“Poverty of Monks”


In a recent article, writer Thomas Moore, recalls his days as a Catholic monk and how the monks took a vow of poverty. They owned very little individually, but held many things “in common.” So while the individuals might just own a couple of robes, toothbrush and a book or two, the order owned pots and pans and libraries and buildings and land.

I see that something similar happens in families. There is my stuff that I count, and the kids each have their own stuff and then there is the stuff that we share like the couches and the lawnmower and the dishes and towels.

This makes sense to me, there is an efficiency in it. There are many, many ways of sharing things we do not need to have possession of at all times: libraries, art museums, tool rental shops, Netflix.

We humans tend to group ourselves in living arrangements that make use of these efficiencies. Families, religious orders, college dorms are all ways of sharing resources that improve the common good.

It is not a way of thinking that our culture celebrates, we tend to put our media attention on celebrity excess. But it makes sense for the planet for us to share, and it makes sense for our individual mental health to occasionally evaluate the objects in our possession and let go of the ones that we no longer use. The thing is, it doesn’t feel like poverty at all to give to others out of your abundance. It feels pretty rich.


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