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I have a tri-fold vocation as a writer, an organic farmer, and the director of graduate ministry programs at Saint Meinrad, a large Benedictine monastery and Roman Catholic school of theology in southern Indiana. I certainly see the current economic situation as a crisis, in the root sense of that word: a judgment, and a moment where individuals and the culture face a decision about new paths forward.

Living on a solar-and wind-powered farm in a rural area, I'm pulled in two different directions, which I've come to see as complimentary. On one hand is the temptation to "hunker down" on our farm, turning inward, focusing on being as self-sufficient as possible, and cultivating these qualities of ruggedness and independence in our three children. On the other, both among our rural neighbors and the burgeoning number of students in the ministry program I run, I feel the desire--on my part and others'--to turn outward, in service, vulnerability, and mutual dependence.

Somehow, I think both of these tensions can and must coexist as part of a new way forward. We must cultivate new forms of asceticism as both a practical and a spiritual discipline, such that we actually can simplify our lives and thus be less dependent on all of the systems that have been unmasked as wobbly and unreliable. And yet any real independence from these will always mean dependence on what is ultimately far more reliable: the love, care, skill, and good work of people whose lives intersect with ours. Grace, forgiveness, patience and love span the tension between these poles.

I write about these issues regularly for America, a weekly publication of the Jesuits: If my story is of interest to you, I'd also be happy to share my experience in an audio interview in the Repossessing Virtue series.