Saturday, May 23, 2009

Fraud and identity

Yesterday I learned that part of my identity was stolen. Because of my own error, I was victimized by a "phishing" emailer who, using broken English and chaotic punctuation, wrote in my name that I was penniless in England and asking desperately for money.

If the thief had been smart, he would have found someone to correct his spelling and grammar rather than write so execrably about this supposed emergency. As it happens, most of the recipients of the bogus emails knew at once that I could not have written the message sent in my name, and so we had a little laugh.

But the issue is serious. The great convenience of the new communication technology can easily blind us to the many new and unknown ways in which our inventions can hurt ourselves or be misused to hurt others because of a timeless reality that transcends all human inventions: selfish greed.

Dante would have understood this. I would like to think he would put my London thief in the lowest (ninth) circle of Hell with the traitors, but it's more in keeping with poetitc justice that they would fit in the eighth circle with those thieves who are punished for all eternity by losing their identity: they are turned into snakes.

As for me, my punishment for being taken in was at best a bit Purgatorial or at least humbling: two mornings spent sorting out email accounts and messages from puzzled recipients of the bogus request.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Mindless or Mindful?

Washing dishes, brushing my teeth, feeding the cat, clipping the hedges--all these and so many more mindless, mundane details of daily living can be mind-numbing, even dispiriting, because of the sheer monotony of doing them, especially when we do them hurriedly to get them behind us.

Yet I find that all such tasks, however routine, can be opportunities for mindfulness, for entering fully into the present moment. And when we lose ourselves and a sense of time while performing a "mindless" task, we are (however briefly) stepping outside time and into the timeless present of eternity.

So it is not surprising to find spiritual writers like Thomas Merton referring to prayer as attention to the daily unfolding of ordinary life. Openness to the present moment, he says, and trusting in its sacred value, will bring us in contact with our true selves and thus into union with God.

So when I hear people talk about the weather, or mention seemingly trivial details about their daily lives, I try to see these comments as signs of mindfulness. They reveal the need we all have to acknowledge the reality of the present moment.