Poverty in Inwood, NY, and a Look at Those Who Take a Vow of Poverty
This chart comes from the Science Leadership Academy, a Philadelphia High School. I highly recommend visiting this blog to learn how these young people studied poverty. Rich in information.
Examining poverty can be so overwhelming — and depressing — and impossible to fully examine in a small space. Not going to happen here today.
What I can do is take a little walk and hope to learn something and share it with you. Maybe it will make you think, or even comment. I surely hope so.
I spent the last week thinking about poverty as part of a 13-week meditative trek I set out on six weeks ago. Inspired by the practice of those who admire St. Anthony of Padua, I am looking at 13 ideas that he preached about, doing some research, rolling around what I find in my mind and then sharing here with you each week in the hopes of sparking a conversation, or simply just giving you a moment of thought. It’s an effort that I hope will, at least, make me a little better person.
The new international poverty line of $1.25 a day at 2005 prices is the mean of the national poverty lines for the 10-20 poorest countries of the world, according to the World Bank. In the lower 48 states, the poverty line for a family of four is $22,050 a year, or $60 a day.
To bring this home to me, I explored my neighborhood in Manhattan – Inwood, which comes after Washington Heights on the subway and occupies the topmost portion of the Island. Some folks call it upstate Manhattan. It’s a far haul, anywhere – downtown, Queens, Brooklyn, Long Island – places I visit often. The neighborhood has pre-war housing stock, is largely Dominican and is served by two subway lines (A and the 1).
The heartbeat of my community lies east of Broadway, on 207th Street, a place of small businesses and 6-story brick apartment buildings. Its population of about 200,000 is 73 percent Latino, and more than 50 percent Dominican, in fact, almost 20 percent of all the Dominicans in the New York City area live in the neighborhood, according to 2005 statistics from a CUNY report (PDF). The median household income (2005) is $39,422. Latino households with median incomes below $20,000 annually (the poverty line) declined to 32 percent from 43 percent between 1990 and 2000, and is estimated at 31 percent for 2005 figures, CUNY says. (New census data will be out in November).
The CUNY study concludes: the poor as a group have remained entrenched in the neighborhood with the possible exception of non-Hispanic Blacks.
To find out more about the 10034 zip code (my hood), you can go to the overview everyblock.com.
What I learned about my neighborhood: three of every 10 people are living below the poverty line. My neighbors.
With that in mind, I wondered about people who, by choice, take vows of poverty. They choose to live in austerity and those are monks and nuns.
Looking around online, I found the Benedictine Monastery of Christ in the Desert, Abiquiu, N.M. I am totally amazed by what I’ve seen on the site. The brothers live out in the wilderness in the Chama Canyon, surrounded by Federal lands, accessible only by a 13-mile trek on a dirt road. They build with strawbales, they harness the sun for energy, they pray and they create things with a number of business ventures like a thrift store, a retail store, leather goods, and Monk’s Ale. The monastery, which will turn 50 in 2014, is expected to be self-sufficient.
The monastery has posted a list of its costs, which include clothing, medical care, website maintenance, sat phones, food, etc. The monastery spends $6,000 a month on propane. The brothers even budget money for two Mexican outposts they help support. If you are interested in helping them, you can write firstname.lastname@example.org
If the idea of living off the grid, or taking up a vow of poverty and of pursuing prayer and service appeal to you, you can read this to learn how to become a nun. Or view this E-How page, to learn how to become a monk.
If a three-year process to become a monk is of some concern, there are other ways to explore the austere life. If you go to Facebook, there is the Monk for a Month service that, for $700, will set you up to visit a Buddhist monastery in Thailand for a month. This article explains more.
But, if that’s not exactly what you are looking for, you can sponsor a Buddhist monk in India or Nepal for a year for $300 through the Ripa Ladrang Foundation. Caution, I haven’t done thorough due diligence. In fact, caution is always advised when it comes to your money and the Internet.
Now, a few little random tidbits on this subject.
