There is evidence that much of what we have been taught is no longer appropriate in these new times. We do not follow carefully all the recommendations in the Bible now, yet some people think that some we still honor are inappropriate. And some have even suggested we put the Bible on the shelf for two hundred years.
That sounds pretty drastic – but Albert Schweitzer indicated the same thing in a less shocking way when he said that we should all examine what we have been taught about religion and actually consider what it means. In the end it may be better to lose one’s religion than to simply swallow whole what we are taught.
That is one advantage that a newborn baby has over a caterpillar. The former is not limited to reflex crying and smiling. He can later find other ways of expressing himself and will have other choices. I am sure that George Washington must have made mistakes during the American Revolution. It is fortunate that he was able to adapt and change his ways. What if he hadn’t?
Alexis de Tocqueville feared that Americans might get so wrapped up in making money and in other selfish pleasures that they might leave the government up to the politicians and risk future catastrophe. Indeed, we have failed to participate adequately – we have not demanded excellence in our leaders, nor have we demanded that they inform us.
Wendell Berry, in his book What Are People For, has pointed out our preoccupation with our own independence, our failure to mature and to take responsibility for the community. I myself have not been outstanding as a member of a community. But we must all find the time to balance the needs we have as individuals with the requirements of the two great communities to which we belong, the human community and the Earth life community. Failing that, our future will be spelled out in W.H. Auden’s admonition: “We must love one another or die.” We are utterly interdependent on and with the other members of those two communities.
The Great Work of our times is to substitute our destructive relationship with the natural world, for a healing I/Thou relationship. As Thomas Berry has written, “Whether we do or not we will all go into the future together, sharing the same fate.”
Remember: there is no way to peace; peace IS the way.
I have continued my efforts since the late Eighties, and even prior, to foment peace and to oppose war against other human beings and against the natural world, though much of my writing has languished in notebooks, waiting for a receptive audience.
I have been greatly distressed by the direction our country has been and is headed. Our leaders have been brash and even arrogant for some years, supported by a slim majority at best of people flushed with the perception of being the only super power, unaware that we are interdependent with other species and with other peoples. They could all do without us, but we cannot do without them. We owe other countries over seven thousand billion dollars, an amount too large for most of us to fathom. We are here as a product of preceding species and are nourished by and dependent on them for life. We are all descended from the same original life form, sharing much of the same DNA. Despite our dependency, our leaders seem to feel free to go it alone and to expect others to follow this country’s lead. Our leaders have not tried to be a plain member of the two communities of which we are involuntary members, the Earth Life community and the human community.
We must balance community needs with individual needs rather than regarding the latter as paramount. Our behavior smacks of adolescence, whereas the Europeans now are informed by long experience and the loss of power leading to more advanced mature action and thought. Our leaders have thumbed their noses at them. They have failed to sign on to various international agreements, for example the Law of the Sea and the Kyoto Accord on global climate change, nor to be subject to an International Court. The George W. Bush administration weakened environmental regulations while using terminology to indicate the opposite and has carried secrecy to an extreme.
The 2003 invasion of Iraq was not well thought out and was done in ignorance of available basic knowledge concerning differences in culture and custom and in disregard of advice from others more knowledgeable in military matters. The results have been almost uniformly disastrous: damage to the infrastructure has been enormous and is still ongoing; insurgency is alive and thriving; deaths and injuries have been very great on all sides; the costs in dollars have been enormous so that we are in a precarious situation economically; we have become the most militaristic and destructive nation on Earth and the good will of other nations with respect to us has reached a nadir. We are feared and hated all over the world. We find ourselves in a quagmire, unprepared and unable to maintain the peace.
Meanwhile our country is seriously divided and unaware of or resistant to wiser scientists and other leaders. Those in power refuse to give ear to their advice. We have no serious dialogue in this country, the sine qua non for community so necessary, not only here in the USA, but also in the entire world. But how can we have meaningful dialogue when our leaders keep secret their plans and dismiss so many of us as irrelevant and powerless! Our great numbers and access to very destructive power being so readily available to almost everybody make it mandatory that we have an ongoing dialogue not only with other nations and factions within or outside of other nations but also here at home. If we are to save ourselves from each other, as well as to save our planet we must initiate this dialogue. It is urgent!
Robert B. Ragland Foundation, Inc.