Cost-Benefit Paralysis

Photo by Joe Grant © 2020

Love the Holy One wholeheartedly, soulfully, strongly, mindfully;
and your neighbor as dearly as yourself.

Luke 10:27

How do you weigh the cost of living with the price of loving?

Pandemic unmasks,
with the stark reflection of a cracked mirror,
our shared visage, in fragmented distortion.

‘O look, look in the mirror
‘O look in your distress:
Life remains a blessing
Although you cannot bless.

W. H. Auden

As we succumb to the grave demands
and debilitations of protracted isolation,
we weigh the consequences of activities with inaction.

A dangerous calculus, dangled before us,
presents the gruesome false equivalence
between wealth and worth; profit and people.

The vacuum of moral leadership,
abandons us to less-caring calculations
about whom and how many must die for the freedom to sell and buy.

But there is another approach
that invites nations and neighbors to safeguard vulnerability
by sharing from the commons of human and material resource.

‘O stand, stand at the window
As the tears scald and start;
You shall love your crooked neighbour
With your crooked heart

W.H. Auden

Trying times test our humanity as well as our faith.
While we ponder where and when it all might end,
it helps to keep our eyes fixed

on the ubiquitous wounded One;
catalyst of contradiction,
who is both masked and intubated; healer and helped.

This Christ who abides within and in between,
spans the chasm between market and ministry
with compassionate self-giving.

Christ the protester,
wielding a sign.
Christ the policeman, standing in line.

Christ well-remembered,
Christ we’ve forgotten.
Christ you are blessed, and how you are broken!

Christ of compassion,
the ever-forgiver,
peacemaker, cheek-turner, merciful river.

Christ so close,
Christ so dear,
how dare we not see you, when you are so near?

Excerpted from Still In the Storm by Joe Grant

Thus, the fierce love of Maker is expressed
as passionate concern
for the most maligned and mistreated; without exception.

For only the compass of compassion
can reorient us
and chart a course to fuller, wider living.

Discounting, distracting and misdirecting,
either in piety or politics,
devalues dignity in search of justification.

Seeking to be justified by Jesus, the lawyer asked,
‘And who is my neighbor?’

Luke 10:29

Since crisis also presents opportunity, always we must ask:
What is the cost of loving? Who benefits?
Who ends up paying the price for so much suffering?

And carefully we listen
for courageous, radical inclusion,
as we steer clear of amoral profiteering and prophet-less preaching.

The real tragedy would be if we come through the pandemic without changing for the better.
It would be as if all those deaths, all that suffering … would mean nothing.

Ben Okri

Beyond social analysis and moral paralysis,
may we surrender to the humble power of kenosis—
self-outpouring that restores “benefit” from a privilege to making good.

Especially in dark times, even behind closed doors,
we do not scheme
about going back-wards.

We kindle flickering hope
and dream a softer, slower, simpler, gentler,
more generous world into being.


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Weighing Worth

Photo by Joe Grant © 2020

… the measure you mete out
will be the measure meted back.

Luke 6:38

With all the possibilities before us, how did we end up here?

Growing up during the dying days
of an industrial era,
in a landscape pockmarked by pits and slag heaps,

my factory-fodder family
wondered where all “the Works” went
that abandoned generations to doleful joblessness,

where depression premised the existential,
working-class conundrum:
“If to work therefore I am, then how am I to be unemployed?”

In time, electronic technologies,
mass-produced by more distant family members
in sprawling shantytowns,

promised to revolutionize
life and livelihoods
with information-driven commodity.

Distracted from distraction by distraction
Filled with fancies and empty of meaning
Tumid apathy with no concentration

T. S. Eliot

All the while, here and abroad,
our dear home, reduced to raw material,
is ravaged, exploited, capitalized.

Through manufacture and mechanization,
we laud this persistent “progress,”
as the measure of meaning and worth.

While outputs and products increase,
suburbs spread where forest and fen are demolished,
and all hail destruction as “development.”

As for humankind, conveniently dubbed “consumer,”
the only word we need implore
is “more.”

There is no vaccine against climate change.

John Ingham

At what price this senseless squander,
who must pay the cost;
that burdens children’s children with life already lost?

Swamped by information,
wisdom out of view,
our scales all imbalanced, our measurements askew.

Facing such distortion—
lives no longer weigh the same—
some are offered privilege, others only pain.

Out of such chaos, of such contradiction
We learn that we are neither devils nor divines

Maya Angelou

Our green and growing globe
now fevered, seeks to stem
the chronic contagion of predatory greed.

Though well-warned and overly-informed,
still we refuse to weigh this consequential truth:
whatsoever we do unto Creation, we do unto ourselves.

How then to proceed?
What path to redemption,
where leadership, adrift in self-importance,

fixates on heavenly glories,
as this good and earthy garden
is quickly turned to hell?

Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.

Thich Nhat Hahn

Wisdom instructs
that we cannot change the past;
nonetheless, we must learn from it

Nor can we alter a future
yet to exist.
But, with radical reorientations, we can shape it.

In truth, we may not be able
to swiftly reverse the present trajectory,
but we can be transformed

by waking up to ponder and wonder:
how on earth does faith matter,
if Life and lives, sorely abused, do not?

When we come to it
We, this people, on this wayward, floating body
Created on this earth, of this earth
Have the power to fashion for this earth
A climate where every man and every woman
Can live freely without sanctimonious piety
Without crippling fear

Maya Angelou

Let us en-courage the fresh-hearted
to dream their dreams and re-envision
a world worthy of the sacrament all of us embody.

And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

T. S. Eliot


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Latest book by Joe Grant