Sep 18th, 2009 by Bill
Libra 1: Getting the Balance Right
Jesus then left that place and went into the region of Judea and across the Jordan. Again crowds of people came to him, and as was his custom, he taught them.
Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?’
‘What did Moses command you?’ he replied. They said, ‘Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.’ ‘It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,’ Jesus replied. ‘But at the beginning of creation God “made them male and female”. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.’
Story: The Two Foolish Cats
Once upon a time there were two cats. One was a big, black cat; the other a small tabby. These two cats were best friends; they went everywhere together, and shared many adventures. And they very rarely quarrelled. One day, they came across the remains of a picnic which some untidy, thoughtless people had left behind on the grass, and there, among the empty bottles and uneaten sandwiches, were two pieces of cake.
Now these two cats happened to share a passion for cake – unusual, I know, but these were strange cats – and this was very good cake: cream cake topped with icing and strawberry jam. ‘I’ve not had cake like this for a long time,’ said the big black cat. ‘It’s great!’ But no sooner were the words out of his mouth, than he noticed that his piece was smaller than his friend’s piece. ‘Hey!’ he said, angrily. ‘Your piece is bigger than mine, and it’s not fair! I’m bigger than you, and so I should have the bigger piece!’
The small tabby cat could see the logic of this, and he was just about to agree to a swap, when he thought of something. ‘Yes, you are bigger than I,’ he said to his friend, ‘but if I don’t eat more than you, I’ll never become big. So I should have the bigger piece.’
This made sense, too. The two cats didn’t know what to do. ‘I know,’ said the big, black cat. ‘We’ll go to the wise monkey in the forest. He’ll know how to solve our problem.’
So the two cats set off to find the wise monkey. ‘Mr. Wise Monkey! Mr. Wise Monkey!’ they called, as they approached the tree where he lived. ‘I’m up here!’ shouted the monkey. And there he was, sitting in his tree, with a pair of weight-scales in his hand – just what was needed to sort out the problem.
‘We want you to settle an argument, Mr. Wise Monkey,’ began the big, black cat. ‘Yes,’ interrupted the tabby. ‘We have two pieces of cake, but one is bigger than the other. My friend is bigger than I, but if I don’t eat more than he does, I’ll never grow. I think I should have the bigger piece, and he thinks that he should have it. Can you divide them so that we get equal shares?’
‘You’ve come to right person,’ said the Wise Monkey. ‘I’m just the one to make sure that you get equal shares. Let me see the two pieces.’ The cats handed over the pieces of cake, and the monkey placed them on either side of his weight scales. ‘Yes, I can see your problem; this one is much bigger than that,’ he said, picking the bigger piece off the scale. ‘I’ll just even them up!’ and with that, he took a big bite. Then he placed it back on the scale. This time the other piece was heavier. ‘Oh, I’d better have a piece out of this one, now,’ he said taking a bite. And so it went on, first a bite from one piece, then a bite from the other, and, despite protests from the two cats, he didn’t stop until he’d devoured both pieces. ‘There you are,’ said the monkey. ‘You’ve got equal shares now! That’s what you came for, isn’t it? You’ve nothing to quarrel about now, so you may thank me and leave.’
The two hungry cats left a lot wiser than they arrived. And they never quarrelled again.
n the 23rd September this year the sun entered the zodiacal sign of Libra. You can always tell when the sun is approaching this point on its journey through the heavens, because people start to say (when they can think of nothing else to say), ‘The nights are drawing in now, aren’t they?’ And indeed they are. The long days of summer are over. Now it’s dark at 7.30 pm, and most of us are getting out of bed before dawn. Now day and night are of equal duration – twelve hours or so of each – with the point of exactitude occurring on 23rd September, the day of the autumnal equinox. Six months ago we had the spring equinox, and day and night were equal then, too, but there is a difference between these two points: after the spring equinox, the light begins to dominate; after the autumn equinox, the darkness begins to prevail. Soon, it will be dark when you arrive at work, and dark before you set off home.