This blog post talks about clergy and pay in the evangelical world. What if churches supported their pastors, rather than paid them. Chuck Warnok thinks out loud and gives historical context. Worth reading.
To bring this back around to poverty, this article talks about business and ethics. We aren’t in business just to make money and stave off poverty. There is a right way to do it.
I think the right word is Tikkun Olam, ‘repairing the world.’
“Haji Ali reached up and laid his hand on Mortenson’s shoulder. “These mountains have been here a long time,” he said. “And so have we.” He reached for his rich brown lambswool topi, the only symbol of authority Korphe’s nurmadhar ever wore, and centered it on his silver hair. “You can’t tell the mountains what to do,” he said, with an air of gravity that transfixed Mortenson as much as his view. “You must listen to them. So now I am asking you to listen to me. By the mercy of Almighty Allah, you have done much for my people, and we appreciate it. But now you must do one more thing for me.” “Anything,” Mortenson said. “Sit down. And shut your mouth,” Haji Ali said. “You’re making everyone crazy.””—A Boomer Role Model Who Succeeded by Not Making It to the Top - SecondAct.com
Many people attach humility to humiliation, but that’s an entirely wrong point of view. Humility is an outlook, a frame of being, a work in progress, while humiliation is a choice and a decision. You let yourself enter the state of humiliation, but if you have a humble outlook, then, I say, you can not be humiliated.
I spent the last week thinking about humility as part of a 13-week trek I set out on five weeks ago. Inspired by the practice of those who admire St. Anthony of Padua, I am looking at 13 ideas that he preached about, doing some research, rolling around what I find in my mind and then sharing here with you in the hopes of sparking a conversation, or simply just giving you a moment of thought. It’s a humble effort, and not one that will lead to economic riches, but maybe make me a little better person.
I think most people would aspire to a state of humility, but I think we get it wrong. Humility doesn’t mean hiding your light under a bushel basket, but shining your light so that it reflects the way for others. That, to me, is the ultimate way of thinking about humility.
Let’s look at the root of the world. I like the Bragging.org page on humility.
The term “humility” comes from the Latin word humilitas, a noun related to the adjective humilis, which may be translated as “humble”, but also as “low”, “from the earth”, or “humid”, since it derives in turns from humus (earth). See the English humus.
The site continues the definition of humility as:
being modest, reverential, even politely submissive, and never being arrogant, contemptuous, rude or even self-abasing. Humility, in various interpretations, is widely seen as a virtue in many religious and philosophical traditions, being connected with notions of transcendent unity with the universe or the divine, and of egolessness.
Humility is a balance of self and the world. It is feeling good about yourself to the point that you don’t have to sell, but just radiate.
Many people believe that humility is the opposite of pride, when, in fact, it is a point of equilibrium. The opposite of pride is actual a lack of self-esteem. A humble person is totally different from a person who cannot recognize and appreciate himself as part of this world’s marvels.—Rabino Nilton Bonder
I found this story on the website, Spirituality and Practice, and I think you will like it:
A story is told about a man who asked his rabbi why people couldn’t see the face of God. What had happened that they could no longer reach high enough to see God?
The rabbi, a very old man, had experienced a lot in his life and was very wise. “My son,” he said, “that is not the way it is at all. You cannot see the face of God because there are so few who can stoop that low. How sad this is, but it is the truth. Learn to bend, to bow, to kneel and stoop and you will be able to see God face-to-face.”
On the website, Spirituality and Practice, Donald Goergen, in a 1982 article — Self-Love, Self-Knowledge, and True Humility – wrote about self importance: selfimportance falsely understood has serious consequences. And this self-importance can be false in two ways — either through exaggeration or through underestimation. The tendency in modern secularism is to exaggerate our self-importance. The tendency in some religious traditions has been to underestimate it. But the truth is: I am both important and not as important as my ego would have me believe.
