Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves. Genesis 3:7
Part of my daily ritual most mornings involves stopping at my local 7-Eleven convenience store. Freedom and spontaneity abound in my breakfast or lunch choices—planning a week’s worth of meals can be so inconvenient. Sometimes I stop at one on the way to my other job when I feel the guilt of a McDonald’s craving—exchanging one convenient corporation for another. Convenience stores have an abundance of those conveniently healthy food choices—individual packets of nuts, yogurt, power bars, and more. Convenience stores are also convenient oases for homeless persons, have you noticed?
I have a hate/love relationship with the words convenient and convenience. They have become such self-focused words—as consumers in a largely corporate economy, we measure the world in terms of our own “coffee spoon” comfort: how quickly and easily can we gratify our desires? No frustration must enter our lives, heaven forbid that we must wait in line at a grocery store, let alone interact with others who (might) thwart our ease of access. Convenience means little or no human interaction.
In seminary a few years ago, I became enamored of the now obsolete usage of the word, the original Latin conveniens, which means “fitting.” This usage forms the basis for many of Thomas Aquinas’s arguments in the Summa Theologiae. When I first read it, my eyes opened, not to a brave new world, per se, but to knowledge that there were others like me in the world–scholars, theologians, poets–using reason to understand God; faith was seeking understanding, to borrow St. Anselm’s phrase.
I had found my kindred spirits. Seemingly, the practical world has little use for mystics, though, let alone poets. And yet, I would say that even these head-in-the-cloud saints still had their hands and feet in the world.
Adam and Eve
begins in this convenient
car wash; by spurting spigot,
the man fills plastic water jugs
crafted by a nameless
the woman produces eclectic plastic
ware–squares, saucers–from ubiquitous
black garbage bag carryall.
Synthetic black clothes her corpus, too,
leadenly animate in the chill.
Giving each dish a quick rinse under
the gushes, she then lays
them out on the grass.
No shame in either frame
as each performs their corporate chores.
Store’s red-shirted clerk ignores
Gas pump clicks, banishing me
from this Eden, not them.
Conveniens? I whisper, a Thomist
ghost flitting ‘round
my reasoning heart.
Fitting, I murmur–
this is the wisdom of the world.
In my off-kilter, poet-theologian mind, I hate that we speak of, say, helping the homeless, in terms of inconvenience, as I’ve heard some priests preach, trying to wrestle with that word. Get out of your comfort zone (such a convenient cliche)! And I don’t disagree with the thought, but . . . if we are all children of God, all imago dei (made in God’s image), then should we not re-frame the wisdom of the world in terms of the fittingness of opening our eyes and truly seeing each other in that light? Inconveniencing ourselves may be the most convenient action we can take.
Image: Välko Tuul – Art Museum of Estonia, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=61409440