The contrast between light and darkness, which is almost lost on us because of our electric lights and round the clock lifestyle, would have had a marked impact upon people in times gone by, who would have been compelled to organise their lives around the natural rhythms of night and day. Daylight was for activity and work; darkness for rest and sleep; in the daylight they could be reasonably secure from predators and so could act alone; in the night they were vulnerable and needed each other for safety and for comfort. We still say, ‘Things will look different in the daylight,’ meaning that the light will put a temporary end to those nameless fears which seem to beset us in the darkness. Brendan Behan once described himself as ‘a daylight atheist’, a theological position with which many of us will be familiar: when the sun is shining and we’ve plenty to do, those nagging questions about existence which will often assail us in the darkness seem to evaporate.
The zodiac, which, as I’ve constantly stressed, is simply the path of the sun in the sky, derives its imagery, in part, from this interplay of light and dark. In the spring, when the light begins to dominate, we have the sign Aries, which symbolises the growing light of individual consciousness struggling against the forces of collective darkness, and so Aries comes to represent the loner, the pioneer, the trailblazer, who heads off almost recklessly to chart new paths for the rest of us to follow. In the autumn, when the darkness begins to prevail, we have Aries’ complementary sign Libra, which symbolises intimacy, relationships, marriage – social and communal activities, as opposed to individualistic ones. Jeff Mayo, who taught me the language of astrology 40 years ago, and whose book Teach Yourself Astrology is still one of the best introductions to the subject, says that Libra symbolises ‘the primitive urge for unity and relatedness with others…. and the need to conform to an ideal pattern of community life’. People who are strongly Libran are said to be cooperative, socially aware, with a strong sense of justice and fair play. Their ‘ruling planet’ is Venus, the planet of love and beauty, which tends to render them amorous, stylish, artistic, refined, but with an unfortunate tendency (they say) to laziness and self-indulgence.
The symbol of Libra is the balance, reflecting the equinoctial balance between night and day, but also symbolising the balance between all pairs of opposites: the individual and the community, male and female, work and rest, outgoing and indrawing, initiative and caution. The Libran scales are used as symbols of justice – paying what one owes to the community. On the Old Bailey courts in London, there is a statue of the goddess of Justice with scales in her hands, and in ancient Egypt, Libra was the goddess Ma’at, who was said to weigh the souls of the dead against a feather; those who passed her test were ‘light hearted’, those who failed it ‘heavy hearted’. The word ‘Libra’ is the Latin word for a pound weight, and in the pre-decimal system of weights and measures the pound was abbreviated to ‘lb’, a contraction of Libra.
The Greeks called Libra Zugos, the Yoke, which refers to the wooden device fixed across the necks of oxen to keep them together as they were pulling the plough, reflecting once again the notion of harmony, balance, and working together, which are central to the symbolism of Libra.
In the Gospel of Mark, the Libran section begins, appropriately, with an argument over marriage. In an attempt to trap Jesus into making an injudicious reply, some Pharisees ask Jesus about the legality of divorcing one’s wife. Jesus, quoting from the Book of Genesis, tells them that male and female become ‘one flesh’ in marriage (Genesis 2:24), and that men shouldn’t separate what God has joined together.
‘Joined together’ is a translation of the Greek word ‘sunezeuxen’ which literally means ‘yoked together’, from the very same root as ‘zugos’ the Greek word for the sign Libra. This is added confirmation that Mark is following the sequence of the zodiacal signs in his narrative.
For its time, this gospel teaching on marriage was really radical. Marriage was not a sacred institution in the ancient world and divorce was commonplace, even among the Jews, for whom monogamy was the ideal. Theoretically, divorce was open to both parties, but given the general status of women at that time, it was hardly an option for the female. William Barclay describes the situation as follows:
One thing vitiated the whole marriage relationship. The woman in the eyes of the law was a thing. She was at the absolute disposal of her father or of her husband. She had virtually no legal rights at all. To all intents and purposes a woman could not divorce her husband for any reason, and a man could divorce his wife for any cause at all. ‘A woman,’ said the Rabbinic law, ‘may be divorced with or without her will; but a man only with his will.’ (Barclay, The Gospel of Mark, page 151)
Getting a divorce was very simple. The man had to give his wife a ‘bill of divorcement’ in the presence of two witnesses. This stated: ‘Let this be from me thy writ of divorce and letter of dismissal and deed of liberation, that thou mayest marry whatsoever thou wilt.’
