One of the most recognizable pieces of religious architecture in the world is the Golden Temple in Amritsar, India, the most significant place of worship of the Sikhs. The upper part of this ornate rectangular marble structure is covered in gold. I saw the gleaming temple early in the morning, before sunrise, when it was bathed in soft artificial light.
When I was a child I spoke as a child, understood as a child, reasoned as a child. I knew my parents loved me best. I mistook abundant love for especial favor and blessings for entitlements. I mistook good fortune for God’s approval and worldly outcomes for the will of God. Kennedy won because God was on our side. When my grandfather died, I assumed it was me—something I’d done or failed to do. Maybe the first time I ate meat on a Friday, at Bobby Bacon’s house. It was baloney.
“What would you say to someone who is hesitant to invest in Sudan’s schools or health clinics given the likelihood that violence will return to Sudan?” My colleague was addressing Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul of the Episcopal Church of Sudan during a Lambeth roundtable on the church’s needs in his country.
Accumulation of wealth beyond meeting our basic needs doesn’t make us more content, studies show. Dr. Michael Finkelstein says that contentment takes practice. Think back on a time when you felt a sense of contentment, he says—it likely didn’t come from material possessions. “Our task is to simply discover where [contentment] resides” and focus on those times and places. It helps to “practice thinking, believing, and saying that you’re grateful and thankful for what you’ve been given” (excerpt from Slow Medicine: Hope and Healing for Chronic Illness in Utne, July).