The Way of Grace
Over the last few days, as our family gets ready for Christmas I’ve had a bit of time to think. Time to think about the path that many in our society choose. I’d like to talk about what we as a society value and how we can work to find a different way. A way that leads to a better world for all of us. Finding that way is entwined in this journey to independence that the Grizzlies are embarking on. Our journey is about letting go of the highest ideals in our contemporary world – success, money, status, and prestige – and trying to navigate a path to a different understanding of value. Value beyond the narrow confines so often applied.
I’m going to talk a little about religion, or at least a little of what we believe. The Grizzlies grew up going to church regularly – Mrs. Grizzly in a Catholic church, me in a Lutheran and then a Presbyterian. Our grandparents were more religious than our parents. Mrs. Grizzly’s 98-year-old grandmother still walks every day to the Catholic parish near her apartment outside of Paris. My grandfather was a Presbyterian Elder and dedicated much of his life to his church. We are a bit more lapsed. We still go to a local church for holidays – but we’re not extremely religious people. Out faith is complicated, and not confined by narrow walls. I think we’re pretty typical of many in our generation.
What is Important in Our Society
Our society is often described as a meritocracy. We value success in all its forms. Your worth is weighed and measured by the size of your paycheck, the number of rooms in your house (or houses), the speed of your car, and the value of your stock portfolio. Status is measured by fancy degrees, prestigious jobs, and awarded titles. Your worth is determined by the full weight of these trappings of success. And this success is determined by the amount of work and effort you have put forth throughout your life.
If this is our society, then the Grizzlies have – by any reasonable definition of the word – won. Or at least come so close to winning as to be near indistinguishable. We have prestigious degrees, great jobs, high paychecks. Were we to stay in these jobs the size of our stock portfolio would rise to stratospheric levels. We would be millionaires many times over within a few years. Our net worth outside of our house increased by about $400k this year and would only go up from there. We could afford ever fancier cars and houses. We would be rich! And the world would judge us as successful. We would reach the pinnacle of worth as many define it. And all of this, everything we have achieved, would be the result of our careful calculation and effort. Our hard work rewarded with accolades and awards. The recompense for a life well-lived.
You don’t have to read much of this site to realize we think this is bunk. First, we are lucky. Whatever success we’ve had in life is on the backs of many others, endowed upon us through many different paths. Money is not the goal here, life and freedom are. All the financial stuff, all the investing advice, is but a tool to help you on this path, nothing more. We tend to think prestige is limited in importance. And in general, there are better uses of your time than bringing in ever more cash, like spending time with your family. Our responsibility lies, not in some narrow goal of furthering ourselves, but in making this world a better place for all.
What do I mean by Grace
Grace is a concept in Christian theology, often described as a gift of salvation offered generously, freely and totally unexpected and undeserved. But what I intend is a broader formulation. A concept not just within Christianity, but a thread that runs through many faiths and creeds. As universal a human value as you can find. In Christianity, it is recognition that it is not through your own works that you are saved. In Buddhism, it is a spirit of acceptance and a rejection of a black and white dualism of right and wrong. The Tao Te Ching encourages the rejection of worldly success or failure and encourages a spirit of compassion, reconciliation, and acceptance. To the Upanishads, ultimate reality is eternal and infinite and everything we do is one with it. And on and on through many faiths. This concept is not limited to religious teachings. Stoics believed that inner virtue was sufficient and necessary for true happiness. Humanism affirms that we have the right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to our own lives independent of expectations.
To us, grace is a concept rooted in abandoning these measures of status and success, lowliness and failure, that the world accepts. It is rejecting the constant weighing and measuring expected of us. It is working, not with the expectation of reward, but for our own higher values to improve this world. It is rejecting the materialism that is so prevalent in our society in favor of a different measure of worth. A measure of worth unconnected to the amount of money that finds it’s way into our bank account. But connected to our role and presence in the world.
Grace and Independence
All of this in bound up in the concept of achieving independence. There are many people in this world far richer than the Grizzlies who will never achieve the measure of independence we want for ourselves. They are trapped by the expectations that used to bind us. There are also many who are far less blessed than us who feel the weight of the world’s scorn. They have ‘lost’ in this horrible system we have created. Have not achieved the narrow definition of success offered. Our message is to both. Your worth is not measured by the narrow bounds and hollow metrics so often applied.
Your worth is measured in the time you spend with your children. The care you give to your family. The friendship and camaraderie you nurture in your community. Your worth is measured in the soldiers you lead through battle. The needy you shepherd through the morass of our legal system. Your worth is bound up in the works of creation in your communities and the small changes you make in your own life and the lives around you. Your worth is far beyond the narrow measures of money and status that so dominates everything we see. Your worth is beyond any narrow bound this world can apply. Your worth is within you. A value that cannot be taken away by any external force. The way of grace is broad and accepts all applicants. We will forge this path together. The destination that awaits is magnificent, beyond my ability to describe. We hope to find you there.