Friday, November 24, 2006

The Chinese Buffet

The Chinese buffet is a marvel. Watching people approach the lanes of food leads me to wonder how they select their meal. Some people dress their plate based only on proximity. Everything on aisle one goes on the first plate. Everything on aisle two will sit on the second. Others base their selections on color. One friend of mine picks according to style; fried foods (crab rangoon, won tons, fried rice, and chicken legs) sit together. At the end of the meal, most people have eaten plate after plate of food.

We seem to have a culture of compulsive comsumers. Standing at the little restaurant on Ponce, I can watch thousands of Krispy Kreme donuts rolling down the conveyer belt, baptized under a waterfall of glaze. My brother and I watched ESPN’s coverage of the national hot dog eating contest, complete with competitors dunking hotdogs and buns in water to help them get more than one down a second. We see no limit to the amounts we consume. Value meals now include drinks with cups big enough to take a swim. No one notices how many times consumers return to the buffet line as long as they pick up a clean plate each time.

Our consumption is not limited only to food. I-pods hold literally tens of thousands of songs, each carefully downloaded by its owner. 800 channels now extend our surfing time with a remote, and it seems that we still find nothing on the television. New construction on houses shows homes with double or triples the square footage, even though families keep getting smaller. Unlimited credit limits and closets full of shoes offer us endless selections to complete all of our new outfits for next season. Campouts at Best Buy and E-bay promises show the PS 3 and the updated Tickle Me Elmo as our greatest need this holiday season.

Our day planners and blackberries reflect the same compulsive nature. The average child hops in the back of an SUV, changes from ballet slippers to soccer cleats, as mom orders dinner from Applebee’s curbside pickup on her cell phone. Some of us see church membership as an opportunity to serve and fellowship literally every night of the week. Appointments for a haircut and color, fill-in on our nails, pedicure, massage, and tan causes us to give countless hours to sit in a salon.

“We need a theology of enough.”

Those words of Melanie Hardison burned my heart as I read the most recent post on a friend’s blog. He referred to a conference in which she described the importance of the church practicing simplicity and sustainability. Instead, we give away our time and money to our never-ending need for more.

Phyllis Tickle, in her book The Practice Of A Life, describes her budding prayer life as she studied and practice the Daily Offices. This sacred prayer practice fashioned her day around prayer times, observed by Christians around the world for centuries. In fact, we can still go to the Monastery and celebrate the prayers with monks who live on a spiritual schedule.

This type of prayer causes us to stop during our day to focus on God. Then, our days are marked by connection instead of consistent chaos. Now, God is not another check mark of completed task in our day planner. Conversely, He the center of all that we do.

Thoreau believed the only way we could ever really live was separation from society as he discovered the reality of solitude. Can we, as followers of Christ in our culture, really “live as Christ” in the midst of the chaos?


Blogger Jemila Monroe said...

This is beautifully written. What a challenge! My daughter currently attends a Friend's preK in order to provide an environment that values service, learning, justice and peacemaking above competition and materialism. Meanwhile we live in a district with a great public school system and parents who are totally devoted to the keeping-up-with-the-jonses train, whether in cosmetic surgery and preened lawns, augmented by Hummers or SAT tutoring and a zillion extracurriculars. So for the time being I am spending more in order to cultivate a life of simplicity and as you put it, "a theology of enough." Is this crazy? Is it possible for an easily influenced child to be salt and light in a culture that's addicted to more, or do children need a safe place to grow before they are ready to be countercultural in healthy ways?

Even as an adult, I strive to live simply and enjoyably, but sometimes I still internalize the pressure of "should" and "more."

Do you know of a good site for exploring the Daily Offices?

7:05 AM  
Blogger Caroline said...

jemila, i'm encouraged to hear of your quest to help your daughter walk in the way of Jesus. it doesn't always make tons of sense to everyone else.

concerning the daily offices, i would go straight to phyllis tickle. she is amazing.

6:47 PM  
Blogger Jemila Monroe said...

Thanks Caroline :)

5:43 AM  
Blogger LutheranChik said...

If you're not already aware of it, check out the Online Daily Office . I love it.

Happy Delurking Week, BTW.

11:18 AM  
Blogger Caroline said...

Thanks so much for this! I'm checking it out now.

6:29 AM  

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