So tonight I was walking home, and I saw something that made perfect sense, even though I had never really thought about it before. I was walking down the crowded, twilit favela street – people going home from work, home from shopping for groceries. The streets are narrow and the buildings going up on either side are a good three or four stories, sometimes giving the feeling that you are a tiny ant trapped in a giant trench – voices yelling, people crowding, cars and vans and motorcycles weaving through and around the thousand of pedestrians – it’s fun.
I noticed a teenager sitting on the back of a motorcycle up ahead. It was stopped outside of a store. What drew my eye to him was the little machine gun he was holding up in the air – probably about Uzi size (maybe a little bigger) – and that he was yelling to someone inside the store. I kept walking, but cut over to the other side of the street – it doesn’t pay to stare or react – just keep walking, and mind your own business. As I got closer, I saw that the store was selling bags and purses. Another teen walked out of the store carrying a bag in one hand and it’s shoulder strap in the other, and I realized what was going on.
The local drug-dealers had gotten new guns or something, and apparently this youngster decided he wanted a shoulder strap. After all, you want to have something to sling your gun over your shoulder – all the cool kids have gun straps – and do you have any idea how foolish it looks to be the only one who actually has to hold your own gun? And don’t get me started about hands getting tired… It made me laugh when the kid with the gun didn’t like the color, and his friend marched back into the bag store to find a better color, or style, or something… Hey, I just had an idea – maybe we should open a store catering to people needing straps – umbrella straps, purse straps, gun straps, child straps… the possibilities are virtually endless!
On another, more serious note, I realized that there was something I skipped in the post below, that I didn’t catch until I was editing it on my final read-through – where do relationships fit into the idea of renunciation that Foster talked about? Any thoughts?
Where do my family, my friends, my hypothetical wife and uber-hypothetical children, fit into this? Are they merely an obstacle seeking to ensnare me – a pothole on the way to enlightenment or wholeness? Or are they meant to be more than that – something else, something greater?
Because something doesn’t fit. Maybe what’s screwed up is my idea of renunciation – that renunciation is not the casting off or throwing away, but a matter of continuous readjustment of priorities. Maybe it is the acknowledgement that the things we have (life, relationships, vocation, possessions) are valuable, important, and should be cared for (and even treasured.) But they do not define us, or control us, because though we hold them close to our heart, we hold on to them loosely. Ultimately, our relationships too are gifts.
Perhaps it is recognizing that for each of us, our identity is determined by the fact that we are created in God’s image, and nothing can take that away from us.
Perhaps it is learning what it means to be wise.
Perhaps it is learning to be.
Perhaps it is being.