Magazine article Tikkun

Making Room for SPIRIT

Magazine article Tikkun

Making Room for SPIRIT

Article excerpt

When Henry Ford invented the assembly line in 1913, he made it possible for low-skilled workers to get good pay while producing cheaper cars. The only downside was that workers had to perform the same repetitive tasks day after day.

What Antonio Gramsci called "Fordism" first lay bare an ongoing dilemma for modernity. Increasing efficiency and productivity meant that we would have to segment and compartmentalize our lives. Today, few of us in the developed world work in factories, but we are cut off from ourselves in so many other ways. Sitting at desks most of the day, we only experience the physicality of our bodies at the gym; time with friends becomes a scheduled event rather than a casual occurrence; we eat prepackaged food, often while racing to swallow the last bite before our next appointment; we save our encounters with God for one morning a week, if at all.

To achieve the material measure of a "good" life, we have denied ourselves the immaterial sustenance that makes a life worth living.

In the 1930s, workers protested the conditions at factories like Ford's. They joined unions and demanded that they be treated like people, not machines. Today, people are once again rising up against a life that does not seem worth living. Materialism is not enough. We want a life that matters. Across the globe, people are demanding a return to a life infused with spirit.

How do we make room for spirit in modern America?

The Religious Right seems to have the answer. They call for the integration of spirituality into everyday life, from how we conduct our personal business to how our government conducts our country's business. And they practice what they preach. Go to their websites and you will find they are as concerned about getting families together for family dinners and saying grace at meals as they are about choosing the next justice for the Supreme Court. Indeed, at points, they sound no different than the Religious Left.

Yet there is a difference between the Religious Right and the Religious or Spiritual Left. The Religious Right rose out of a fear that the traditional family was under attack. Women's rights, abortion rights, gay rights, and the growing independence of teenagers all seemed destined to overturn (and, to be fair, were designed to overturn) the traditional patriarchal family. Why focus on the family? The Religious Right's focus on the family comes directly out of a late-nineteenth-century ideology that was a forerunner to Fordism.

In this nineteenth-century worldview, men were free to go out into the world, making deals and focusing solely on material profit, because women remained at home tending to the family's moral and spiritual development. …

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