-At the Desert Retreat House -
A few years back I was the pastor of a parish that by almost any standard would be called “progressive.” The people of the church considered themselves to be very open-minded. They entertained new ideas and hung a sign outside the door that said “Everyone Welcome.” The truth however was that strangers and different others and strangers were only sort of welcome.
Like most people in most religious institutions, the bottom line was that “deep down inside” the people of that parish really believed they had found the “right way – the right way to think and pray and even the right way to believe. While they were “open” to input from people who didn’t think or believe the same way, and while they had respect for people who were different, they basically believed that they had found the “right path” for the spiritual journey.
This morning’s New York Times featured a profound and also very disturbing op-ed article titled We’re Doomed, Now What? In the article the author made the frightening observation that the world today stands on the precipice of annihilation. It is unlikely that we can “fix” the catastrophic climate changes we will all face in the relatively near future and all across the globe we see signs and hear warnings about an inevitable, devastating Third World War in the making.
In today’s article, the author suggested that, at some deep level, most of us feel like we are tottering at that brink of annihilation and many people have adopted an attitude of nihilism - “we are doomed so just give into it and wait for the worst to happen.” Still others believe that there is a solution to every problem and that they are in possession of that solution - they have found the right way to fix it all. And so people like Donald Trump and his legions will fix it by “bringing back” the country to the way it used to be. Many Westerners believe that democracy is the right way and so is capitalism. Plenty of Muslims believe that Islam is the right way that will fix it all and many Christians think that Jesus is THE way.
This morning’s article made the very profound observation that in essence there is no fix for our current situation – no one way, no right way. We are all “doomed” unless we let our “right way” die:
We need to learn to let our current civilization die,
to accept our mortality and practice humility.
We need to give up defending and protecting ‘our’ truth,
‘our’ perspective, ‘our’ Western values and understand that truth is found
not in one perspective but in their multiplication, not in one point of view but in the aggregate,
not in opposition, but in the whole.
We need to see not just with Western eyes but with Islamic eyes and Inuit eyes,
not just with human eyes but with golden cheeked warbler eyes,
coho salmon eyes, and polar bear eyes,
and not even just with eyes at all but with the wild, barely articulate being of
clouds and seas and trees and stars.
I found this observation to contain a deep wisdom that may in fact be the direction that may stop the human species from falling off the precipice into annihilation.
As I see it, instead of “learning” from one another, churches and synagogues, mosques and temples as we know them probably have to die so that that a new age of Interspirituality may emerge, an age in which we do more than respect another’s different ideas but rather claim their ideas as our own – realizing that all the spiritual wisdom of all the many world traditions is a common wisdom, a shared wisdom belonging to the entire human family. Likewise, America as we know it must also die, so must capitalism, and communism and socialism and all the other “isms,” none of us clinging to our way as the right way so that a new global order of meaning may emerge.
In today’s New York Times article, the author suggested that perhaps a realization that “we are doomed,” may be our great gift, prodding humanity to the next step of our evolution:
Accepting the fatality of our situation isn’t nihilism but rather
a necessary first step in forging a new way of life.
I felt very uncomfortable when I read that article today-maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe we all need to feel a lot less comfort nowadays. Dying is never a comfortable thing to do.