "why" this man behaved the way he did may not be answerable, but you stood up for your rights and refused to pander to his unfortunate moral weaknesses. While we should pray for people like him, we entrust our faith in humanity with who do a better job of following the path laid out by Jesus.

Despite the consternation and pain this man brought about, he needs your pity and spiritual well-wishes in his weakness.

I appreciate Josh's comment and your response and hope I can help a bit.

Thanks, Maggie, for a good post that made me think.

8:47 am, July 29, 2010  
Anonymous smithj1@unisa.ac.za said...

Dear Maggie

In the August 2010 edition of "Raven's Bread", an anonymous writer says: "Institutionalized religions (including Christianity) are doing little to bring us beyond our ego. Still prevailing in religion is the dominant collective ego protecting itself and giving birth to the clinging, insincere children of power, prestige and possessions."

This may give you/us a clue as to what happened with the Dean. My experience with clergymen has not been good - the last one I had dealings with tried to palm a tiresome task he was being paid to do onto me; his whole approach, in fact, was dishonest and manipulative. Good try, I told him nicely!

Christ is shriving His Church.

Jane Smith (Pretoria, South Africa)

9:12 am, August 24, 2010  
Blogger fs said...

Jane Smith, thank you, both for your comment on the subject of priests -- including your inspiring story of setting boundaries with a Dean -- and for the valuable information on Raven's Bread.

This is all so new to me, and so welcome.

5:39 am, September 08, 2010  
Blogger fs said...

Jane Smith, thank you, both for your comment on the subject of priests -- including your inspiring story of setting boundaries with a Dean -- and for the valuable information on Raven's Bread.

This is all so new to me, and so welcome.

5:42 am, September 08, 2010  

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