Today is my last day in Aspen, CO. where I have been listening to and learning from some of my most important teachers: Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, Sister Joan Chittister, Kabir and Camille Helminski, Cynthia Bourgeault. The purpose of our gathering is to articulate a new spiritual voice for the United States of America; a contemplative voice that speaks from a deep ecumenism pointing beyond the triumphalism of competing faiths to the simple wisdom of justice and compassion at the heart of all faiths.
I believe we are entering a time of global apocalypse (literally “unveiling”) when the masks behind which humanity hides from its interdependence with one another and with nature are being ripped away forcing to confront the greater unity of which we are a part.
This unveiling will take many forms: economic collapse, increased religious violence, rising crime, ecological disaster, etc. We will be knocked back on our heels, and then knocked down to our knees. The question is not if this will happen, but when. The challenge is how to avoid the apocalypse but how to survive it with our humanity intact.
We will be fed a diet of fear and violence leading to a state of perpetual war. We will be called to a false patriotism that strips us of our rights in the name of God, country, and security. Our religions will succumb to their most violent tendencies, unleashing evil in the name of good, and who damning all who oppose them to hell in both this world and the next. Any religious voice to the contrary, any voice promoting peace and reconciliation, will be thought weak and heretical. But it is in these heretical voices that our salvation lies.
This new voice will be soft, but neither weak nor cowardly. It will a bold, risk-taking voice that insists that love is our salvation, and that love applied means justice for all life.
The voice of fear will argue for a fixed pie, a world of limited resources, and the need to grab as much as we can as fast as we can, others be damned. The voice of love will speak of a renewable world where life is best served by doing less with less rather than more with more.
This new voice I hope is being shaped here. It is as yet a “still small voice,” a voice that asks us to examine not the symptoms of our suffering, but its cause. This is a voice that asks to remove the cause—greed, fear, anger, ignorance—rather than simply treat the symptom. This voice asks us to question our consumption, and argues that we are happiest when we are not burdened by the crushing weight of debt and the even more crushing lust that feeds it. This voice challenges us to be happy, and asks us to look deeply inward to see what truly makes us happy, and to live for that.
I have heard the first words of this new voice. I have no idea if, even if we succeed, anyone will listen, or, if they listen, they will be moved to act. But that is out of my hands. All I can do is cultivate it. And to this I pledge my efforts.