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Social Renewal as Spiritual Practice

Wisdom in Times of Crisis

Social Renewal as Spiritual Practice
Friday, July 10, 2020

CAC Faculty member Dr. Barbara Holmes points us to the interwoven nature of love— love of God, of self, and of neighbor. We cannot keep the Great Commandment without fully engaging in all three. In her wisdom, she sees this time of crisis as an opportunity for a great re-imagining of our society and how it might function for the good of all. Barbara says:

The practice I’m focusing on is self-love and love of neighbor. We tend not to be very good at either one, but during this time of isolation, we have equal opportunities to rest and to heal, to love and be loved. . . .

For me a spiritual practice that matters includes social renewal. Instead of blaming others about the state of our union, instead of blaming one political party or another, we actually can reflect on our own complicity and support of systems that abandoned the poor, warehoused our children in failing schools, and failed to provide adequate health care, even under normal circumstances. As a spiritual practice, we can wake up to the possibility of building a new order. We can improvise those possibilities; try them out in the creative microcosm of a shared public life, realizing that our way of life before the pandemic was not perfect. It could be improved so that all members of the society thrive. We’ve received reports that COVID-19 is disproportionally impacting communities of color. There are many reasons for this outcome, including the fact that people of color often have chronic health problems that make them particularly vulnerable to the disease as a result of poverty, poor or nonexistent health care, and economic disparities.

We should reconsider the contours of our national social contract. Our social and economic systems work on a zero-sum game where there are winners and losers. It didn’t have to be that way. We have the opportunity to restructure society, so it works as well for the have-nots and the almost-haves as well as it does for the wealthy. Do we really want a society organized to support the rich with the toiling of an underclass of marginalized laborers? Do we believe that it is every man, every woman for themselves, or do we want a society safety net for those who have fewer options and fewer resources?

From an article I wrote titled “Still on the Journey,” I believe that as a spiritual practice we can imagine and create “a political system responsive to the people and respectful of global neighbors, a health system that is comprehensive in scope and not profit driven, an educational system shaped by innovation, improvisation, technology, and practicality.” [1] The pandemic [and widespread demonstrations for Black Lives] have lifted the veil from our eyes.

Can we be honest now about what is not working? Can we re-envision new options? I believe that we can, if we want to.

References:
[1] Barbara A. Holmes, “Still on the Journey: Moral Witness, Imagination, and Improvisation in Public Life,” Ethics That Matters: African, Caribbean, and African American Sources, eds. Marcia Y. Riggs and James Samuel Logan (Fortress Press: 2012), 238.

From Barbara A. Holmes, “Love of Neighbor and the Practice of Social Renewal,” Wisdom in Times of Crisis (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2020), faculty presentation (May 4, 2020), YouTube video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e4qfQckPJWE&list=PLiBbqGAOPnXMeKh7QaqCf9HU5ShaAEzeH&index=10.

Image credit: Cueva de las Manos (detail), Cañadón del Río, Santa Cruz, Argentina. Photograph copyright ©️ 2012 Pablo Gimenez.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: As a spiritual practice we can wake up to the possibility of building a new order. We can improvise those possibilities; try them out in the creative microcosm of a shared public life, realizing that our way of life before the pandemic was not perfect. —Barbara Holmes
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