Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The Power of Hunger

Beth Blodgett, a Quaker friend, has been called to a monastic life of simplicity, prayer and peace in rural Honduras. A pediatrician by training, she volunteers one day a week at a clinic in a town about an hour away from her remote cabin.

The rest of her time is, by necessity, devoted to survival

She returned to Portland recently to tell us of her life and how it has changed her.

She is noticeably thinner (I believe she said she has lost 50 pounds). Her austere diet, like her simple way of life, is, by choice, like that of her neighbors.

One comment she made has stuck with me because of its deeper meaning. “I’ve passed through ‘having an appetite’ to actual hunger,” she said.

I remember when, years ago, Beth “had an appetite” for an ascetic life in Central America. When her appetite grew to hunger, her life changed.

How much of my own life is now merely satisfying my appetite? What would it mean to hunger for what I believe?

To hunger for peace, to hunger for justice, to hunger for equality. What would it mean to go from satisfying my appetite by signing petitions, voting and donating to actually acting out of hunger?

To fast, to refuse to pay war taxes, to steal the Olympic Torch headed to a China governed by oppressors.

I’m reminded of Thoreau in jail for refusing to pay taxes in support of war. When Emerson visited him and asked, “Henry, what are you doing in there?” Thoreau responded, “Ralph, what are YOU doing out there?”

Emerson no doubt spoke as a man of appetite; Thoreau spoke from hunger.

Recently I’ve been reading about Tom Paine, whose writings moved the colonists from an appetite for respect and equal rights from England to a hunger for independence. His “Common Sense” and his hunger for complete freedom inspired a revolution.

How much does change owe to hunger?

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