Magazine article Tikkun

Spirituality in America

Magazine article Tikkun

Spirituality in America

Article excerpt

Spirituality in America

If the current cynicism about politics and social change deepens, one likely beneficiary will be the various spiritually-oriented communities that have grown decisively in the past two decades. This is not a momentary reaction to the Clinton/Starr fiasco, but a deeper disillusionment with politics. Clinton contributed to this disillusionment by refusing to fight for the principles he articulated, but its roots go back to the failure of the social movements of the past three decades to sustain themselves and embody their visions. Too often, those movements talked the talk but could not walk the walk.

Yet the turn to spirituality is not just a retreat but simultaneously an important step forward. The contemporary resurgence of interest in spirituality is an encouraging indication that tens of millions of people remain dissatisfied with America's dominant ethos of materialism and selfishness. We live at the end of a century in which the competitive economic market has demonstrated its powerful ability to shape the dominant consciousness of the planet. That market consciousness has convinced many that the highest goal of life is to consume, that the proof of one's own self-worth is how much power and money one has at one's disposal, that the "natural" inclination of each person is toward selfishness and egotism, that every other person is a potential rival for scarce economic or emotional resources, that societies should be constructed primarily to protect the individual so that s/he may pursue her own self-interest without external constraints, that progress means the increasing scientific conquest of nature and its transformation into forms that can be used or sold to others, that the goal of knowledge is to increase control and domination of the world, and that the rational way to look at others is in terms of what they can do for you to advance your own agenda.

Spirituality is, first and foremost, a way of orienting to the world, a way of being and knowing, that emphasizes awe, wonder, and radical amazement at the glory of creation and the splendor of the universe. Without rejecting the important place for science and for control of some aspects of our physical environment, spirituality emphasizes the limits of our control, the need to learn to live in harmony with the rhythms of our planet and of the universe, and the need to recognize the sanctity of other human beings and to treat them as essentially valuable not for what they can do for us but for who they are as beings who reflect the ultimate spiritual or divine energy in the universe. …

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