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Piety of the homeless

What about the homeless?  I work hard, shouldn’t they work hard, too? 

Why should people pay them to beg on the street corner while I work hard for my wealth?  If they’re begging it’s obviously something they did that got them there.  It’s their fault, not mine.  It’s not my problem, why should I give them money.  But the beggars have existed since the dawn of civilization.  Does that justify their right to exist?

Since antiquity people have lived off the goodness of others by choice or necessity.  These are ones who have chosen a life far superior to the rest of us.  They have chosen to abandon not just their worldly goods, but their non-worldly goods as well.  Not just their families, but their capacity to have a family.  We must cherish the beggar as we would cherish the church, for isn’t the church a kind of beggar?  Doesn’t the church ask for money for you during service to maintain its livelihood.  If it weren’t for the goodness of others there would be no church.

But the church serves a vital purpose – spiritual affluence.  This is true, but the church does not demand money from its members.  It asks for money humbly.  And aren’t monks and monasteries a kind of beggar?  From these we receive nothing and yet we happily give them our wealth.

If you tell the beggar they are weak and must stop begging and live independently, without the goodness of others then that only reinforces your own self-destructive impotence.  Dostoevsky says in “The Brothers Karamazov,” “Freely are we enslaved by our lower, more easily compassed, often disappointing desires. Freely do we forge our own fetters and manacles.”  The beggar has freed themselves from the impotent pride of heaping up wealth around themselves.  The beggar must survive by the goodness of others.  The beggar, thus, has the most faith, respect, and admiration for mankind, for they put their life in the hands of the masses.

And didn’t Jesus survive from the goodness of others?  It seems too many in our capitalistic society have forgotten his words, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”  Isn’t the accumulation of wealth a kind of pride, if pride is putting yourself above others?  And isn’t pride the embodiment of all evil?  In other words, the beggar is humble and lives from the goodness of others, while the capitalist is proud and believes he must have more wealth than his fellow man.

Haven’t we all lived on the goodness of others at some point in our lives?  Indeed, what separates man from animals is our unusually long childhood, or learning period.  Some animals have no period in which they learn, others devote four or five years to learning.  Humans don’t biologically mature until their teens, and culturally don’t become fully functional, completely independent adults until the age of 20 or sometimes 25.  Thus, living from the goodness of others is biological and cultural.

So why do we hate the beggar, the homeless?  Why have so many of our homeless been told to “get a job?”  People are so reluctant to help the poor.

Perhaps the difference between a monk and a beggar is that the monk cloisters themselves as a result of their piety, whereas the beggar (stereotypically) humbles themselves to begging because of their vices (alcoholism, drug abuse, etc.) 

But maybe we should not discriminate which humbled man is permitted to live from the goodness of their peers.  They are both humbled, so it may not matter how they came to humility.  Indeed, the beggars, whether monks or drunks, are living the life that most people haven’t the courage to live, whether by choice or not.

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Literature student in the English department

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