There are many aspects to poverty. Of course what usually comes to mind when we hear the word ‘poverty’ is usually something negative and undesirable. We tend to immediately associate poverty with lack of human dignity and injustice. No doubt that these are realities in the world and there’s no point questioning rhetorically whether poverty is negative and whether all people should strive to eliminate poverty from the world. Quite honestly I don’t feel competent enough to discuss the issue on an economical level nor on a societal level: I only have the basic knowledge in the subject that any citizen of Europe should have.
I would like to shed light on an aspect that is not as frequently discussed: poverty as a lifestyle. There are people who for religious reasons or else for their ideals, actually choose to live a poor life. Some do this as an act of solidarity, others do this in order to focus more on the truly essential things in life, such as God,others do this to reach a level of consciousness that goes beyond the immediately observable, as did the neo-platonists of antiquity.
While many people tend to think one can ‘buy’ freedom with money, meaning that having money allows one to do so many things, it is quite an observable phenomenon that it is those with less material wealthy who tend to feel freer, and therefore happier. On a very logical level, not having much wealth to care for, gives one less responsibility and less worries. Many relatively well-off people tend to over-work in order to safeguard their possession, often with the result that they neither spend time with their loved ones, nor enjoy enough the benefits of being wealthy. On a different level, less economically well-off people also tend to be more generous. It seems that they are freer from their possessions. So many missionaries come back telling everyone that they have actually received more than they have given and that people in the poor countries they have been in, are generally happier then so many of us in the West. Here we already start making sense of Christ’s exhortation in Luke’s gospel: “Blessed are the poor, for yours is the kingdom of heaven” (Lk 6, 20)
What the vast majority of people are afraid of is loneliness (not to be confused with solitude). They are afraid of living and dying on their own. This of course is a very legitimate fear, for humans are social creatures. Even on a theological level, we find in Genesis, God saying that it is not good for man to be on his own. Contrary to what many people, consciously or unconsciously, think, wealth will not buy truly meaningful relationships that eliminate loneliness. On the other hand, deliberately and freely choosing to lead a life of poverty, will necessarily open up one’s heart for others. Being affectively attached to material wealth builds isolating barriers from others, but being free from such wealth leaves space for relationships to grow.