The vineyard of humanity, especially in our time and especially on this particular plot of ground, certainly looks to be a ruined mess, all broken walls and broken promises. Instead of justice, there is mass incarceration of people of color. Instead of equality, there is a racial rage whose end is white supremacy. Instead of peacemaking, there is the rattling of nuclear-tipped sabers. Instead of economic opportunity, there is devastation for the working poor. Instead of love there is the demonic drone of automatic weapons above the screams of the wounded and the dying. Meanwhile the politicians reach for their towels, to dry the hands they have washed of all of that.
Our dystopias are pretty tame compared to the dystopias of the imagination. But we still need them, these visions of the Inferno, these liaisons dangereuses of the heart. Because they drive us towards the light, towards the good, towards the possible, towards the future.
Things are not getting worse, Armageddon is not just around the corner and the world is not about to get really, really, horrible. We need new lenses to see the facts of life: things are not perfect, not by a long shot, but they are better than they have ever been. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. Tell them to get new lenses.
There are now two prevailing sets of ideas pushing against each other in the Nation of the Idea, two narratives competing for the American soul. Unless we come to understand why each side feels aggrieved by the other, unless we are willing to approach the enemies in our own household with honesty, humility and compassion, the American idea will not endure.
Seven years ago, she was homeless, addicted and lost. But she found one of those programs that is so out of fashion these days, and they helped her get sober and get a job. It’s not a great job: she starts her workday at 5:00 AM, makes the minimum wage, and she works really hard. There’s no extra money, and her idea of a great day is sitting at home, curled up on the couch, reading.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “It’s just that I keep hearing on the news where they are going to take away my insurance. I’m on the kidney transplant list and when they do that, I’m going to die. I don’t have any way to pay thousands of dollars for a new kidney. Why do they want to take away my insurance?”
According to the spiritual traditions, there is another source of light, an internal one. Jesus talked about the “lamp of the body,” which, when you are focused on the needs of the world and not external religious devotion or the pursuit of “treasure on earth,” shines out like a beacon of hope to a world badly in need of hope.
I’m tuning out, dropping out, and focusing back in on those things that matter: mindfulness, spiritual awareness, balance, hopefulness, peace and joy and especially, justice. This blog began as a personal account of my own struggle to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly (Micah 6:8) in the public square. I have been doing a terrible job at that of late. And I’m counting on Lent to help me get my own spiritual journey back on track.
In the slow, seductive sunset of the world The sun moves from the bright overhead of noon Its eye on the horizon. It licks the trees slowly, as if it has never tasted green before. It slides orange arms around their trunks, in languorous embrace. The shadows of the wrens dance beside them, grown now … Continue reading The Dust of Night
We have no words for our time, save one: fear