The passage from the Jewish scriptures to which the Pharisees refer in their discussion with Jesus can be found in Deuteronomy 24:1. The text states that a man may divorce his wife ‘if she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her’. The prevailing opinion among rabbis at the time of Jesus was that this was a specific reference to adultery, but certain rabbis, following Rabbi Akiba, considered that ‘finding no favour’ in one’s wife could simply mean that one no longer thought her attractive. The rabbinic school of Hillel taught that a man might divorce his wife if:
she spoiled his dinner by putting too much salt in his food, if she went in public with her head uncovered, if she talked with men in the streets, if she was a brawling woman, if she spoke disrespectfully of her husband’s parents in his presence, if she was troublesome or quarrelsome. (Barclay, The Gospel of Mark, page 152)
Divorce, it seems, was possible on the flimsiest of pretexts.
This teaching on the sanctity of marriage is an obvious improvement on what preceded it, but the total ban on divorce, which Jesus’ teaching has been used to justify, has left its own legacy of misery and injustice, and I don’t think the text is really advocating this. We undoubtedly need to extend the principles of justice, fairness, and balance into our intimate lives, but there is a deeper meaning to the text which has been missed in all the legalistic moralising which a purely surface reading has occasioned. The mystical traditions preserve another dimension to marriage which transcends its function as a social institution. The union of male and female does not just refer to the coupling we call matrimony. The ‘sacred marriage’ is something that occurs within the individual. ‘In the beginning,’ it says in the Book of Genesis, ‘God created them male and female’ (Genesis 1:27). The original, perfect state of the human being is one of balance between spirit (male) and matter (female), which were joined in harmonious unity and balance – the image of God -, before being sundered by the Fall.
In the Tao Te Ching, which precedes the Christian scriptures by at least five hundred years, we read about the eternal interplay between the opposites, yin and yang. Yin refers to the characteristics of softness, passivity, femininity, darkness, the valley, the moon, the negative polarity; yang refers to characteristics such as hardness, masculinity, brightness, the mountain, the sun, the positive polarity. All reality is based upon these two opposing forces, say the Taoists. Neither is superior; both are necessary, and each contains the seed of the other. The Taoist attempts to see these forces at work in the world and in himself, and to act in harmony with them, uniting the opposite forces within himself. ‘Tao’ means ‘The Way’, and it is significant that Christianity was originally called ‘The Way’ (Acts 9:2).
At about the same time that Lao Tzu was compiling the Tao Te Ching in China, Plato was writing in Greece. In his Symposium, he makes reference to a myth that was probably very ancient even then, that at one time male and female were joined together, and the human being had four legs not two, but because in that state they were considered to present a threat to the gods, Zeus cut them in two, and now the separated halves are doomed to spend their time seeking each other. There was also a warning that, if the two legged creatures misbehave, Zeus would cut them again! At the heart of this myth lies the notion that male and female constitute a unity, a unity that has been lost, but which can and must be re-established within the individual.
We find the same idea within Christian mysticism. We have tended to see marriage as the union of a man with a woman in mutually rewarding partnership with, traditionally, a clear demarcation of duties and responsibilities. This indeed is so, and has its place, but there is another dimension to this teaching which we find in the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas:
When you make the two one, and when you make the outside like the inside, and the above like the below, and when you make the male and the female one and the same so that the male be not male nor the female female, then you will enter the kingdom. (Saying 22)
The ‘sacred marriage’ is not the public jamboree, complete with white dress, bridesmaids, posh food and an exotic honeymoon. The sacred marriage occurs when the spiritually mature individual is able to balance male and female, yang and yin, activity and passivity, spirit and matter, science and mystery, striving and yielding, adventure and repose, and a whole host of other complementary forces, within him or her self.
Balancing the polarities within the self may take some doing but it doesn’t require us to learn anything new or to embark upon years of spiritual training. In fact, Robert Fulghum, in his celebrated essay All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten says that we were well acquainted with this principle before we started big school. What did we learn by the sand pit in the nursery?
Don’t hit people.
Put things back where you found them.
Clean up your own mss.
Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
Wash your hands before you eat.
Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
It’s as simple as that! And yet how difficult is it in our 24/7, work-hard play-hard, striving, competitive, comparative, acquisitive world is it to put these things into practice! But the great spiritual message of Libra, is that just as day and night come naturally into equilibrium, so must we strive to bring that sense of balance into our own lives. The reward – personally and socially – for finding the balance is immense. As Plato’s myth intimates, when the male and female principles are joined in harmony within an individual, she attains a state in which she could almost challenge the gods.
Libra 2: Distractions
When he’d gone back on to the road, a man came running towards him. He fell on his knees before him and said, ‘Good teacher, what should I do in order to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t tell lies, don’t defraud, honour your father and your mother.’ He replied, ‘Teacher, I’ve kept all these from my youth.’ Jesus, gazing at him, warmed towards him, and said, ‘There’s only one thing you need. Sell what you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. And come follow me!’
But the young man was upset by what Jesus said, and he went away sorrowfully because he was a man of great wealth. Looking round, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘How difficult it is for a very wealthy person to enter the kingdom of God!’ His disciples were astonished at his words, but Jesus told them again, ‘Children, how difficult it is to go into the kingdom of God! It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.’ They were extremely shocked and said to one another, ‘Who can be saved then?’ Looking intently at them, Jesus said, ‘With men it’s impossible, but not with God. Everything is possible with God.’ Peter began to say to him, ‘Look. We left everything and have followed you.’ Jesus said, ‘I’m telling you the truth, there’s no one who has left a house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for my sake and the sake of the good news who won’t now receive a hundred times more houses, brothers, sisters, mothers and children and fields (with persecution) and in the coming age, eternal life! Many who are first will be last, and the last first.’
Story: The Diamond
One night, Hemendra had a dream in which a voice told him that if he were to go into the park the next day he would meet a man who would give him a treasure so great that it would change his life.
When he awoke, Hemendra could not get the dream out of his head. He didn’t normally pay much attention to his dreams, and anyway, he generally couldn’t remember them, but this one had been so vivid that he could remember all the details even after he had eaten his breakfast. He had nothing else to do that day so, a little sceptical but with nothing to lose, he decided he’d walk in the park and see what he could see.
No sooner had he passed through the park gates than he saw an old man sitting on a bench. ‘Perhaps that could be the man who is going to change my life,’ he thought to himself. He approached the man and said, ‘Excuse me, sir, but could it be possible that you have something precious to give me? I had a dream last night in which I was told to come into the park and seek a man who would give me something of great value.’
The old man said, ‘Well, all I possess is in this little bag. I’ll have a look. Maybe there’s something I can give you.’ He emptied out his bag on the grass, and along with a few inconsequential items there was a huge diamond! It was bigger than Hemendra’s fist! ‘Perhaps that’s it,’ stammered Hemendra, pointing at the diamond.
‘Oh, the stone! I’d forgotten about the stone! I picked it up in the forest a few days ago. You can certainly have it. It’s no good to me.’ With that he handed over the diamond to Hemendra, who thanked him profusely and then rushed off before the old man had chance to change his mind.
All the way home Hemendra thought about what he would do with the money that the diamond would bring him. He’d buy a big house, hire servants, eat the best food, drink the finest wine, travel to exotic places. He was so excited! It was too late for him to go to the big city to sell his treasure, so he put it under his pillow just to keep it safe, and tried to go to sleep. But he couldn’t sleep. He tossed and turned in bed, and, at the first light of dawn, he got up and went back into the park. There, sitting on the same bench, was the old man. Hemendra handed him the diamond. ‘Please take this back,’ he said, ‘and give me instead the wealth that makes it possible for you to give such a thing away.’
