I love capoeira. Ok, mildly obsessed. This August I have the opportunity to attend an international training and earn my first belt. Besides being terrified of having my ass handed to me, I have Wendell Berry’s words in my mind:
“To live, we must daily break the body and shed the blood of Creation. When we do this knowingly, lovingly, skillfully, reverently, it is a sacrament. When we do it ignorantly, greedily, clumsily, destructively, it is a desecration.”
I am conscious of how much time, energy and material resources-body and blood of creation-this mild obsession requires. Weekly, I train 6 or more hours. That’s time away from my family, friends, other pursuits and responsibilities. I wear a uniform I can’t get from a thrift store. That means finite resources, water and fossil fuels are expended for me. I sometimes drive the half-mile to class, more materials depletion, because I didn’t manage my schedule to include walking.
Just to pursue a hobby.
Every day, necessarily, I break body and shed blood of creation to live. Now I’m contemplating travel, food, accommodations and miscellany for 3 days; draining the earth’s resources solely to satisfy my desire. Traveling invariably requires unsustainable choices and this trip will benefit no one but myself.
In a sermon, a friend once said, “God distract me from myself.” I think about this a lot. Media, industries with their enticing gizmos and programs and even places of worship, keep me preoccupied with myself. As though my hobbies, appearance, health, pleasure, personal and spiritual growth, home décor, all my life’s minutiae, are supposed to dominate my energy, time and money, regardless of their environmental toll. As though it’s perfectly natural, indeed my right, to exhaust natural resources-break body and shed blood of creation-for whatever pleases me.
But to borrow from Star Trek, what is my prime directive?
I don’t think my prime directive is to focus primarily on what benefits or entertains me. Despite propaganda to the contrary, I do not think I was created and lavished with opportunity, intelligence, health and wealth, merely to pursue my own contentment and in the process, trash the planet.
Just before my last class, I read an article about the government’s increasing reliance on drones in what is devolving into unending and unjustifiable ‘war.’ This is on my mind as I’m doing push ups. How can I simultaneously care about Yemeni children being blown up and having nice guns? In fact, the notion of nice guns being a priority and you knowing what I mean by that but maybe not knowing exactly where Yemen is or why we’re terrorizing the Yemeni people, underscores my point. It is easy to telescope my attention to what’s put directly in front of me for my benefit or entertainment. I find encouragement to do so all around me.
What if I relinquished my fabricated directive to be athletic and have nice guns for the real directive to inform (perhaps mobilize) a citizenry of its government’s reign of terror in the Middle East? For this agenda, breaking body and shedding blood of creation would be, as Berry says, sacramental and therefore, worthwhile.
Is it a surprise when governments carry out atrocities while its populace stands by? It’s one thing if a people are too consumed with meeting their basic needs- water, food, shelter-to challenge leaders. But what if we’re preoccupied with Candy Crush Saga or flying across the country to play capoeira?
It’s simple. Because I am finite, when I focus my energy, time and money on my interests I can’t attend to other, more vital things.
Moreover, how can I exhaust finite natural resources, break body and shed blood of creation, to indulge a hobby when God continually distracts me with the world’s suffering?