In Chapter 12 of The Irresistible Revolution, author Shane Claiborne cites Mother Theresa as saying, “We can not do great things, only small things with great love. It is not how much you do but how much love you put into doing it.”
In our contemporary mindset (by which I mean the capitalist, agriculturalist, industrialist, egotistical manifestation of thought which puts man at the center of the universe that has become the engine which seems to run America) bigger is better. Since the dawn of the agricultural revolution at which time man sought to pound the ground into submission and manipulate its outpouring of resources, we have strived for more. More fields. More property, More expansion, More growth. More material possessions. More power.
But centuries after Adam assumed the role of god and the illusion of the knowledge of good and evil, beginning his rash interpretation of ‘ruling over the earth’ by seeking to control what lives and dies, Jesus came with a message that was contrary to the public sentiment of his day and remains contrary to the public sentiment today.
I’ve recently been re-reading ‘Ishmael’ by Daniel Quinn and have been struck by the anthropological interpretation of the Takers and the Leavers, and by the similarity to Thom Hartmann’s ideas on the Hunters and Farmers. As both texts point out, mankind was initially comprised of nomadic hunters but were supplanted and largely destroyed by farmers, an idea that is supported by the story of Cain and Abel.
It would seem that the Leaver cultures, the hunter/gatherers, the nomadic tribes which still exist in some parts of the world, lived in harmony with the planet, abiding by the biological laws of competition, and humbly acknowledging the providence of the gods. These cultures never suffered from population explosions. Famines and disasters were deemed natural and were dealt with accordingly through a spirit of vitality and great coping skills. They didn’t wage war and only fought to protect territory and in self defense. All in all, they seemed to have nothing, but lived peaceably with the earth, loving their families and loving the lives that they had. They didn’t seek for greatness, but did small things with love.
However, after Adam took upon himself the responsibility of knowledge of good and evil, he left the paradise of provision that God had created to work by the sweat of his brow. And with the consideration that God showed favor to the nomadic herder Abel, Cain killed him and stretched out his fields. Since then, his progeny have spread to the ends of the earth to provide the necessities to uphold his way of life, a life of multiplication and desire. It is this same desire that Buddha called the root of suffering, that Jesus warned to shun, that the Western world has embraced and strives to spread, and that has brought our planet to the brink of destruction.
It is interesting to consider Jesus’ statement that the meek shall inherit the earth. For those that are always striving for more – bigger houses and cars, more possessions and material goods, more property, and a greater legacy as a statement of meaning – shall in the end lose all of it. However, those who don’t strive for these things, the ones that look to each moment as an act of love, who realize the difference between livelihood of body and the life of spirit, and who seek only to play their small part in the drama of the cosmos with humble yet bold conviction, will appreciate the world as it unfolds to them.
Mr. Claiborne also cites Jesus’ parable of the mustard seed, proclaiming that the mustard plant was not exactly a treasured commodity among the agricultural Hebrews. It was a wild plant that grew unruly among the crops that they manipulated to meet their needs. And surely planting this mustard seed of simplicity does not bode well for the American concept of industrial capitalism and competition. Having compassion for a fear-fueled radical does not mesh well amid the mindset of warfare. Giving food the poverty-stricken does not coincide with the attitude of attaining personal prosperity. And doing small things with love does not coincide with the magnanimous attitude of bolstering one’s ego and property. But it is my prayer that the lessons of Jesus will flourish through our cultural consciousness, that we will give up our desire for more, and treat every little thing that we have with the greatest amount of love. For this is the revolution.