Maybe you need a current example to understand. Let’s look at soccer World Cup champion Spain in an article from Reuters. Humility was the key to the team’s victory, the country’s soccer chief said. “Above all it is because we have great players, a great coach and because these great players and great coach have come to this tournament with great humility and we have worked with all our strength in every match,” Angel Maria Villar, the president of Spain’s football federation (RFEF) as well as FIFA vice president and chairman of its referees’ committee.
Vincent van Gogh’s career started as a student of theology and then as a missionary to coal miners in Belgium. His first painting, The Potato Eaters (1885), reflected his religious passion for the spiritual by capturing the everyday, Kathleen Powers Erickson, a graduate student at the University of Chicago, wrote in 1990 as she pursued a PhD on Van Gogh and his spirituality. She noted that despite being a successful missionary, the master was rejected further support by his Dutch Reformed Church and thus, he turned to art.
Zeal is a powerful word, I mean there aren’t that many great words that start with a “Z.” It is a word that tends to be colored negatively in a time of religious friction globally.
Is it a good thing? Or, is it bad?
Zeal, which the Catholic encyclopedia describes as love in action, tends to seek to remove all that is injurious or hostile to the object of its love; but it has its bad side and its good side. Zeal is based on a decision, a judgment, so there can be true and false zeal. St. Paul prosecuted the church in what is deemed false zeal, which became true zeal when he became the church’s apostle, the encyclopedia says. Smith, Sydney. “Zeal.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 15. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. 13 Jul. 2010 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15753a.htm>.
Zeal colors from ardent and fervor to intensity and passion.
In Judaism, zeal is linked to the mountain fortress of Masada, where a small band of Jews held out for three years against a Roman siege and committed suicide rather than surrender. While some Israeli Defense Force units finish basic training by climbing to the fortress, Masada, the idea of suicide is saddening in a culture that celebrates life.
Psychologists recently published research in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology that suggests “that bold but vulnerable people gravitate to idealistic and religious extremes for relief from anxiety.”
The research found that people who were asked whether they would die for their faith or support their country going to war in its defense were more likely to say yes when they were in anxiety-provoking situations, according to a report in the UK Telegraph.
According to a 2005 poll commissioned by The Associated Press, “Americans profess unquestioning belief in God and are far more willing to mix faith and politics than people in other countries.”
The poll questioned people in 10 countries — Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, South Korea and Spain — and found that the people in the U.S. that were polled said “faith is important to them and only 2 percent said they do not believe in God. Almost 40 percent said religious leaders should try to sway policymakers, notably higher than in other countries.”
One expert sees religiosity in the U.S. through an economic prism, the AP says: The country has a long history of religious freedom, which has created a greater supply of worship options than in other countries, and that proliferation has inspired wider observance. Some European countries still subsidize churches, in effect regulating or limiting religious options, Roger Finke, a sociologist at Penn State University, told the AP.
— and though you (or I) may not agree with his premise, it’s full of links and provides a lot of grist for exploration.
YouTube search didn’t give me anything I thought useful
Twitter search did (perhaps reflecting that Twitter now replaces YouTube as the No. 2 search engine)
@RIngavo Experience shows that success is due less to ability than to zeal. The winner is he who gives himself to his work, body and soul.
@hollalaykan Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will and zeal to do more…the hustle struggle tussle continues
@StandOutManZeal without knowledge is fire without light. - Thomas Fuller
@RUJustWondering ”Zeal and sincerity can carry a new religion further than any other missionary except fire and sword” - Mark Twain What do you think?
@thebardbot @eduspfck2 Let not my cold words here accuse my zeal. (King Richard II: ACT I, SCENE I)
@HanSooTaekwondo "A person with patience should cultivate zeal, because awakening is established with zeal"
@Friedrich_Niet One is healthy when one can laugh at the earnestness and zeal with which one has been hypnotized by any single detail of one’s life.
@PJLK Kindness has converted more sinners than zeal, eloquence, or learning. F.W. Faber
I arrive at #zeal as the fifth stop in a 13-week journey, following St. Anthony of Padua who died on June 13, 1231 at age 36. Curious, I attended a memorial mass for St. Anthony’s at the shrine church in New York on the anniversary of his death earlier this summer and learned of the 13 Tuesdays devotional and decided to use the practice to structure a summer of spiritual reflection.
