At times the roar from the headlines is almost deafening. The intense push for focus on the climate emergency that is upon us and threatens our future as a species. The photos of the Prime Minister as a younger man at an Arabian Nights Party, opening wounds that are often just beneath the surface. The utter chaos of impeachment proceedings south of the border. That’s just the last few weeks. As a spiritual and religious leader, I find it is my role to look beneath all the noise for what is being uplifted or denigrated in the media conversation about what is happening in the world. In other words, rather than focusing solely on the facts or details, I try to look at what the events say about us. What are the underlying and pervasive struggles we are wrestling with as a human community? Where are we seeking meaning? What can we learn about who we are and where we are succeeding or failing in the news of the day?
The news of recent weeks has uplifted several themes with which we are continually contending these days. The first is the othering, demonizing, and dehumanizing of those seen as different or opposing. Whether it is the people of an opposing political party, people of another racial or ethnic background, or someone seen as different from ourselves in a way we view as problematic—laying blame and placing fault on others seems to be a popular tactic. There have been ripples of this throughout human history, of course, and it is clearly a primary approach of political leaders now. The spiritual question is, what happens to us when we blame others for our struggles? How different would our shared life be if we took more of an “we’re all in this together” approach? What does it feel like to uplift an ethic of empathy and understanding as opposed to casting the differences among us as wedges that divide? It seems we have yet to figure out how to answer Cain’s question from the book of Genesis in the Hebrew Scriptures, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” In modern parlance, how much are we responsible for one another’s well-being?
As we move about our daily lives, looking for points of connection seems key. Rather than valuing how we can personally get ahead or do better, what if we sought ways to do our part to make our corner of the world a better place? Rather than, what’s in it for me, we could ask—what might I do today that would make this place more hospitable? How might I act in a way that lives in harmony with the Earth? How might I show others around me that I see their lives as valuable? How might I move beyond the us vs. them tenor of our time to uplift the collective we?
Whatever the headlines bring tomorrow, we will need to face them together. Staying centered on our values and the core principles that hold us in relationship is becoming more and more a matter of life and death. My hope and prayer is that we will find a way through the division and anger and blame to a place of greater appreciation for the reality that the ground we share is common—the confusion, the joys, the mortality—all the more reason to go it together rather than alone.
Rev. Shana Lynngood is co-minister of First Unitarian Church of Victoria.
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* This article was published in the print edition of the Times Colonist on Saturday, October 5th 2019