Saturday, January 12, 2013

a beginning on individualism and the body

It is wild outside. W.I.L.D.

The winds aren't the worst they've ever been, but they are strong. And in some places the wind has piled the snow up four and five feet deep, and in other places it has scoured the ground naked --no snow what so ever. In the protected places, it seems we have received a couple of inches of snow --not near the six to nine predicted inches --but enough snow to be moved around.

It's particularly deep by the church --and in front of our garage....

Drifted snow in front of the garage, January 2013, Eagle Butte, SD --my impending work out

I can't see going out and trying to shovel any of it now... the wind is still blowing too hard; it will all just come back! And if I make big piles of snow on either side of my driveway, the children will just come and play on it and mash it all back in to the drive!

Oh well. Such is life. In the snow. With drifts. And wind. And children. And a driveway.

And it is glory! I am so deeply grateful to see and know these things. To know them with my body.

In speaking with someone the other day --they said they were a spiritual being having an earthly experience. I responded, no, I am an earthly being having a divine experience.... Since then, I have done a lot of turning over the soil in my heart about the 'body' --how guttural and base it can be --how filled with ecstasy it can be --and either end of that spectrum and all the places in between, it is the body that knows first and fills my mind with the sensory experience and from that sensory experience any other way of knowing has its source.

Eye. Ear. Nose. Touch. Taste. These inform me. These form me.

We are 'made' --created out of 'stuff'.... And it is to 'stuff' that we will return --the Body of Christ. Always alive. Holding all things in being.

I have no other being than that.

And thinking about the Body, has put my own body in mind --and how I must treat it more kindly. Feed it better. Feed it less. Move it around more. In ways that count.

And, like, after I make the Snow Mountain Next to the Driveway, maybe I should be the first to climb it! You know, play more. Play first.

That's it! --instead of shoveling that drift in front of the garage, I shall hide behind it, and throw snowballs at all who pass by! I can disguise myself, pull my hoody up, cover my hands in gloves --who will know! Ha ha!

Except, it's our driveway, and the church parking lot. And everyone knows. Everyone.

Oh well....

And somewhere in the back of my mind this morning another thing lurks --also body related.... The headline reads "America Flunks Its Health Exam". It mulls over the fact that as a Nation we are last in wellness and longevity.

A just-released report from the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council is making news by clearly illustrating that Americans have "shorter lives and poorer health." This is somewhat shocking, given how much we spend on health care each year — more than any of the 16 other rich countries surveyed in the study. What's even more upsetting is that this report focused quite heavily on people who are young. In the United States, even that group fared poorly.

Why is this?

Some of the reasons involve choices make at a personal level. We eat too much, abuse drugs too often, wear seat belts too rarely and commit violence against each other to often.

Systemic issues are also to blame. We have higher levels of poverty than comparable countries, and our safety net programs are less capable of catching people when they fall. And too many also have too much trouble accessing the health care system, resulting in inefficient, ineffective and often absent care.


We have to work together to make these numbers better. Some of them can be improved with public health measures. We need to help Americans be less obese, to have fewer accidents and to commit less violence. There are lots of local studies and initiatives that propose ways to fix these things, but our public health system is woefully underfunded, and translating any promising findings to meaningful societal change poses a huge challenge.

We also need to improve our safety nets to help children at the lowest end of the socioeconomic ladder do better, even before they are born. Pregnant women, babies and children suffer from hunger and malnutrition far too often in the richest country in the world. Yet we still debate the merits of the federally funded WIC (Womens, Infants and Children) program, school lunches and food assistance to needy families.
Finally, we need to find a way to improve access to the health care system. The Medicaid program covers one in every three births and one in every three children in the United States, and it's still not enough. As some states balk at expanding Medicaid to cover many of the poorest uninsured, some are still talking about reducing funding to the already stretched program. There's no question that we have the capability, the knowledge and the resources to care for people. It's just a matter of doing it better.

I think there is one systemic issue that is not mentioned here --the cult of individualism. See, I can say to myself, I can be fat --it only affects me... I can say all kinds of things about the way I treat my body (drugs, alcohol, sex etc) and believe it doesn't effect any one else....

But the cold hard reality of dollars and cents belies that --no one, no matter how rich or how well insured, no one pays their own way.... Doctors go to schools built with communal funds and pay tuition through public grants, loans etc --certainly true for nurses too... no matter how rich or well insured, we all drive on roads paid for with public money --you get the gist.

