Rainbow from my office window
I can’t say that I have ever cherished the sound of the rain as much as I have the last couple of days. Yesterday was nasty by all standards–a fine, cold drizzle just hard enough to get you thoroughly wet and certainly colder than the 45 degrees that my official vehicle indicator said it was.
But I loved it. I felt a little like C.S. Lewis who used to go out on days like that just to celebrate the foul weather for its own sake.
Normally I would have complained, of course, since complaining is one of those things for which I love to arrange words in particularly telling fashion. We bought our Christmas tree in the miserable drizzle and I hauled it out to the pickup and lugged it onto the bed, soaking my clothes and fairly freezing my unacclimated hands. And I had forgotten to wear a hat.
But I loved it. And I love the sound of it now in the dark night outside the window.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not normally so positive about these things. But perspective has a way of shifting under special circumstances. And the circumstance that changed my perspective this time was the drought.
I’ve lived in the Northwest, where there were only five days of sunshine out of 80 days in the winter. That threatened to bring on a madness all its own. But thankfully we moved away, moved to the blessed South where the maxim of Ecclesiastes reigns supreme–to everything there is a season. It rains when it should. It’s hot when it should be hot. It’s cold, for a little while anyway, when the world turns on its axis and points furthest from the sun. And the leaves change and fall in the Autumn. The variety is a wonderful thing.
Normally. But we spent an almost rainless summer. The yard somehow managed bravely to retain some green, though in a somewhat embarrassed threadbare fashion. And the few little thunderstorms that tore through and vanished did very little to relieve the monotony.
But when it finally did really and truly rain, rain that hung around for more than an hour or two, rain that stripped the leaves and soaked the ground, it was wonderful.
This led me to wonder how much we operate from a Perspective of Plenty. That is, to what extent do I feel I have the right to want for nothing? When I get upset by the price of gasoline, when I reach for my favorite brand of granola bars at Wal-Mart only to discover they are fresh out, when I fret because it’s impossible to buy a Wii video game system, am I not operating from this Perspective of Plenty, this notion that I have a right to have everything I need and want in stock, on time, and at low cost?
These thoughts occurred to me around Thanksgiving time, which is now come and gone, but still appropriate. A Perspective of Plenty is not a thankful outlook. It presumes that I am deserving of things for which I made no special effort to be deserving, for which I built nothing and to which I contributed nothing. But I deserve them anyway.
I guess I should say here that we are staggeringly blessed, that we are fairly a-swim in blessings, that our lives, compared to the impoverished islanders of Papua New Guinea, are rich with goods and have need of nothing. And that would be a nice ribbon to tie to these thoughts.
But am I really better off, with my “deserved” Nikes, my Nissan, my Perrier, my I-Pod, my Dockers and my Portfolio than the Papuan who lives in a hut and barely subsists on fishing and farming? Is my life more blessed than that person’s just because I sit atop the civilized world, corrupt though it be, and read Time and Cosmo? Is it possible that the comparatively untroubled Guinea fisherman, hauling his catch in a basket and selling it at the local fish market is just as blessed?
Certainly the Enlightenment French thought so. Rousseau and Voltaire and others elevated the ideal of the noble, uncomplicated and simple being who lives in a harmonious tribe and amply satisfies simple wants. The telling irony, of course, is that while these angst-ridden socialites praised the virtues of the simple savage, they chose to remain firmly in the embrace of their own complex, perfumed and hypocrisy-friendly civilization. When it came down to it, they preferred their comparative state of blessedness to that of the utopian native.
As do I. No need to wax philosophical about it. I am a product of my culture and find a hefty dose of materialism goes down sweetly after all.
But I hope that, in the end, I may be thankful for the things that I enjoy, grateful and not so mean of spirit that a momentary denial of my otherwise constantly filled desires does not produce anger, wrath and ill-advised accusations against God Himself.
May I be thankful in plenty as in poverty, and especially at all times for the rain.
Fall leaves looking toward my office