“maybe public-service journalism—whatever you want to call it, I call it capital-J journalism . . . maybe this stuff is a public good just like national defense, clean air, clean water.”—Lone Star Trailblazer : CJR
"My Honey Sweet" (excerpt) Sumeria, circa 2000 BCE My dearest, my dearest, my dearest, my darling, My darling, my honey of her mother, My fruitful vine, my honey-sweet, My honey-mouthed of her mother!
The gazing of your eyes is pleasant to me, Come my beloved sister. The speaking of your mouth is pleasant to me, My honey-mouthed of her mother. The kissing of your lips is pleasant to me, Come my beloved sister. My sister, the beer of your barley is good, My honey-mouthed of her mother. The ale of your beer-bread is good, Come my beloved sister.
"Chain" (Buckingham / Nicks / Fleetwood / McVie / McVie) Recorded by Fleetwood Mac (1976)
“The passionate vocals and focused lyric communicate the pain of loss, betrayal, and yearning with a directness and intensity that has seldom been equaled.”
Fleetwood Mac’s album, Rumours, is still one of the finest collections of love songs and lost-in-love songs ever gathered in one place. Robin Frederick (2004)
[My favorite love song — called by some, the best love song of all time, ever — is the Righteous Brothers’ 1965 version of “Unchained Melody,” one of 500 versions of the song recorded by such greats as Elvis, Rickey Nelson, Barry Manilow and even U2.]
Background on Love
Read about Romeo and Juliet, Tristan and Isolde and the scandalous Heloise and Abelard in a short history of love, July 26, 2003, from Australia’s The Age.
My journey into an exploration about love actually began in January, when I attended a lecture at the New York Academy of Science with Helen Fisher, a Rutgers biological anthropologist and chief scientific adviser for Chemistry.com, who talked about her research into why we attracted to some people and not for others. You can read about the science behind love and learn about the chemicals involved and that different ones play a part in Fisher’s three stages of love – lust (testosterone and estrogen) attraction (adrenaline, dopamine and serotonin) and finally, attachment (oxytocin and vasopressin).
The following links have more details about the emerging science of love:
If you read the headline and thought here be the key to love, well, sorry. But no.
Nothing is so perplexing, so damnable, so, so, so, human as love with its many colors, flavors, moods and rawness. Love is simple and so complex. But, it is everything.
I arrive at love as the fourth stop in a 13-week journey, following the steps of St. Anthony of Padua who died on June 13, 1231 at age 36. I attended a memorial mass for St. Anthony’s at the shrine church in New York on the anniversary of his death earlier this summer and learned of the 13 Tuesday’s devotional and decided to use the practice to structure a summer of spiritual reflection.
So, that’s love. I was tempted to put off love, as it surely could very logically come last, but fourth it is and I’m on it.
At the end of the 13 weeks, I think I will have achieved a deeper insight that will help me be a better person, or at least a person that spent some time asking.
As I go through this, I’m doing things that perhaps very few people do and that is to look it up – to do the reading. I’m hoping that each week will build on the previous one and the end of the journey should have a cumulative effect. It’s like a college course, but what would I call it? I don’t have an answer, but maybe it’s something about being a better person, or a wiser person, or one armed with the building blocks of being a better one.
Do I have love? I care deeply about my fellow humans – I love to think about the individuals in a crowd and what trials and tribulations they may have and their joys and what makes them happy. Are they happy now? How are they dealing? What makes them similar to me? Wow, isn’t it amazing that we are all running around, our complex emotional states, our histories in time, and what brings us together on this planet, now, and in the future.
It’s why I am a journalist. I think I can help, in fact, it’s my duty to help. That’s my love.
So, I spent the last week thinking about love and looking through the literature. I’ve learned about universal love, I’ve learned about the science of love, I’ve learned about how the major faiths look at love.
