I am staring at the news of the world today and especially at the tragic, infuriating deaths of Nabra Hassanen in Sterling, VA and Charleena Lyles in Seattle and at the effects of the devastating creep of climate change.
In this world where our hearts are continually broken by such wrenching tragedy, I am pondering today some key questions within the following context –
(and these are not actually new questions – I have been asking them and seeking answers to them for 30 years now, but this musing represents the refinement of my framing of them in today’s moment)
I affirm that the well-being of all living things – including me and those dearest to me and the body of the earth – is interconnected.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr explained that “We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny.”
Buddhists (wisely) frame it in terms of the concept of interdependence (pratitya-samutpada).
I get to it in Christianity by (a) seeing the face of Jesus in all around me, particularly in those whom our culture marginalizes, (b) acknowledging that we are all created in God’s image, and (c) affirming that the Holy Spirit dwells within us all. These are central principles in my theology.
I understand interdependence as a simple fact of existence. We are interdependent as living beings and on that basis we ought to care for another.
That is both an ethical stance and a pragmatic one.
We are confronted with a culture – and plenty of people within it – who view living as a game of accumulation of power and material comfort in which the goal is to protect their own well-being (which they believe deserves to be protected even at the expense of the well-being of others).
I admit that I and other well-meaning folk of relative privilege (whatever that relative cultural power is in any immediate moment) are not immune to the lure of this thinking. We are soaked in it and sold it daily, so it takes constant work to scrub it off.
This view renders the majority of the population as disposable beyond their economic value as consumers and as threats to the extent that they are construed to infringe upon the perceived right to accumulate power and material comfort.
These two perspectives cannot exist side-by-side merely as different views of the world.
The second perspective attempts to obliterate and obscure the first – by violence and by constant seduction.
The first perspective floods the second with a demand for justice for all, mercy toward all, equity, care, and compassion. Those who seek to protect the second rightly assess that accepting the fact of our interdependence erodes their fictive claim to deserved superiority.
This is a life and death struggle. Make no mistake about that. It is also a struggle for our souls and the soul of our culture.
Those who would accumulate power in service to their own privilege are prevailing. They have been and continue to effectively shape the world according to their image of it and to their benefit. They adapt quickly and strategically to new challenges.
They are not only not afraid of their own power, they glory in it.
My question is this – how do we who believe in the reality of our interdependence effectively change the game without becoming like those who serve their own power and privilege?
As it stands now, pitting their strategies and worldview against ours, we are losing this life and death struggle.
And yet if we adopt their methods and methodologies (even with different ends in mind) and their tight grasp of power, then we become like them. Or do we?
Surely these are not the only two options – (1) continuing to lose in the struggle for the fully recognized dignity and intrinsic worth of all human lives and all of Creation or (2) becoming like those who so willfully destroy the earth and its people ( or at least callously stand by and allow it to happen).
How do we get beyond this trap of choices?