Overcome Scarcity With This One Weird Trick!
Howard Thurman on Fear and Virtue in Scarce Conditions
We continue to set the framework for how scarcity operates in the Christian moral life, with special reference to Howard Thurman, 20th century mystic and teacher. Some upcoming announcements about the next Zoom book club, on Howard Thurman’s Jesus and the Disinherited.
The Worst Restraints of Scarcity are the Ones Inside
Earlier this week, I offered some insights from Ivan Illich on need from his really great and decidedly under-appreciated work Toward a History of Needs. There, we gained a particularly helpful aspect: that part of how scarcity works is not only through an actual shortage of resources (time, energy, materials), but through certain needs being generated that, in turn, create scarcities. Having believed that we have a certain need, the dynamics of a mentality of scarcity kick in: we become worried about how we’ll meet that need which has been illegitimately generated. Sometimes, the only way to beat the game is not to play.
Scarcity shows up sometimes through real constraints of resources: the resource scarcity produced in part by climate changes will be one of the big stories of the coming century.1 But what Illich highlights is the way that scarcity is frequently a matter of perception, either because we think we need something or because we read the situation as incredibly inhospitable, and the only way out is to push back. And when it comes to diagnosing this dynamic, there really were few thinkers who did this better than Howard Thurman.
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