Archive for December, 2009
This idea has been a recurring and deepening focus of thought and meditation lately. It has been fueled by readings, conversations and, I believe most of all, by heavenly prompting.
When reflecting recently on the privilege of choice, and all the limitless opportunities that brings to me personally, I began to hear in my mind, like an echo, this little phrase – ‘to whom much is given’ – and the echo continues to build in crescendo and intensity, accompanied by the equally arresting PS – ‘much shall be required.’
‘Whom’ is such a profoundly simple word that encompasses everyone.
Every human being alive is a ‘whom’ – in whatever particular context he or she is placed. And I am struck anew by the fact that the concept of whom lets no one off the hook!
Of course, we can all argue until the day we die that ‘much’ is a subjective and relative concept. I know people back in Australia who, by all objective measuring, are wealthy and yet would possibly not even consider that they were the ‘whom’ to whom much has been given. You see, they do not compare themselves with the 90% plus of the earth’s population who have very little or nothing, but with the 2% plus who live obscenely extravagant and excessive lives – on that scale of reasoning it becomes much easier to justify in one’s heart a general and ever deepening apathy and detachment from truth and reality.
But I am not writing this to finger point – because the echo in my head and heart is MY echo and it is convicting and chastening ME. I do not have to think for too many seconds to know that I know that I am the ‘whom’ to whom not only much has been given, but who is the undeserved recipient of unlistable and indescribable bounty.
For me, this word ‘much’ is assuming the properties of one of those children’s gimmick toys made of foam – the ones you put in water as very tiny, compact, shapeless items that then literally, before one’s eyes, swell and expand and de- extricate themselves into unexpectedly larger, and far more interesting items.
As constricted balls of foam, these toys give no clue as to what the real shape will be until they are placed in water.
So I am learning with the word ‘much’. Up until recently this word had been packaged for me by others – mainly by the perceptions of the society and culture I have lived in for most of my life. ‘Much’ took on the meaning of ‘excess’, and primarily of material needs and wants being fulfilled.
Somewhere in my head was the instilled belief that X number of dollars and what they can buy equated to ‘much’.
How wrong I have been.
This little word that contains within it such huge concepts – and consequences – has been swelling and expanding and de- extricating itself from all my perceived notions, and before my very heart is growing into something not only so much larger and defined, but into something which is challenging the way I actually look at my moments and days and how I am practically and visibly living out the echo –‘to whom much has been given, much will be required.’
You see, the ‘much’ in the phrase ‘much will be required’, is the same ‘much’ that is in ‘to whom much is given’.
And if I am convicted that my personal ‘much’ is huge and ever expanding, then what is being required of me is equally huge and ever expanding. It is not a static, set in concrete realisation. The more I am given, and indeed the more I am awakened to how much I am being given, the more I am held to account.
And so, I am reflecting on the fact that I can read! I have taken this for granted, like breathing – I can read shop signs and advertisements and newspaper articles. And more amazingly still, I can not only read but have unlimited access to literature, past and present, and I can actually choose to fill my mind with extraordinary beauty and spirit nurturing concepts.
Is this a ‘much’ in a world where the majority of thinking human beings cannot read and may never have the opportunity to learn?
I pick up my passport – again something I have had for so many years now, that it means very little, or should I say, until very recently, it was simply something I possessed, by right. Not too much to get excited about if you are Australian.
But as Jim and I spend time with asylum seekers and refugees who are without passports, here in Hong Kong and places like Malaysia, that irrepressible echo in my heart is saying, ‘to whom much is given’ and enabling me to realise how incomprehensibly difficult and restricted my life would be without a passport.
Last week I shared a coffee and conversation with a German couple who were passing through Hong Kong. It is an hour I never want to forget.
In December 2004, when Jim and I and our children were enjoying a few days on the mid north coast, by the beach over the Christmas break, this couple heard the news that a tsunami had devastated areas of Thailand, as well as many other countries in the region. On that day they lost their son and daughter and three grandchildren. Their family were enjoying a holiday as well.
This man said to me, both our son and daughter died -we have only two grandchildren left.
And so the echo won’t fade. Simply because I was NOT in the wrong place at the wrong time, I am one to whom much has been given.
The fact that I am not at this moment suffering the shattering loss of loved ones through tragedy, be it a tsunami or a car accident, places me, by default if you like, in the ‘to whom much has been given’ category.
And what is a ‘default position?
One interesting definition I found was from the computer science world:
‘A particular setting or value for a variable that is assigned automatically by an operating system and remains in effect unless cancelled or overridden by the operator.’
So, my setting or value (‘given much’) was assigned to me (a variable) by a particular operating system (my nationality, culture and family) automatically the day I was born. And up until now, this ‘setting’ has not been overridden or cancelled by national calamity or personal tragedy or misfortune.
Most people I know were also assigned this ‘value’ when they came into this world, and so to ‘have much’ is the only reality we understand and operate in.
Another very enlightening definition is: ‘A situation or condition that obtains in the absence of active intervention.’
And the question I am asking myself is – If outside circumstances ensure that my life remains in this default setting, then what am I going to do to make the most out of my much?
‘To whom much is given, much will be required!’ I believe this to be a true statement. By default, or blessing, I have much – in fact, too much.
What am I doing about it – daily?
And the question that won’t go away is – how am I fulfilling my obligations, as much as it depends on me, to meet the needs of those individuals who are placed in front of me?
For you see, there is another definition of ‘default’ – and that is, failure to perform a task or fulfill an obligation.
In our current economic climate, thousands have defaulted on their loans and mortgages.
How many more millions are defaulting on their responsibilities to do much more with their personal much?