Ah, the multiple issues we face, the daunting challenges!
All our collective problems that need to be dealt with, the large like the small, can only be solved through persuasive exchange grounded in respect between individuals and between groups, the special attention required to accommodate psychopaths notwithstanding.
In alternative media outlets, it appears as if lots of folks want to solve all the material and social problems through a power struggle between capital and labor, or some dynamic along those lines. Another approach sees many activists seeking salvation through the functioning of organizations.
Where we find these convictions spreading around, parading as common “wisdom” we must be frightened. Meaning, our guards must go up. Our common sense make us extremely cautious, to say the least. For the dynamics touched upon in the paragraph above can lead us nowhere, will keep us trapped where we are. Which is a Hell on earth.
There is a wisdom that, although it has already been outlived, remains valid. From the opposition of power to power indeed come compromises from both sides that conform to a purpose. But an authentic agreement, which means working together for a better future, with a collective commitment which is unwavering, will never originate out of that sort of interaction. What’s demanded is the creation of a reciprocity of trust that can only come from the encounter of both minds, all minds involved. And that requires respect, reverence for all life, including the lives of swordfish, silver fish… and psychopaths.
It is no different with organizations. They can indeed accomplish this and that, indeed a great deal, toward bettering conditions. But organizations cannot accomplish the great and decisive improvement of which our time has need. That improvement, that great service which we need can only be set in motion when more and more individual people, each according to the gifts that are particularly hers/his enter into it and become active with it. Above and beyond participating in marches, signing petitions, making financial contributions, etc.
What, besides all that is taking place now in the economic and social battles, must happen, if we do not want to fall into material or, less still, into spiritual misery, is for human nature to work itself out ever more richly. This is worth rousing.
This is necessary if we want a new atmosphere, a quickening, warm, life-giving air to replace the coldness that currently surrounds us. This wretched width of worrisome, endless (seemingly earth-ending) challenges must be met with a fresh approach. And that can only take place if we acknowledge the degree of destruction we are complicit in. All of us. And alter — individually — at least some aspect of our singular downsides.
It’s as if the mantra “Serve one another!” is being directed to each one of us, and that on some level the salvation of our entire generation were contingent upon our grasping the truth embedded in the injunction.
But… with what can you serve? There is a great difference here between people. To the one, the chance to be a part of the training and helping that is necessary is granted by her/his normal daily work; others are caught in a mechanical sort of labor in which they cannot spend themselves on people, others’ issues.
As for the former, whether they occupy an office in a church or are functioning in a decision-making capacity at a school (or involved in some similar creative, socially-conscious role where they can do people good), they must feel every day that they are favored, blessed. This is a great grace.
But what should the others do to whom no share in socially-conscious work is given, whose daily energies are expended in some deadening mechanical routine? Such robotic work — in which the person shuts herself/himself off — poses a great danger. And this “danger” definitely precludes meaningful civic engagement of any kind. For the person — impoverished inwardly and pulling back into himself — recoils at the notion of having to do more, being able to do more.
But everyone has something to give to the world above and beyond honoring the mundane work ethic which is in vogue, what has been take as sufficient for generations. Perhaps that church worker and socially-conscious non-profit people invoked above have an additional obligation to address. They and others are in a position to underscore that the vocation by which one secures one’s living is usually not adequate, does not provide ample opportunity to serve people on the level that I’m talking about.
Everyone has a need that lies outside of oneself. And the longing for that must be kept alive one way or another in others. Again, I’m not speaking of the usual ways in which people serve others… with token gestures. Rather, I’m spotlighting here that serving others across the board on an ongoing basis must be dear to one’s heart. One-on-one around the clock. Where it’s needed. Without requiring that others be grateful.
A willingness to suffer personally (not seek suffering) must be part of the equation, as must a stepping back from the icons of our society. The models for behavior which our youth are encouraged to emulate are — for the most part — violent or constantly exhibiting their material wealth, and reinforcing the wealth gap by virtue of their hubris and greed and lack of ongoing compassion.
We must ration our time, energy and personal assets now, regardless of what the most respected members of our community are doing, what most people are prizing and doing. This is RADICAL. Screaming against a president one can’t stand, and getting rid of the executive is NOT, though such might be necessary.
Personal transformation of a deep kind is in order now. We must ALL step outside of ourselves. And not make that contingent upon others doing so, not require that anyone approve or even notice.
Everyone can find that groove. Be willing to seek and wait… and begin small, as local as you can. The nearby tree or refugee will do for starters.
In the spirit of Kathy Kelly, whose work abroad is constantly praised and posted in alternative circles, you can bounce off of Jesus, if you like, or embrace some other model. It doesn’t matter because those who seek quietly and modestly where God can use you, and do not become tired in waiting and seeking will… find. As in “Whoever seeks, will find.” You will discover where you can serve and experience the blessedness of that service.
In the article of Kathy’s which I’ve spotlighted with a link above (“On Purpose, In Kabul”), the first two words in the title can be taken to mean either intentionally or on target, as in focusing on one’e aim. There’s a hint there of where the psychopaths are coming from, but she doesn’t engage in coarse, easy hits. Rather, she underscores what can be done, what she is doing, which is far more than writing or collecting and distributing food.
What are you doing?
This is NOT to suggest that people should try to be saints. There’s something radically wrong with what I’ve italicized. Nor am I writing to paint Kathy as a saint. Truth is, I have lots of criticism to level at her, her fine work notwithstanding.
This is just to ask you what you’re doing.