Friday, November 28, 2014

Black Friday Frenzy

"Mountain Caves"
- Outside the Desert Retreat House -

The TV morning news show began today with images of "Black Friday Frenzy." Crowds of people who had camped out all night long to be the first in line trampling over one another as the store doors were opened, everyone jostling to take advantage of the big bargains on video games, grown men in a fistfight over the last available big screen TV, an obviously haggard looking young mother with her three kids in tow announcing that they had shopped all night yesterday and would shop all day today until the stores closed.

As I took in those startling images of "Black Friday Frenzy," it seemed like I was watching some sort of dystopian movie rather than a news report about the day's events. It reminded me of an apocalyptic horror film about a society that had gone mad, human beings afflicted by a mass hysteria, a buying frenzy that had turned them into zombie-like creatures who wouldn't stop their relentless pursuit for "more stuff" until all the stores had closed. 

Was it a news report I was watching this morning or was it a dystopian movie? Hard to tell I guess.

After turning off the TV, I walked into my front yard and looked out into the desert. The beautiful simplicity of the barren wilderness was such a dramatic contrast to those images I had just witnessed on the TV that, at first, it was hard to take it all in. So, I just sat in a chair and stared at the desert- it gave me such a sense of deep peace and serenity in the midst of all the chaos and the frenzy.

Wilderness caves dot the neighboring mountains just outside our home. I look at them every day, and every time I see those caves I think about my spiritual ancestors, the Desert Mothers and Fathers, who back in the 4th century lived in caves like those near me. 

Those ancient desert monastics had left all the trappings of church and society and moved out to the fringes of the culture to live simple lives following Jesus' "way" of kindness and compassion. They worked together and prayed together, treated one another with enormous respect and opened their arms in radical hospitality to all who might come their way.  They didn't hold tightly to doctrine and dogma and social status meant nothing to them. They had few possessions, but they had one another and they lived each day in the abiding Presence of God, and that's all they needed.  Their lives were abundantly rich, overflowing with a joy and with a peace that goes beyond human understanding.

This morning as I sat in my front courtyard and looked out into the desert, two wildly contrasting images stood side by side in my mind: human beings consumed by a Black Friday Frenzy who appeared to be less than human, and those simple desert monastics who lived such fully human lives.

I certainly don't plan to move out into the caves outside our house, but on this Black Friday the path I want to follow seems pretty obvious to me. My spiritual ancestors who lived in caves like these are pointing out the way.

The ancient Taoist, Lao Tzu, taught this simple wisdom to follow on the path of life:

Manifest plainness,
Embrace simplicity,
Reduce selfishness,
Have few desires.

If you ask me, this is a perfect motto for Black Friday. I'm planning on reciting it throughout the day. 

1 comment:

  1. It's a clash of values you've revealed. In a society where possessions are the way to contentment this is to be expected.