20 October 2011


The downtrodden starts with nothing, yet by self-determination, work, innovation, and courage, achieve middle class security and comfort. We fatten our cultural selves with these myths. Family, friends, schools, and media meld success tales into us with images and words. American mythology cultivates rags to riches tales; some stories are even true.

I was born into riches. My birth parents attained upper middle-class post World War II security and comfort. I lived it. I never dreamed it. It was the air I breathed and water I drank. My parents did what they wanted and possessed what they wanted. My parents taught me I could do anything and have anything. My parents gave me resources to do this. They were proud of it!

For my father and my mother their tool was the mind. My mother was ashamed of her farm family laboring life. My father was ashamed of his laboring shanty-irish railroad family. Labor was what someone else did. Their mind, not body and hands, was their tool. The use of mind, not character, was their ideal. It was the very beginning of the end of an economic, social, and cultural time. This was their time and my father taught me, “You can do anything you want.” He’d say it again, over time again and again. Now I sense he was reassuring himself, intuitively realizing he couldn't do anything he wanted, feeling, sensing, seeing his mind wasn't enough. He voiced contempt for this son's choices. What was to come for the son whose father taught him he could do anything he wanted? I’m a cultural antithesis of Horatio Alger. No one dreams of the everything to nothing story.

I’m proud, but now not so much that I’m blind to blessings and ashamed by my limitations. I labor with my hands and body. I bring my mind with me. I persist at new tasks that feel, but are not, overwhelming. I try with the best I'm blessed with, and I sense I do good enough. I do not feel the goal I accomplish. I see darkly what I've done. I might speak, but I sense no one who might listen and hear. What can one learn from one who started with a silver spoon and lives now with his sense of limitations?

I'm blessed with an abundance of resources. I have food, clothing, and shelter that are good enough. I have physical and mental health and access to medical care. I have family, loved ones, and a social network of fellowship. I have work and the needed tools for fruitful use for myself and others. I have financial resources and use them prudently. I have education, the gift to learn from my failures, and for self-expression. I have accomplishments and achievements that reflect me and my history and culture, which I pray may give meaning to others. I know social cues and skills, freedom of choice, and navigate culture. I have spiritual and religious resources and I express them for my sustenance and that of others. This litany of I have is success. Lord, I believe. Please help me recall your blessings, and please help my unbelief.

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