ictoria Coren is a very talented and versatile English woman. She writes a column in the Observer, presents Balderdash and Piffle, a programme on BBC 2 about words and their origins, commentates on and writes about poker, in addition to being a world-renowned poker player. A few months ago Victoria won $1 million (£500,000) in a poker tournament, and in a recent Observer column she made the following honest and very perceptive comment about how this win has affected her:
Do I feel rich? Quite the opposite. Having never had real money in the bank before, its existence has created a sudden nervousness in me about not having it. I worry about how long it will last, and what I will do when it has gone. I never wanted or needed half a million pounds; now I’ve got it, I wish it was a million. Or five million. I suddenly understand how footballers, the moment they can afford to fly everywhere first class, start worrying that they can’t afford a private jet. (The Observer, 7th October, 2007)
How curious that her reaction to winning an enormous amount of money is exactly the opposite of what we would expect. Instead of exulting in her good fortune, she’s lamenting the fact that she didn’t win more. Now that she’s rich, she feels the urge to become richer. It’s no doubt the same feeling that lottery winners have when they share a prize: ‘I may have won two million, but if I’d been the only winner this week, it would have been eight million. Just my luck!’ And it’s probably something similar which drives the super rich to compromise their integrity by advertising products they never use for sums of money they’ll never need. The late, lamented, Bill Hicks, said that anyone who ever endorses any commercial product, automatically forfeits his or her rights to an opinion on any subject whatsoever, and when I see millionaire film actors and pop stars extolling the virtues of Tesco or Marks and Spencer, I am inclined to agree with him. What possibly motivates someone who is already rich beyond the dreams of avarice to earn a few measly hundred thousand in this way?
Yesterday’s Guardian carried this little gem about the actress Liz Hurley:
The multi-millionaire model, clothing designer, producer, and greatest spangly knickers wearer this country has ever produced was this week accused by Gloucestershire parishioners of breaking a promise to make a cash donation to the chapel in which her forty-two part marriage to Arun Nayar was blessed. Rev. John Partington, apparently waived the standard thousand pound fee in the hope that the couple would disburse a sum more commensurate with their exceptional wealth. Chapel members were hoping for enough to replace the boiler. This, they think, will prove difficult to do with the twelve hand-embroidered cassocks La Hurley sent in return for the service rendered. ‘It strikes me as rather mean,’ said Chapel treasurer, Sue Williams, ‘especially as I understand that most of the wedding was paid for by a magazine,’ proving that the art of understatement is alive and well and living in Winchcombe. (The Guardian, 20th October, 2007)
And the film producer Eli Roth is quoted as saying that his pet hates are the greed and envy he has found among actors: ‘You meet with actors,’ he says, ‘and they’re so excited to get involved in a project, then all they start worrying about is that their trailer is not big enough.’ (The Guardian Magazine, 20th October, 2007)
The plain fact is that, for most of us, enough is never enough. We get used to things so quickly that today’s exciting novelty is tomorrow’s boring commonplace. Ten years ago I would have willingly waited an hour to download an email from the other side of the world; now, if it takes twenty seconds I’m drumming my fingers with impatience. It’s also true that today’s privilege becomes tomorrow’s entitlement. As someone has so wisely observed, ‘When a man first borrows from you, he’ll kiss your hand; the second time he’ll doff his cap; the third time he’ll nod, and the fourth time he’ll chide you for being late with the payment, and the fifth time he’ll ask you for twice as much’. When I was undergoing treatment in St. James’ hospital in Leeds, I had to pick up a prescription from the pharmacy every Monday. There was invariably a queue, and sometimes a wait of an hour or so while the hard pressed pharmacists sorted out the drugs. But Morag and I would wait patiently, maybe get a coffee from the machine, or go for a stroll round the hospital grounds. After all, we were getting extremely expensive drugs for nothing. There was a little sign which told you how long you could expect to wait before picking up your completed prescription. On one occasion, a young woman – no more than about 19 – was sitting with her tattooed boyfriend. They had a child in a push-chair, and another child on the way. She took one look at the expected completion time and said, ‘They needn’t think I’m waiting for fifty minutes,’ and with that she stormed out of the hospital.
This woman’s grandparents would have thought the National Health Service in Britain just about the twentieth century’s greatest achievement; I know my parents did. But she had been raised on free consultations, free operations, and free medicine. Now she wanted them immediately.
I’m not blaming her. She simply exemplifies a pretty consistent human characteristic. We have no real perspective on things. We in the developed West are fabulously rich compared with our pretty recent ancestors. When Ernest Savell Hicks, the minister here from 1910 to 1962, first came to Dublin, he and his wife nearly caught the next boat back to England because they were horrified to see children in bare feet on a winter’s day. There are no bare feet now. Poverty has changed its face. Morag and I cleared the church doorway one day last week while Kevin was away, and in addition to the usual sheets of cardboard and blankets that had been left there by the rough sleepers, we found some unopened packets of sandwiches, and about three euros in loose change. These particular beggars didn’t want change and they didn’t want food. I have seen two of the people who regularly come here for money using mobile phones in the street. No money for food or rent, but money enough to make frivolous phone calls while on the move.