And what someone else does, affects all of us --not because we live in a closed system where all things must remain equal --but because we live in an organic system that is dependent upon all its parts....

But the cult of individualism transcends politics: we are all in the cult. We’ve all had its invisible lens pulled over our eyes such that we perceive the world through a warped and myopic tunnel vision. Aiming to find and remove this lens is as futile as trying to bite your own teeth – for it is built into us.

The great myth of our time is the heroic pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps tale of His Majesty the Autonomous Self (and how convenient is it that this selfsame trope is the foundational myth capitalism needs most for its continued political survival). But this myth needs no creeds to perpetuate its dominance, for it is woven into the very fiber of our being.

We were all inculcated into the cult of individualism – by our families, who tell us we are special; by the vision of the American Dream; by schools, who demand that we specify fields; by advertising which compels us to carve out who we are by consuming certain commodities; by capitalism which teaches us that to succeed is to win in a competition of yourself against all others; and by the ever-growing new-age and pop psychology Ĺ“uvre which tells us to create our own realities…

--a charism of faith, I think to myself --We Are One. The Body.

And here, the identity of The People embedded in every day realities of All My Relatives.

And it just hit me up the backside of my head --this is my first weekend in about three months during which I do not have to preside at a funeral.... All my relatives....

At prayer this morning (Canticle: Benedicite Aotearoa, A New Zealand Prayer Book)

O give thanks to our God who is good;
whose love endures for ever.
You sun and moon, you stars of the southern sky:
give to our God your thanks and praise.
Sunrise and sunset, night and day:
give to our God your thanks and praise.
All mountains and valleys, grassland and scree,
glacier, avalanche, mist and snow:
give to our God your thanks and praise.
You kauri and pine, rata and kowhai, mosses and ferns:
give to our God your thanks and praise.
Dolphins and kahawai, sealion and crab,
coral, anemone, pipi and shrimp:
give to our God your thanks and praise.
Rabbits and cattle, moths and dogs,
kiwi and sparrow and tui and hawk:
give to our God your thanks and praise.
You Maori and Pakeha, women and men,
all who inhabit the long white cloud:
give to our God your thanks and praise.
All you saints and martyrs of the South Pacific:
give to our God your thanks and praise.
All prophets and priests, all cleaners and clerks,
professors, shop workers, typists and teachers,
job-seekers, invalids, drivers and doctors:
give to our God your thanks and praise.
All sweepers and diplomats, writers and artists,
grocers, carpenters, students and stock-agents,
seafarers, farmers, bakers and mystics:
give to our God your thanks and praise.
All children and infants, all people who play:
give to our God your thanks and praise.

All. All. All.

Off I go.


Anonymous said...

"We are 'made' --created out of 'stuff'.... And it is to 'stuff' that we will return --the Body of Christ. Always alive. Holding all things in being.

I have no other being than that." Amen!

Anonymous said...

Margaret, I see from Grandma Mimi's blog that today you did your 58th baptism in a year! Well, that coupled with a concience about not commenting here often enough (I fear you might be lonely and despondent) makes me pass on an idea that might appeal to you. I wonder if you might not get a cheap scrapbook and put in any pictures you can get of these weddings, baptisms,village shows/bunfights, shots of the weather that you put up here on yer blog and any others you can get by twisting the arms of your congregations. Anything will do - a caption of what it is and the date is important and if you can name anyone/everyone so much the better. Here in the UK these have been done for decades by the Women's Institutes (google it - it started in Canada) and they're pulled out at every opportunity; people love looking at old pictures and telling young ones who those daft old codgers in them are. (They keep press cuttings too. And sometimes include court reports!)
I don't want to give you more work, but I'm surprised how this simple device binds communities together.

Regards, Charlie Farns-Barns.

it's margaret said...

Charlie --please comment --and, no, I am not lonely nor despondent --too busy to be either! I do have a Facebook page, Cheyenne River Episcopal Mission where I publish pictures and news. But Many folks do not want their pictures published --image making is a whole other cultural concept!

Anonymous said...

Hmmm,not Facebook!
A "private scrapbook" is private to the clan/vilage/community. Its for ourselves not for the world. In our local historical society we get access to private pictures that can be retained by us but it wouldn't be right for us to broadcast them. The scrapbook however, is different 'cos its only brought out on special occasions and is revered!

I think it might work if you can get the community to do it for you. Regards, Charlie Farns-Barns.