Renunciation, Revisted

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.



Filed under favela, food for thought

3 responses to “Renunciation, Revisted

  1. josh

    Hey, Ben.

    Uzis, yeah. Guns are so cool. Everyone should have one, so that problems would be easier to solve.

    As to renunciation, I’m going to try to give you a good thought, even as “Monty Python and the Search for the Holy Grail” blares in my ears. I’d turn it off, but others are watching.

    So, it smells to me a bit of dualism, which is to my reckoning the most pervasive and stinky herasy in the protestant church. To which I have to say – what the heck? Why does everybody always have to separate the sacred and secular?

    Christ came, stuff got redeemed, end story. I think that instead of renunciating everything (which sounds to me more like a cross between heretical dualism and buddhist nonsense), we should be affirming EVERYTHING. If we focus on the corruption of sin, we’re being overly temporally minded – since in an eternal sense, everything has been resolved.

    I think dualists and guilt-mongers are all doing it for the same reason – control: they don’t want to relinquish it. God came that you have LIFE more abundantly, not just a really good prayer experience.


  2. ben


    thanks for the wise thoughts. i like the way you think – and it’s good thinking, not just good-sounding thinking.

    i was going to write this really long response, but all it boils down to is, “yes, i agree with you.” =)

    maybe our affirming the things around us in the way they are meant to be affirmed will look like renunciation to some. i say it is just valuing the things and people around us correctly.

    and maybe if we could do that, with no false dichotomy between sacred and secular, it would be a much more healthy and life-affirming way to live.

    oh, and yeah, i guess if we all had uzis, that would fit in there somewhere…


    benjamina elvira

    ps – i liked your thoughts on vargas llosa… i think i thought very similar things the first book of his i read… i didn’t realize he’d written about yarina though… nifty.

  3. Anonymous

    So I’ve never actually seen it, but that’s what Last Temptation of Christ was about, right? The final renunciation of all good things, even the imagination of good things like marriage and sex and kiddies and tupperware.

    And He kind of preempted that by saying that you HAVE to leave your father and mother and the random jet ski to serve him.

    And I HATE that. Renouncing washing machines and Ben and Jerry’s is one thing (a painful, painful thing mind you). But saying that he can take my mom and dad and brothers…I’m not there yet. I mean, Abraham got Isaac back. Even Mary got a subsitute son out of John.

    For me, this is where the heretical bargaining comes in. “God, I’ll serve you in whatever swamp, desert, or suburb you want me, as long as I get to hug my family at Christmas. And maybe you could see who is in the line-up for a husband? I’d fast an extra day or two for that one.”

    Is it legal to subject hypothetical children to Nietzsche? There should be a law.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s