Jean Vanier’s life: An alternative to materialism
Our society has become fixated on individualism, competition, accumulation of wealth, and an obsession with consumption and efficiency. Short-term gains have displaced a commitment to long-term sustainability.
Of the many downsides to this materialistic mindset is that the common good and our responsibility to the community have been downgraded in importance.
I thought about that when I learned that Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche International passed away last week at 90.
Vanier, the son of Canadian parents, left a military career to study philosophy. In 1964, he became aware if the thousands of people with developmental disabilities who were languishing in institutions.
He created L’Arche as a home where those who were fully able lived together with those with disabilities. His conviction was that we have much to learn from those with disabilities in our midst. Any Special Olympics coach or care giver for developmentally delayed individuals in our valley can confirm this.
The L’Arche movement has communities in 37 countries, a testament to the power of creating community and of seeing people who are different with caring and compassion.
On his 90th birthday, Vanier shared his 10 rules for life to become more human. Accept the reality of your body; talk about your emotions and difficulties; don’t be afraid of not being successful; in a relationship, take the time to ask: ‘how are you?’; stop looking at your phone — be present; be aware of your own story; stop prejudice — meet people; listen to your deepest desire; ask people: ‘What is your story?’; and remember that you will die one day.
Perhaps there are lessons to be learned from the example he set and questions that we should face about what we have created in this culture. Are we missing what’s truly important?