2014-03-17

The Myth of Scarcity, Part 3

Abundance is the true law of life. Abundance abounds. All the world’s religions teach this.

In the Jewish tradition, the scriptures say it over and over. God is good, God provides, God is faithful. In Genesis, God lovingly brings the entire world into being, and provides human beings with everything they need. "Be fruitful and multiply," God says, and the fruitfulness overflows.

The Book of Psalms sings again and again about all the gifts God gives us. Psalm 104, just to pick one example, says:
"You make springs gush forth in the valleys;
they flow between the hills, giving drink to every wild animal;
the wild asses quench their thirst.
By the streams the birds of the air have their habitation;
they sing among the branches.
From your lofty abode you water the mountains;
the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work.
You cause the grass to grow for the cattle,
and plants for people to use,
to bring forth food from the earth,
and wine to gladden the human heart,
oil to make the face shine,
and bread to strengthen the human heart.
The trees of the Lord are watered abundantly,
the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.
In them the birds build their nests;
the stork has its home in the fir trees.
The high mountains are for the wild goats;
the rocks are a refuge for the coneys. . . .
O Lord, how manifold are your works!
In wisdom you have made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures. . . .
These all look to you
to give them their food in due season;
when you give to them, they gather it up;
when you open your hand, they are filled with good things."
Predominant is the picture of God, the generous provider, the faithful parent -- always giving, supplying our needs. The Jewish tradition is emphatic in saying God loves us extravagantly and wants to provide for us, richly and abundantly. That’s the Jewish way of saying that life is inherently abundant.

The Buddhist tradition teaches letting go of desires. Why? Because we have all we need, abundantly. Wanting things to be different obscures from us awareness of the ample riches that are present to us right here, inalienable from us, we have but to notice them.

Taoism’s emphasis is on the Tao, which is usually translated as “the way.” The Japanese word for Tao is “michi”, which means “abounding.” It is abundant everywhere.

Despite the teachings of the dominant religion in our culture, and despite the teachings of every other major world religious tradition, we have a hard time accepting it. We spend much of our lives in the grip of a delusion: the delusion of scarcity.

“The Myth of Scarcity,” is the title of an essay by Walter Brueggemann, Christian theologian and Hebrew Scripture scholar.

Brueggemann writes:
“The majority of the world's resources pour into the United States. And as we Americans grow more and more wealthy, money is becoming a kind of narcotic for us. We hardly notice our own prosperity or the poverty of so many others. The great contradiction is that we have more and more money and less and less generosity . . . . Though many of us are well intentioned, we have invested our lives in consumerism. We have a love affair with ‘more’ -- and we will never have enough. Consumerism is not simply a marketing strategy. It has become a demonic spiritual force among us.” (Walter Brueggemann, "The Liturgy of Abundance, The Myth of Scarcity," Christian Century 1999 Mar 24. CLICK HERE).
Brueggeman says the US has cornered more than three-quarters of the world's resources, but we want more, always more. And the more we have, the less satisfied and the less secure we feel. That's how powerful the myth of scarcity can be: it can take the wealthiest people on earth and make them greedy and mean, unable and unwilling to share.
“The ideology devoted to encouraging consumption wants to shrivel our imaginations so that we cannot conceive of living in any way that would be less profitable for the dominant corporate structures.”
The ideology of consumption requires us to buy the myth of scarcity – for if we buy that, then we’ll be driven to buy lots of other stuff.

* * *
This is part 3 of 5 of "The Myth of Scarcity"
Next: Part 4.
Previous: Part 2.
Beginning: Part 1.

1 comment:

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