Yesterday I was watching the Matrix and reflecting upon how much of our social reality is constructed. Perhaps not constructed in the same way as a computer program might do so, but nevertheless we live in a multi-layered social fabric in which much of what we do is separated from the essence of human existence. If you think of the way that people used to toil in the fields to grow what they would eat, and then compare our modern existence in which computers, shops, digital economies and bureaucracies dominate, you might begin to see the kind of difference that I'm talking about.
I think this is why living amongst the poor is such an eye-opener to an alternative understanding of reality, God and the message of the Bible. It strips away the virtual layers of our fabricated existence and challenges us to be more real, more authentic. In my case, working with The Salvation Army in the Crossroads network, at St Kilda and Brunswick have grounded my understanding of God in a markedly different reality to that which I experienced in the corporate world. Last year, my trip to Kenya did the same thing. There is something about simplicity of life, about removing the unnecessary clutter of modern existence, about not being bound to the materialist and consumerist obsession of Western society that is extremely liberating.
The catch is that you can't know this by reading about it - you have to live it. And the only way to begin is to make a choice that you will live differently, uncomfortably for a while, but ultimately with more authenticity than perhaps you have ever experienced before.