Magazine article Tikkun

Spirit Matters: Meaning, Spirit, God and Religion in the Public Square

Magazine article Tikkun

Spirit Matters: Meaning, Spirit, God and Religion in the Public Square

Article excerpt

Spirit Matters: Meaning, Spirit, God and Religion in the Public Square

Michael Lerner

Is There Enough?

After asking, "Can progressives ever open themselves to awe, wonder, and amazement at the universe's legacy of love" on the cover of our May/June issue, I was powerfully challenged by Cornel West during a public dialogue at the Reimagining Politics Conference in New York City in May. Repeating a truth of the spiritual tradition, I asserted that "there is enough and you are enough." Maybe there is enough for our material well-being if we use our resources wisely, West concurred, but there is not enough time! The more we human beings rejoice in the universe, the less we can accept the short period we have to develop our own consciousness and enjoy the glories of life.

West is certainly right that death feels like a tragedy to many of us--an unadorned negative element that makes us question whether the universe is really so filled with love. Yet faced with the inevitability of death, the spiritual tradition teaches us how to transcend the standpoint of the isolated ego, end our attachment to our specific consciousness, and begin to see the world from the standpoint of the totality. One can rage at the dying of the light of one's own consciousness, one can escape the dilemma of death by positing an afterlife, or one can follow what I call in Spirit Matters the path of Emancipatory Spirituality by situating oneself as part of a universal unfolding of meaning as the universe increasingly manifests love and goodness. Seen in this light, our brief moment of consciousness is a necessary prelude to the possibility of the next generation coming to even deeper levels of consciousness by learning from all that we have been able to embody and transmit, including our ability to let go and create the space for others to move beyond the consciousness level that we have been able to attain in our own lives. We become the platform on which love unfolds, develops, and becomes more deeply ingredient in the world. And everyone of us has enough time to transmit that love, because every single act of our lives has the potential to be a manifestation and strengthening of the way we are created in the image of God. To get this and pass it on is enough.

The Lifeless Conventions: The Spirit Is Missing

The media is doing its best to create drama in a two-party system whose candidates differ primarily in the details of how best to serve their corporate masters. Having succeeded in rendering American discourse one-dimensional and marginalizing all fundamental criticisms, the media now faces the task of regenerating at least a minimal level of interest. So we get its lame attempts to generate excitement: Will George W. use his presidency to ban abortion? Will Al outlaw guns? No. But the media hopes to ride out such overstated differences through November, rather than raising the issues that the candidates and the media's corporate owners wish to avoid.

Big "P" Politics is so boring because politicians share this narrow agenda. On the one hand, they need to mobilize their own constituencies, many of which are organized around single-issues. For them, the conventions must reassert established orthodoxies and fire up fear in their partisans that if the other side wins their concerns will be trampled. On the other hand, they also wish to appeal to a small percentage of "swing voters" who are usually described as moderates; these voters, who will wait until the last moment to decide, are seen as caring more about the personalities of the politicians than about their politics. This year, swing voters are said to be particularly concerned about not continuing the partisanship that dominated the "impeach Clinton" Congress of the past few years. So everyone will be trying to show how nonpartisan and moderate they are. The last thing these big "P" Politics people want is a discourse that actually excites people, challenges the status quo, or has any potential to mobilize anyone who isn't already mobilized. …

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