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Solving global problems starts in own backyard

In the first quarter of the 21 st century, there continues to be much turmoil in the world including disturbing trends in economic disparity, religious conflict, political unrest, and spiritual yearning.

In the first quarter of the 21st century, there continues to be much turmoil in the world including disturbing trends in economic disparity, religious conflict, political unrest, and spiritual yearning.  In spite of living in Victoria, one of the world’s most desirable communities, there is no way to avoid the pervasive angst that fills the daily newscasts.  In our own village, we witness the depersonalizing effects of poverty, homelessness, addiction and violence.  Left unhealed, these maladies can become dehumanizing and affect us personally as we become demoralized and pessimistic about how to make things better.  Then we withdraw and things get worse.

 I would wager that there are many people like myself, who are retired (or thinking about retirement), or perhaps are still busily engaged in making a living, who ponder the notion of “making a meaningful life”.  Is this the life I intended?

In her book COMPOSING A FURTHER LIFE, The Age of Active Wisdom, Mary Catherine Bateson  (Alfred A. Knopf. 2010, New York, N.Y.)  makes an interesting observation:

“(As we get older)…I think the religious thing is a factor with many people, even if they don’t go to church – the Day of Judgment.  Maybe it’s not about going to hell or to heaven, but there will be some sort of judgment made on your life.  ‘What did your life mean?  What did you do?’” 

For many who have stopped claiming a particular religious affiliation, those known as “spiritual but not religious” SBNR (The Times Colonist, Nov. 09, 2013), there remains a spiritual yearning to find meaning in life.  SBNRs choose not to have that meaning dictated by a religious dogma. Nonetheless, they continue to search for a meaningful connection to their “inward self”, their diverse neighbors, or life work.  Each seeks a sense of the eternal, or “what endures”, or the meaning of this life in some aspect of their life – a career, helping worthy causes, artful expression, parenthood, volunteering, etc.

For many years I have followed a personal journal method that I took up early in my career as a United Methodist Minister.  Yes pastors, Rabbis, Imam’s and priests also struggle with these very human doubts and yearnings for a meaningful life.  Through the journaling method I found that achieving a sense of my vocation is inseparable from an I and Thou (Martin Buber) connectedness to my friends and family, my work, and my community.  It turns out that these relationships are major components of my primary work of art – my own life.  In my personal, spiritual reflection, I sense something left to be done with my life.  I cannot imagine a better place (here) or time (now) to seize that opportunity.

So, in the new year of 2014, I am renewing an old “vocation”.  Retirement was good, but there is some “mission” remaining in me.  I vision an opportunity to explore some new, imaginative means of engaging those I know in my village in a spiritual exploration. Beyond the limits of “never enough money”, there await more imaginative ways of addressing the physical and spiritual needs of our fellow Victoria citizens. With the imagination of both the unimpoverished, as well as those of great need, we can do better.  Surely there are creative ideas beyond the box of economic strictures.

Solving the world’s problems begins with my own, including my relationships with those in my village.

Bill IsraelW.H. Bill Israel is a Community Sabbaticant working on a Fellowship project at The Centre for Studies in Religion and Society at the University of Victoria.  He is a former Chair of the Board of Directors for the United Way of Greater Victoria and an ordained United Methodist minister.

You can read more articles from oour interfaith blog Spiritually Speaking HERE