Spirituality in an Age of Ecocide
Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Gratitude, and (of all things) Politics
Many will find this move from spirituality to politics a strange idea. From a spiritual perspective, after all, isn't politics about struggle, power, violence, war, control, and one big ego after another? How could politics help us develop the spiritual virtues of gratitude and mindfulness, compassion and acceptance? The answer is that politics, which has certainly gotten (and often deserved) a bad name, is also a profoundly important source of insight that the pursuit of spiritual wisdom desperately needs.
How is that possible?
Political movements may be the scene of ego-bound competition and violence, yes, but they have also given us democracy and the rule of law, women's rights and civil rights for ethnic/racial minorities. It is political movements and theories that have challenged the conventional status quo which said there was nothing wrong with a slaveholder thanking god for the wealth his slaves brought him, or a man's gratitude for his morning relaxation while his wife does all the childcare and housework. If compassion is a central spiritual value, it is political life that helps us understand what compassion means in the context of the broad contours of social reality. If spirituality requires gratitude, gratitude requires a long hard look at the balance of power and the distribution of wealth.
This is not the end of the story, not by a long shot. If we have learned anything from the lives of Martin Luther King, Gandhi, or Dorothy Day, it is that activist politics have a good deal to learn from spiritual traditions as well. In the end, when we look at justice and wisdom, compassion and revolution, non-violent civil disobedience and mindfulness we see that each requires the other to be informed and effective—or at least a little less likely to betray its own best intentions.
So let's move on from consumerist grasping, but also from a too restricted or self-concerned spirituality. Wisdom and kindness have only their credit cards to lose, and a whole world to win.