Last Sunday, in the reeling aftermath of our country’s latest mass shootings, I admitted that I worry and wonder about the relevance of what we’re doing in spiritual community.
Sometimes, I wonder if we’re just trying to make ourselves feel better without really changing anything. I mean, of course there’s nothing wrong with coming together simply to hold each other in peace and a tender sense of belonging, but I worry about how easily comfort can tip into inertia and apathy.
So I get charged up, impassioned and fiery. But then I start to worry that I’ve offered insufficient comfort. And I wonder, might that — too little solace, too much outrage — also lead to an apathy, but apathy of the fatalistic sort: what difference does any of it make?
I worry and wonder a lot. What? Why? How?
For the most part, I feel like I’m pretty clear about the WHATs and WHYs.
WHAT? Well, how about we start creating a world of harmony, beauty, plenty, and truth with a minimum of hatred, fear, injustice, and bullshit. I’m good at envisioning that, imagining that, speaking to that, declaring it as an accessible possibility that we can actualize immediately if we truly set our hearts and minds in action toward it.
WHY? Because people are suffering and that’s unacceptable. Because we are literally killing each other, ourselves, and the planet. Because we know better and should do better. Because we are all part of this thing called Life, and every individual’s well-being and fulfillment is interdependent with each other and the whole. Duh.
But HOW? That’s what keeps me awake at night.
Gus Speth, environmental lawyer and advocate who co-founded the Natural Resources Defense Council and worked with the United Nations for a number of years, said this:
“I used to think that the top environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse, and climate change. I thought that with 30 years of good science we could address those problems. But I was wrong. The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed, and apathy… and to deal with those we need a spiritual and cultural transformation. And we scientists don’t know how to do that.”
I feel ya, Mr. Speth. The freakin’ HOW is what gets us every time. Whether we’re talking about ecology, peace, economics, bigotry, or guns — it’s so much easier to identify the problems and proclaim what the solution might look like than it is to outline a process that will get us from here to there. Because from here to there requires a deep transformation of identity and culture, and that’s all in the realm of the ineffable and spiritual and subjective and unquantifiable. It always eludes the straightforward: HOW?
Here’s what I find encouraging about this quote — it affirms spirituality’s relevance. We’re exactly where it’s at. We’re on the right track. It totally matters what we’re doing. Our coming together is EVERYTHING. It matters that we invest time and energy and soul creating community. We are part of the cultural revolution for which the world is crying. All of our seemingly insurmountable problems beg a spiritual solution.
Here’s where we need to be careful, though — we need to remember, to continuously remind ourselves over and over again, that we don’t really have solid all-purpose answers either. Not to the HOW, we don’t. As soon as we start pushing a definitive answer, we perpetuate the problem.
Asking questions and listening for myriad different answers — that can be transformational. Surrendering to mystery and wonder — that can be transformational. Thinking that we know something for sure, and that if everyone would just agree with us then that would fix everything — that’s not so transformational. Even if we think we understand that Universal Love is the answer. Because the truth is, none of us has figured that out yet. Not the HOW of it.
Practicing is transformational. We can practice being kind to each other even when it’s hard. We can practice listening even when we want others to shut up. We can practice caring even when we feel so depleted that we don’t think we can care anymore. We can practice believing that something new is possible even when we keep screwing up over and over again. We can practice hope.
So… I’ve got a million thoughts and no answers, a million feelings but no universal remedy. And still I believe that it makes all the difference in the world that we come together to create, to practice and hope and care and wonder.
I can’t wait to be with you again, friends. Service this Sunday, 10:00 am, at Maple Street Dance Space. XO, Drew