POEM: A Taste for Happiness

Dining with Kings and Queens
Courtly balls
Knightly duels
And priestly indulgences
You can avoid it all
If only you are happy
Eating beans

This short poem goes out to all of those people who feel conflicted about all the contradictions in politics, especially during election season; contradictions about power and so-called “lesser evils.”  I find great comfort and happiness in the project of simplifying my life.  When it comes to politics and doing the right thing, I believe that the complexity of Western civilization offers a vast array of temptations to disorder our collective lives by mis-ordering our values.  In this regard, I see the value of simplification as keeping in proper order and priority a relatively few core values, and not letting these values be undercut by however tempting sophistication, pomp, and circumstance.  On a more practical note, I believe that leading a simple lifestyle materially is a great aid in minimizing the myriad of temptations to introduce personal bias into issues of power and control.  The simple fact is that the less we require materially, the less that our spiritual resources and spiritual center will be challenged by material needs.

This poem was inspired by a Sufi story of Nasrudin who is eating a poor man’s diet of chickpeas and bread.  His neighbor, who also claimed to be a wise man, was living in a grand house and dining on sumptuous meals provided by the Emperor himself.  His neighbor told Nasrudin, “if only you would learn to flatter the Emperor and be subservient like I do, you would not have to live on chickpeas and bread.”  Nasrudin replied, “and if only you would learn to live on chickpeas and bread, like I do, you would not have to flatter and live subservient to the Emperor.”

Maybe you don’t think this story is worth beans.  Maybe this poem, my two cents, seems irrelevant.  But, I am in good company:

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.  Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.  They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.’ ” (Mark 12:41-44, NIV)

Do not be deceived: wealth and poverty, power and politics, is not about money and its many denominations; it’s about something much deeper, much richer.

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