Poor Cousins of the True and the Good

This morning, a thought popped to the surface of the stream that seems to flow without cease through my mind—even when I am unaware of it.

I questioned an assumption that has been a bedrock of my outlook on life for decades; that without a spiritual perspective to guide me I would be adrift in chaos; and that without the support of a deeper, well-tested view of the true and the good I would be vulnerable to the impulses and influences that rage through our society.

This didn’t feel like an act of doubt or skepticism, but a spontaneous wondering and looking around from within a stream of consciousness that usually goes unquestioned and which is largely unconscious of its own operations.

Asking what is worthwhile and in what ways that manifests has led me in two different directions: does my inner life benefit from spiritual perspectives; and does our society benefit from the presence of religious and moral teachings and the diversity of congregations which aspire to follow their guidance?

I can be pretty certain that I have personally benefitted from having encountered a different way of looking at the nature of my own life. In the 1980’s, I was introduced to the possibility that I didn’t need to be so driven by resentment, fear and helplessness; and thirty years later, I can still see the benefit of being more involved, curious, and balanced than I was back then.

But what about the society in which I and everyone I know lives? Our society is so brimming with resentment, fear and helplessness that we may look in vain for a font of truth and goodness with the power and authority to revive the parched soil in which we find ourselves planted.

Perhaps this insufficiency has always been the case; and religion and morality have been invented so that we don’t completely lose our way in the secular realm with its currency of greed, intolerance and dull indifference.

Can all the workshops, self-help programs, bible-study groups, all the congregations and quiet vigils of prayer and hope, influence the momentum of madness raging across the terrain in which our days unfold? Or are our notions of truth and goodness a way to insulate ourselves from the prevailing environment—as we might put on a windbreaker and wool hat when a storm blows in?

Can awareness that we all share a basic humanity help to restore that humanity? Does aspiring to be the kind of person we respect and admire help to keep alive those qualities in a wider realm than our own consciousness? In a world that has spawned such violence, hatred and deep alienation, can we build communities that value what is good and true in each other?

We can ask how we were introduced to whatever now has value for us. Was it a book that woke us up to the neglected potential in ourselves? Did we discover a more balanced and coherent vision than we had previously found in our own driven and inconsistent minds?

Gratitude for what has opened possibilities for us is a natural response to being alive. And perhaps that very gratitude for the potential of life is what first attracted us to what now supports us. And if we are true to what is good in our world, we may find opportunities to add our life force to the streams of goodness on which our own happiness depends.

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