Never have such extreme constraints been imposed on us – economic, emotional, and physically threatening. The necessity to understand the current threat, to protect ourselves and to secure household and family, has required every bit of energy and attention.
Now, however, the reality of isolation is beginning to sink in.
Imagination easily wanders through feelings of helplessness and, perhaps, to thoughts of paranoia. We are human beings, having a natural tendency to look for fault somewhere – the possibility of malevolence or the likelihood of mistakes and poor judgment – and to lay blame.
As people attempting to protect our families and to survive, such stray thoughts get us nowhere. However, the opportunity to reflect deeply on our lives, both personal and societal, may be opening. This is rare for many of us.
We are aware that things have not been right in America (and the world) for quite some time.
We have little opportunity as citizens to influence economic or political outcomes, yet we have significant control over how we manage our lives.
How have we been doing?
We value our own intelligence and self-respect. So, given the opportunity to think, assess and evaluate — to reflect on what is missing in our lives or what we would like to do better – what ideas or principles might be helpful?
What ways of thinking might help at such an extraordinary time as this?
One of the principles available to us, and which comes with ancient roots in the Judeo-Christian heritage of the western world, is the idea that we each exist for a purpose – which presents itself in the opportunities we have to make a positive difference in the world, each in our own way.
Perhaps most importantly, this idea comes with recognition that our world is fragmented and in disarray.
The smallest acts of compassion and service, however insignificant they might seem, are the effective means for putting the world back together.
There is nothing new about this understanding. All the world religions focus on healing and uniting the fragmentation of societies – on fostering fellowship within social and cultural diversity.
Why do so many adherents of the various religions fail to see this and understand? Surely this is due, at least in part, to the habit of accepting only what feels comfortable, what is selfish and easy. We reject the rest.
It has actually been in the direct response to catastrophe in religious history that the importance of individual deeds has come to be recognized as a fundamental principle.
It is in the immediacy of selfless interactions that we transform negative energy into a force that heals and restores the damage we experience in a battered world.
The smallest actions make a difference.
We do not need to be religious to do good or to understand moral responsibility. To be moral is to do what is right or necessary, out of our own self-respect and not because somebody tells us we should.
Each of us is quite capable of rising up from our own difficulties and selfish preoccupations to reach out to others in straightforward ways.
In experiencing the effectiveness of selfless actions, we make a critical discovery – that we can look upon the disasters around us without concluding that America is irreparable or that human beings are irredeemable.
How important this is for the country, for our communities, and for the well-being of our own spirits!
A future that embodies the essential principles of the American Republic will depend upon citizen initiative that demonstrates the moral responsibility, trustworthiness and caring we are all capable of.
Let this become an everyday, habitual way of life: Allow it to color the character of your local community. And watch what happens.
You may watch for the next post on or about April 22.
Note to new readers: A project description, introduction to the coming book, and several chapters in draft can be found linked at the top of this homepage.