In my novel, The Sublime Transformation of Vera Wright, the main character, Vera, is told by God to serve a dinner of loaves & fishes to her faithful followers. “Bring me five loaves and two fishes,” God tells her, “and I will bring you a miracle.” Though the idea of this new sacramental ritual occurred to me in a flash, I knew it was right. The women, confused by Vera’s new mystical abilities, needed a sacrament to call their own—an offering with which to consecrate their new lives in the spirit. For me, the story of the loaves & fishes conjured all the right metaphors of faith and abundance, as well as the courage and trust to enter a process that only God could complete.
For me, as a child and as a young adult, the loaves & fishes most certainly represented abundance. And why not? I myself was happy and well cared for, loved and nurtured by a wide circle of family and friends. My interpretation of abundance reflected my experience. Later, as a young mom, the national culture fully-supported my optimism—widespread material abundance defined the ’80s and early ’90s. And in the cusp of centuries, the concept of abundance evolved yet again into the pop culture Oprah-esque spiritual message of actualizing our own dreams. Imagine them. Visualize them. Materialize them. Voila! Instant abundance.
Is it that simple, really?
Not that dreams and visualizations don’t render results; they do, in both the good sense and the bad. Our thoughts matter deeply. But after decades of observation, I have come to see the obvious—that not everyone’s idea of abundance is the same. So what are we really actualizing? Sometimes our dreams are silly and immature. Sometimes they are dreams of convenience or even destruction. Does my dream collide with yours? Who wins? And sometimes, the abundance we visualize and materialize is not really abundance at all, but greed.
The Gospel of the Loaves & Fishes is not a story of greed or waste. No one hoarded baskets of bread; no fish were thrown away. What this story promises is enough. That in coming to the spiritual table, we will be fed, not gorged, and nothing will be wasted in the process. As a child and as a young adult, it would never have occurred to me to make a goal of enough. As for most people, enough was only the starting point for my escalating desire.
As time goes on I see clearly how relative abundance really is. For some, it’s the freedom to expand to larger quarters or travel to new places. For some, it’s the dawning of new experiences—spiritual perhaps, or academic. For others, it’s simply the ability to pay the bills or feed the children or buy the medicine or give birth. So when people agree that abundance (in general) is a good thing, and that we should all go about the business of actualizing our dreams (we deserve it!) , I wonder—what dreams are those? Are they simple or grand? Are they inherently good? Are they good for one, or good for all? Who do they leave in and who do they leave out? And…if we as a group could bring our dreams into some kind of congruity, could we not change the world? Provide for everyone? Have enough for ourselves?
Want to try? I’ll start. My abundance is health for my family, a cure for cancer, and spiritual peace. What’s yours?