All that Glitters

Go on, finish the thought. You know what comes next. I have been chewing on this question for a while and would love to hear your take:

Is there a person who is pure in heart?

Originally the topic isolated itself, pertaining solely to fame which then bled into success oozing into pride and ending in such a new rendering of the original that it could be described as diabolical. Sometimes. Is it worse for the have-nots when they experience what it is to have? I can’t imagine that we are that simple and base. And yet consider two scenarios:

POOR BRILLIANT KID WINS BIG
He just wanted to be a doctor and earn his degree from Harvard Med. He was brilliant and poor and about to come into a winning lotto ticket so to speak in the opportunity of counting cards in Las Vegas. In the beginning, we see him at MIT, young, gangly, and unsure of himself save in the area of mental acuity. But he finds himself seen as more than a geeky kid and learns to walk with a swagger in Vegas. And all of a sudden the kid who was counting cards to earn just enough for Harvard Med. is so incredibly ensconced in his new life that Harvard Med. “will work itself out” and shrugs off his old college friends. He goes from wearing undergrad Boston scruff and tumble to the sleek Vegas suits. And we have accompanied him side-seat in this roller coaster ride from poverty to power.

JANITOR TO THE BRITISH BECOMES PRESIDENT OF HIS OWN COUNTRY
He always had a way of connecting with people. It might have been his contagious laugh or perhaps the relish of saying he is one of the people, that his “troops eat before he gets a meal.” And the expectant crowd goes wild. He has wooed a young Scottish doctor and convinced him to care for him and his family as doctor to the president and first family. They swim at the pool of the luxury hotel on a regular basis, have drinks at the local club. It can’t get any better for the young doctor until he starts hearing about disappearances of people who speak out against the president. And first-hand comes to know the diseased mind of the president who has made an art out of violence replacing beauty, 300,000 scalps in the end slung around his belt of mass killings.

These are two movies both based on actual historical events. And they make me wonder about you and me- are we so different? See power does interesting things to a person. It is almost like a spell that is cast and from which comes something so thoroughly different than what went in. And it is something of which I am conscious on a daily basis, trying to ascertain how I might be a good and fair boss to two people I value greatly. It is a chalice from which I try not to drink too often because if I were to sit back and evaluate my life, I have more power than ever before. And I sometimes see the changes in rude forms. The compassion of my 20’s for the homeless has been eradicated. I have become that person I used to scorn, where it is easier to not look, not say anything than to engage in a problem I have little time to address with my whole person and life. I consider the dreams and what a better person I was back when I had less. I’m not a bad person. I make more money now than ever before and this enables me to give more away. But there is the other gnawing evidences of change of plan, of “pragmatism” sometimes in the face of vision.

Take the artist. They love their craft and the revelations that are realized as the poem is written or a fabulous aria is sung exquisitely. There is a relishing of practicing that which portrays the depths of the spirit to the external world that makes a person feel thoroughly alive and real and on adrenaline. But then comes esteem, fame, money and how does this hone the art? Does the artist relish any more? Any less? Is the act of creating less about creating and more about the audience? More about living the good life? How do artists reconcile money and power and fame from tarnishing fresh insight or molding purity into pomp?

What about learning? Can there be a place of learning for the joy of learning without also accepting the mantle of snobbery that comes with post-graduate education or initials after one’s name? An article in the New Yorker spoke about people whose sense of smell related to wine is so acute they can only be understood and fully appreciated by a few select people in their inner circle who also speak the lingo. And this had to perhaps begin at desire or passion that then becomes encumbered by the lilt and pull of their own voice and importance of its weight after a while.

Back to pride and success and power. I want to know fully how a person can withstand the white-hot poker of their call and remain pure of heart. For one of the two scenarios above, the MIT kid had everything taken from him and in a sense was able to rediscover himself through his loss. The president was sent to exile and the Scottish doctor barely escaped from a brutal execution.

Sunday morning Fred spoke about power and success in a redefining of the new community Jesus sought to bring about. He called 12 disciples to a new community, a New Covenant, akin to Moses dictating the words of God in the Old Covenant to the 12 tribes. I’m not saying Jesus and Moses are the same. Far from it, but I bring this up to merely say repetitions are important. They signify the writer’s thread stitching together fabric swatches into a quilt of unified thought. Fred is going to unpack how to address the success, the power and the source of the new community next Sunday.

I love it when a spiritual message is in sync with the thoughts traipsing in and out of my brain throughout the week. I love it when we are reminded how human, in human we are- embracing a greater sense that conquering this fell beast cannot be done alone, but with a Friend who is the Giver of gifts and the Pardoner of wrongs. Fool’s gold glitters yes, but reveals itself as pyrite to the keen eye of the appraiser.

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