A simple lesson

(Originally posted June 22, 2013 at Trojan Horse Productions.  Reblogged 2014-09-10.)

My normal day runs as follows.  After breakfast at the mission, at 5:45 I head for McDonald’s, where I drink coffee ($1.06) and do my prayer routines.  Around 9:15, I head for the library, stopping at a convenience store en route to buy smokes ($2.75) and a soda ($1.69).  From 10:00 to 2:00 I’m online at the library.  When my time’s up, I go to the Wi-Fi café, write in my diary and have another cup of coffee ($1.00).  Then it’s back to the mission, where I have to pay admission ($3.00).

Sunday mornings, I am normally left with bus fare to church ($1.60) and pennies.  I meet my patrons at church and obtain an allowance for the next week.

Without rehearsing the arithmetic now, as of bedtime last night I had enough cash to cover McDonald’s, the afternoon coffee, rent for tonight, and bus fare for tomorrow.  I have about $3 left on my debit card, and could use that to buy smokes.  I would have to go without a soda today completely.  Things are already looking skinny for next week, as I know one of my patrons will be out of town tomorrow, and I need to pick up a prescription ($2.50).

When I got to the convenience store, the EFT system was down, so I could not use my card.  The clerk offered to let me take a pack of smokes today and pay tomorrow.  I took it.  As I walked away, it occurred to me that I could probably stop in at Fresh & Greens and buy a soda there using my debit card.

However, that would only land me in deeper need come the end of next week, since I really don’t have, and won’t have, that money.

So I’m going without a soda today after all.

Some folk would probably say I think too much; I spend too much time swamped in intellectual abstractions.  But here is a simple lesson with profound ramifications, given behavior patterns that it might play into.  And it pertains directly or indirectly to questions that have occupied me intensely in recent weeks.  The temptation I faced really can’t be called a temptation to sin, but it certainly was a temptation to folly.   One can see related questions of delayed gratification, order, chaos, rectification (cleansing), dissolution, stewardship, sacrifice, autonomy, self-determination, self-denial, and need.  I may edit this post later to add to that list.

I have been much concerned lately that my congregation discover a solution to “the ‘Chaos Factor.’”  From here:

“The ‘Chaos Factor’ originally was a term we came up with in my congregation to account for the community’s inability to respond to any structure we create.  For example, a few years back efforts were made to start a children’s Sunday school, but failed because it was impossible to get the same children to show up any two weeks in a row.  We have a “client choice” food pantry that served ~400 families each month in 2012; but when per our donors’ requirements we began requiring that people “register” in advance to participate, only 12 families did.  IOW their lives are in such a mess they can’t even think straight to sign up for free food!  [Qabala] has a concept of “chaos” that does account for much of the chaos we actually observe.

At the same discussion board is a post entitled “The ‘Chaos Factor’,” here.

At McDonald’s this morning, I concluded that social chaos results from infantilism; chaos is the result, not the cause.  A typical “needy” person would never have decided as I did this morning.

A simple lesson with profound ramifications.  For all the spiritual principles it involves, in chapel at the mission we never, never EVER, hear about such things.

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