Every time I go to Austin, I come back with no less than 5 new books. Part of my circuit there is the book stores, so I hit Book People (a wonder in itself), the Half-Priced Books on North Lamar and the Goodwill near my old apartment that has an impressive, but very unorganized library. This time I can back with Mrs. Dalloway, Franny and Zooey, The Corrections, something called Total Happiness (an independently published book that was quite good until the end) , The Irresisitible Revolution, and Are Men Necessary? by Maureen Dowd (who is an op-ed columnist for the New York Times.) And now I am in the process of getting through all of them.
I started with Are Men Necessary?, which is a commentary on feminism, politics and the rise of cosmetic surgery in America (among other things). And then I moved on to The Irresistible Revolution, which is pretty amazing. And in addition to these two, I'm reading Financial Peace Revisited as part of a class I am taking. Reading The Irresistible Revolution right after Are Men Necessary?, has filled my head with thoughts of revolution, and the means to combat some -isms (i.e. material-, rac-, sex-, etc.), and to bring about others (i.e. optim-, femin-, liberal-, etc.). And then I read about attaining financial peace and am told that I should work toward "wealth building" and that I should have the means to buy a boat should I so choose (I won't, because boats make me nervous, but the choice is there). But the voice in my head responds "Savings, Retirement, Boats, Houses, Cars? But people are sleeping in the park across the street from my office. Something is wrong with this." I feel like I'm simultaneously living in two worlds.
I had been told about The Irresistible Revolution by some friends, but am just now getting to read it. The author, Shane Claiborne, is part of The Simple Way community in Philadelphia. He and several others have opened a community center and live there along side the residents of one of the poorest neighborhoods in the country. In the book he tells stories of protests, and important trips to India and Iraq, and of using joy and love to show the world there is another way. That conflict can be solved without violence, that poverty can be overcome when we care for each other, that dying people can be given dignity even if they cannot be saved. This gives me hope that my generation of Americans is looking at the World differently and seeing what has to be done to make it just, and safe, and peaceful.
So now I am wrestling with and trying to reconcile these two worlds. I find money very tricky, and am made very anxious by its presence in mass, but also by its absence. I have lived my entire life in a place of financial struggle (though I know very well that I and my family are among some of the wealthiest people in the world), and can see the great potential of finally winning this battle. I simply must hope for the discernment to know when enough is enough, and to use what I have to do what is right.