13:4 Love is patient and is kind; love doesn’t envy. Love doesn’t brag, is not proud, 13:5 doesn’t behave itself inappropriately, doesn’t seek its own way, is not provoked, takes no account of evil; 13:6 doesn’t rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 13:7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 13:8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will be done away with. Where there are various languages, they will cease. Where there is knowledge, it will be done away with. 13:9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; 13:10 but when that which is complete has come, then that which is partial will be done away with. 13:11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I felt as a child, I thought as a child. Now that I have become a man, I have put away childish things. 13:12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, even as I was also fully known. 13:13 But now faith, hope, and love remain—these three. The greatest of these is love.
14:1 Follow after love, and earnestly desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.
14:2 For he who speaks in another language speaks not to men, but to God; for no one understands; but in the Spirit he speaks mysteries. 14:3 But he who prophesies speaks to men for their edification, exhortation, and consolation. 14:4 He who speaks in another language edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the assembly. 14:5 Now I desire to have you all speak with other languages, but rather that you would prophesy. For he is greater who prophesies than he who speaks with other languages, unless he interprets, that the assembly may be built up.
The world is based on 1) the torah, 2) service to G-d, and 3) g’milut chasadim (usually translated as “acts of lovingkindness”), perhaps drawing from Psalm 89:3, “the world is built on kindness” (more commonly translated as “forever is mercy built”). TheTalmud says that g’milut chasadim is greater than tzedakah (charity), because unlike tzedakah, g’milut chasadim can be done for both poor and rich, both the living and the dead, and can be done with money or with acts. (Talmud Sukkah 49b). The Mishnah describes g’milut chasadim as one of the few things that one can enjoy the fruits in this world and the principal remains intact in the world to come.
Rabbi Hillel, who lived about the same time as Jesus, explained the Torah this way:
"What is hateful to yourself, do not do to your fellow man. That is the whole Torah; the rest is just commentary. Go and study it."
Islam and Love
God’s love in its universal manifestation is generally referred to in the Qur’an under the terms rafah and rahmah. Rafah can be translated as compassion, kindness or pity, while rahmah is usually rendered as grace, love, blessing or mercy. About God’s rahmah the Qur’an says that it encompasses all things:
My punishment I inflict upon whom I will but My rahmah embraces all things… (7:156)
O our Sustainer! You embrace all things within (Your) rahmah and knowledge. (40:7)
“The word metta means loving-kindness, friendliness, goodwill, benevolence, fellowship, amity, concord, inoffensiveness and non-violence. Qualities of metta are sufficiently cultivated through metta-bhavana — the meditation on universal love.
Cultivate an all-embracing mind of love For all throughout the universe, In all its height, depth and breadth — Love that is untroubled And beyond hatred or enmity.
But, can I feel confident in writing about love? Frankly, not really. Last week, on charity, I shared a lot of statistics I had found about giving and volunteerism. But, love requires, well, a little love and a lot of research:
If you do a Google search on the heartbreak of love, you get 2.1 million results.
Search Amazon books for love and you get back more than 220,000 returns.
What is the secret of true love? Wiki Answers says: Putting the other person first, communicating.
Seattle has the largest percentage of women living alone in the U.S., says Oprah magazine, which published statistics on love and marriage in 2007. The writers noted that while Yankee Stadium averages at least one marriage proposal a game on the scoreboard, there are at least five times a year when someone calls “frantically” to cancel a proposal.
A Different Approach
One unique philosophy I found was that of A. Hameed Ali’s Diamond Approach, practice informed by modern psychology and therapy drawing from Sufism, Platonism, Buddhism and the Fourth Way (wiki links) in a search for the truth of human nature.
“All aspects of love can coexist with the personality, and the identity can be maintained, except in the presence of one particular aspect of love. This is called universal love, Christ love, or Divine love. When our beingness manifests as universal love there is no personality. It is this love that spiritual teachers refer to when they say that as long as there is ego, there is no love.”