As we have now finished our second full week in KK, I have been pondering the idea of convenience. On the one hand, we have been blessed with many conveniences that cannot at all be taken for granted: we have a furnished apartment with a microwave oven and a washer. We are truly blessed by the ways those items make life easier. We are in a city where we can get most anything we need. Not only do there seem to be 24 hour 7-11s on every corner, but I was surprised to find a GNC store so that I don’t even have to worry about where to find vitamins in their familiar packaging.
At the same time, there are some inconveniences we are discovering, as well. Living on top of a steep hill with no car, you have to think ahead about what you might want. It is not easy to run out and grab some groceries on a whim. I did make a quick run down the hill to get the rest of the family some ice cream the other night because they all seemed in need of a treat, but that was really the exception demonstrating the rule. It takes much effort to act on impulse. We also need to boil our water before drinking. The water seems to be safe, but better safe than sorry, right? That means you can’t just go over to the sink and get a drink. You need to plan ahead and manage the water supply. These things are not problems because they are easily manageable, but they are inconvenient. We have had various other things in getting our apartment together, setting up TV and computer and so on, that simply take longer than we are used to. The pace is just slower, and while it’s probably much healthier it does feel a bit inconvenient at times. It depends on the moment whether this feels serene or irritating.
Probably the biggest thing that has me thinking about convenience is laundry. As I mentioned, we do have a washer, which certainly beats washing clothes by hand. We do not have a dryer, though. We need to hang up the clothes to air dry. This means rushing them inside when a sudden rain comes up and it means ironing them once they are dry. While ecologically it’s a much better approach, it’s also several extra steps per load of laundry. One person mentioned that they thought we had moved to paradise until hearing about the ironing. It certainly is inconvenient, though so far we honestly haven’t minded (though you’ll probably get a better answer on that a few months from now after the novelty has worn off). It does bring up the question for me, though, of whether paradise is a place of convenience.
What is it that we imagine when we think of paradise? Daydreams of lounging around with no responsibility, most likely. A place of ultimate convenience. Yet I wonder if, theologically speaking, paradise and convenience are at all compatible. If the Kingdom of God is the call towards true righteousness – that is, right relationships, encompassing justice, ecological vitality, voices for the voiceless – then there is little convenience to it. The hospitality towards the other called forth by the Kingdom cannot be convenient, because convenience is about making things quicker and easier while the relationships essential to hospitality can never be quick and easy. I think of the hospitality shown to us by so many members of this community in helping us to get our bearings, and I know that it was never convenient for them to help us. Yet they did it gladly, as part of a relationship.
How much more so, then, ought we, when we think of paradise, think of it not as a place of rampant convenience but rather as a space of turning toward others? Other humans, in service and hospitality, the more-than-human world, in care and respect, in compassion towards all we encounter. All in the name of the Kingdom of God. If we were able to fully do this, we might fully experience paradise in experiencing the fullness of God’s vision for the world. Of course we can’t, leaving us with only whiffs and glimpses (because God doesn’t work in only one of our senses!) But what grace those glimpses are!