Monday, November 15, 2010

Gulo Gulo

I watched PBS's Nature last night. The program was "Wolverine: Chasing the Phantom." And among the many amazing things they said concerning this marvelous creature was its Latin name: Gulo gulo. The name means "glutton glutton." And I've been thinking about gluttony since and it seems to me right that the Desert Fathers thought of it as the heart of our sin - the first sin is a sin of gluttony and all sin flows forth from it. (Pride, C.S. Lewis - I hear you.) This is why fasting is of such paramount importance to the Fathers and the Orthodox even still. Fasting undoes the first sin. Now, I am not real big on fasting. (Whereas feasting is spirituality I can dig in to.)I wrestle with my gluttony, my avarice toward all things - consumption, gluttony, seems to be the prize of American culture and any limit imposed on it is flatly rejected (though more precisely any limit imposed from without rather than freely taken on by oneself). There is no true freedom in accumulation - more for the sake of more. (See Jonathan Franzen's Freedom.) My dog is a picture of my heart. She is a voracious, out-of-control scavenger. At times, ratlike. My cats are also this way. Especially the semi-feral cat. You have to pull Francis out of his food just to finish pouring it. There is no contentment, no rest. So it is with our hearts. This is why it is so important to share, to give alms. To say No to self in order to say Yes to my neighbor. To suppress the gulo gulo in each of us.

This is also part of the beauty and hardship of living generously in a large family, I might add. Twelve Popsicles mean two apiece. Maybe. Probably not, though, because Daddy might give some out to the little ones at home while the bigger ones are learning about landforms. And then there aren't enough Popsicles for everyone. And if there aren't enough for everyone, then nobody gets one. It's hard. But it is also blessing. It helps us form godliness and love within us. And it's hard.

It is like this in our world. We are a large family, and we must share. Because so many are without clean water and food. So many are dying while we become Mayors of our favorite restaurants. While we become fat. While we hoard and fill our barns. And build bigger barns. May God have mercy on us; that we might draw near to him, who pours himself out freely and unreservedly to all.