Archive for December, 2011

Recently a friend asked what my faith is to me and I ponder the depth of what this question mean to me. What is Seventhday Adventism to me? In the process I was drawn to the question of the Sabbath, the concept of rest.  What is so restless about our society that makes rest a rare commodity?  We always talk about rest but it does not seem as if there’s really a place in our world. Even in the world of Adventism that I’m in. There are plenty of striving and struggling to be good enough as defined by the religious insitution and interpreted locally and regionally. When perfection is demanded, there’s no room for vulnerability. And without vulnerability, there’s no room for rest neither.

A couple of months ago I had the privilege of sitting with a Thai professor from Chulalongkorn University. I asked him about sustainability and he invited me to reflect back to the time with Thailand was a agricultural society. People learned to live and give and share. There were not major disparity between wealth and poverty. The distribution of wealth was within appropriate range. Then came industrial revolution, the progression of machines and technology that enabled mass production that was once not within reach.  This mass production as a result of machines and technology result in the widening of the gap in production and hence income. Disparity of distribution increased. Where once farmers used to take turn to assist one another in harvesting and planting, with the arrival of machines and mass production, sharing was no longer practiced and replaced by wages.  Farmers stopped helping others and started demanding wages for their sweat. I suspect the repitition of this process further played an important role in rewriting local and national narratives on what it means to succeed in a society. A new public discourse emerged.  A new measure of success articulated and populated. Quantification became the means for the measure of success.

But really, is there a basis by which quantification become the standard measure for success? Why not sharing, why not contentment, why not happiness, why not compassion s as measures for success? There are no more ground for accumulative quantification as measure for success then contentment and happiness and compassion. I have nothing against quantification. But to set this as a standard for measure seems arbritary. We can probably say I like to acquire and accumulate because I like comfort or for the pleasure it can afford but I think success needs to be redefined.  Because success becomes the place where people measure themselves and their worth. And there’s nothing more important for a person than to realize their worth. But the society caught in this definition of succcess (and here I am looking way beyond economics. There are always so many standards of measure for so many different areas in our lives such as good looks, reputable careers, cognitive ability as meaasured by standardized tests etc).  I think for this very reason it becomes difficult for us to find that place where we can rest. And I do not mean rest only in a literal sense but  figurative sense as well.  When there’s room for validation of simplicity, rest becomes a possibility. And as a result, this philosophical shift toward simplicity becomes sustainable.

I guess this is perhaps the place in my current journey into what my faith means to me at this point in my life. And who knows what might happen in the futurer…..

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