All of which demonstrates what we all know: poverty is relative. And because it is relative, it can never be eliminated. Once poverty meant no shoes; now it means no flat screen T.V., or no ipod. Poor people are those who want more than they have – which covers just about all of us. In fact, some of the poorest people I know, people who feel that their lives are blighted because of lack of money, are really extraordinarily well off. They have money, but they can’t bring themselves to spend it.
Which brings us to today’s gospel passage, the story of the Rich Young Man. ‘What can I do to inherit eternal life?’ the young man asks Jesus. ‘You know the commandments,’ replies Jesus. ‘Keep them.’ ‘I have kept them all my life,’ says the young man. ‘You lack only one thing,’ says Jesus. ‘Sell all you have and give the proceeds to the poor. Then come follow me.’ But the young man can’t do it.
This particular passage is appropriately placed here, in the Libra section of the Gospel of Mark, because, as I said last week, Libra is associated with charm, style, attractiveness and flair, all characteristics of this young man. The man is loveable and Jesus ‘warms towards him’. What’s more, he is a law abiding citizen who has tried to do his duty to God and to his fellows, and Libra concerns the law and our legal obligations. His one failing, according to Jesus, is that he cannot relinquish his wealth, and this is keeping him from taking the next step in his development as a human being, called in the Gospel ‘entry into the kingdom of God’. Real wealth is reaching a state of consciousness in which we are no longer slaves to the things we own. Remember the last line of the story I told the children: ‘Give me the wealth that enables you to give away such a precious diamond.’
Last week I also said that the Egyptians associated Libra with the goddess Ma’at, who weighed the souls of the dead in the balance, and those who passed her test were ‘light hearted’, those who failed it ‘heavy hearted’. This rich young man leaves Jesus sorrowful, ‘heavy hearted’; he has just been weighed in the balance and found wanting.
Why does Jesus tell the man to give everything to the poor? Not, I think, because Jesus was on this occasion particularly concerned about the poor. He was concerned about the state of the rich man’s soul. It’s harder for a rich person to enter into the kingdom of God than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, says Jesus in a wonderfully arresting image, but these are not the words of an early Che Guevara. Jesus was no politician. Of course, Jesus was not advocating living in penury. Abject poverty leaves us no time or inclination to pursue the interior life of the spirit. But Jesus knew, as all the spiritual luminaries know, that wealth keeps us from this, too. For a start, it gives us enormous headaches, as Victoria Coren is finding. How can I protect it? Why don’t I have more? Why has he got more than me? What would happen to me if I lost it? To whom can I leave it? In addition, it gives us ample opportunity to squander our time in shallow and frivolous entertainment, of which we soon tire, and which ultimately proves unsatisfying. ‘Getting and spending we lay waste our powers,’ says William Wordsworth. Consuming, accumulating, protecting, displaying take us away from more spiritually productive activities. ‘The more you possess, the greater the tedium,’ says St. Teresa of Avila. Possessions and money are not wicked, but, if we are not careful, they can distract us from the things that matter. Teresa goes on:
It’s as if a person were to enter a place where the sun is shining but be hardly able to open his eyes because of the mud in them. ….So, I think, must be the condition of the soul. Even though it may not be in a bad state, it is so involved in worldly affairs and so absorbed with its possessions, honour, or business affairs, that even though as a matter of fact it would want to see and enjoy its beauty, these things do not allow it to; nor does it seem that it can slip free from so many impediments. If a person is to enter the second dwelling place, it is important that he strive to give up unnecessary things and business affairs. Each one should do this in conformity with his state of life. (Bielecki, page 49)
One day last week, I happened to catch an item on GMTV, ITV’s morning magazine show. The presenter, Fiona Phillips, was in Tanzania, meeting up with a young girl called Neema, whom she has been sponsoring for the past few years. After showing us the one room mud hut that the family of six had been sleeping in, and introducing us to the members of the family, Fiona said something like, ‘These people have nothing. Just happiness, respect, and love.’ And she wasn’t trying to be smart or ironic. It made me wonder who should be sponsoring whom.