The photo above, which includes Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel during the Selma march of 1965, is captioned, “They are praying with their feet.” We need such praying today. But even more than this, I am drawn to Heschel and King, who shared much in common, but especially the moral conviction, everlasting faith and testimony of the palpable presence and sheer mystic joy in what Heschel celebrated as “Radical Amazement:” this is the pure immediacy of the ineffable that is our humane being with and in our eternal God. By the way, please use your faith and spiritual traditions and languages, trusting that the ineffable and sacred mystery of which I speak and write is in a sense before, after, beyond and within all of our speaking and writing, and all of this as inspired of God’s own thundering into all the variety of oral and written traditions that are the spoken word poetry and rivers of song running across and through all history, humanity, creation.
“Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement. ….get up in the
morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted.
Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life
casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.”
― Abraham Joshua Heschel
Europe and Americas, Israeli and Palestinian Peoples, North, South, East, West, All of Us, Our Life Together: Let’s regain the unified epic grandeur of a democratic people of creativity, empathy and courage, in every innermost and outermost and differing sphere, tier, hierarchy and fellowship of our lives, to reconcile differences and celebrate them as twofold fruitfulness and spiritual gifts. By twofold, I mean yes!! Let us as the inspired great “I Ams” of a certain kind of spoken word poetry, privilege and peace who serve and lead but please, please, stop, stop, my and yours overwhelming determining of others’ self-determining and yours and my unique emancipation spirit, liberal healing and revolutionary servant leadership of “being for” others as if these are objects/subjects/things seen “below, poor, disabled or at the margins.” Let us also celebrate our “habits of the heart, imagination, mind and soul” as democratic peoples and world citizens by generously, agonizingly getting outside ourselves and comforting home, social and public spheres. And in this world outside are own, the one of four/fifths of the world today where the death of poverty and insignificance ever crouches like a tiger, and this other world that is “utopian” to us in the sense that we simply cannot be in it, much less see, know or imagine it, let us open ourselves to be amazed by the sheer goodness, amazing grace and endless love we might discover if we simply open our minds and hearts and receive all that is overflowing in the hearts and minds of these equal and extraordinary peers and enjoy their “being for” us as well.
This is the simple but incredibly hard “twofold” wisdom of all those in the living traditions of original and differing native humane beings and social banded communities; mystic prophets, poet historians and romantic radicals; and all and each and every democratic, revolutionary and utopian individuals and peoples. And as I always do, I will now turn to my fellow peer and good friend, Ernst Bloch, who began his book, The Spirit of Utopia, published in 1919:
“I Am! We Are! That’s Enough! Now Let’s Begin Again!!”
Heschel (1907-1972) was a theologian and civil rights activist best known for his writings on ethics and mysticism. Born into a family of Hasidic rabbis in Warsaw, Poland, he was called to the spiritual life at a young age. In 1939, weeks before the Nazi invasion, Herschel fled to London and then New York City. His mother and sisters died in the Holocaust, a tragedy that greatly shaped Heschel’s theology. For me, his conviction that people can choose to live in a state of constant awe and gratitude, and act alongside God to create a better world is the very “double grace” paring of radical amazement as an overwhelming joy that is more than sufficient, it is uncontainable, God is flooding in from all directions and in astonishing ways, and then impossibly, beyond our capacity, imagination and even our needs or desires given this mystic wonderment or radical amazement is then the simultaneous overflow of passionate engagement to be with and in God’s own passionate engagement to do the sacred work, missio dei and whole justice of expansively inclusive human and social flourishing: not the liberation and overcoming of exclusionary hatreds of others differences, but the enchantment, rejoicing, pure pleasure in delighting and embracing differences in God’s own empathy, understanding, fascination and love.
It is the living spirit within Heschel and King that this is not our constructed poetry and singing, or literary tropes or music of the spheres, our symbols and proxies of a transcendent or immanent God or absolute truth or cosmic mind that somehow is in liminal transforming relationship or transfiguring communion with us, and that this is for the completing of our whole selves and resting and warming of our hearts, and thus is the possessive nature of our individual faiths, sciences and loves, our particular personhoods of beloved community and our native and indigenous sense of our own sovereign authority. The radical amazement that is alive in all of our faiths and communions is at once God’s most generous outpouring and yet only one kind of God’s palpable presence.
The other is an equal whole to this radical amazement if not more of God’s ultimate concern for us and humanity, and deepest need, desire and pleasure overfilling his heart for us to then receive and fill our own and each other’s with: this is God’s passionate engagement in our lives, our history, our deep unbearable suffering and agonies of the cruel violence, traumas and the engulfing and invasive evil that is the Beast of our hatred of one another’s differences. This is hideous strength and devouring enough of this Beast, but it goes much deeper, a horrible entangling with what we cherish of all that is good, life and love with and in God. We see these differences as hateful, dangerous, threatening and cause of existential despair because of our faiths not in spite of them. Thus, we close ourselves off from receiving this passionate engagement, and this yearning of God is what we most tragically ignore, reject and do not even imagine or want as having anything that could come of it more than what we already have, possess and hold on to as our salvific liberation, and the life-affirming and sense of dynamic revelatory and unfolding becoming of all that we are possible in God by looking back with understanding and receiving all we can now redeem and live and then looking forward in the same “dialectic” or messianic or systematic way and trust in our emerging into realizing all that is to come in this one right path, way, life, truth and sacred mystery.
Let me share some brief vignettes of these two prophets who were both in their mystics joy of radical amazement and the revolutionary thundering momentum of God’s passionate engagement to not only overcome these horrible modern disorders but to not have any trace of them in your life.
At Riverside Church in Harlem on April 4, 1967, exactly one year before his assassination, Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered a blistering and courageous critique of U. S. intervention in Vietnam. His “Beyond Vietnam” speech was a critical turning point in his leadership and I argue in the prophetic passionate engagement of going far deeper, wider and further than the “individual-based kinds of justice focused on human and civil rights, the values of self-determining, sovereignty, dignity, diversity, equal justice under the law, and so on: these are all the pillars of the liberal traditions of Western Civilization as evolving and becoming hegemonic in Europe across the past millennium and then a dominant vision of a good society and pursuit, praxis and vision of justice. King is suddenly changing the trajectory, the meaning, the purpose and entire engagement of this movement. To me, he is prescient in beginning to see just how deeply rooted, vastly entangled were the problems of racism, militarism, nationalism, intolerance and this ancient one that was the very unleashing of the hounds of hell: the barbarism and moral hubris of rationalizing and justifying the dehumanizing oppression of others for the advancing progression of civilization and liberation of the relatively privileged few.
- Heschel, born in 1904, and though poor was revered as mystical genius: God plays a role in every aspect of life, his faith was orthodox Hasidism; his seminal book on the Old Testament Prophets, centers on Moses as standing up to Pharaoh (i.e., a Beast in Christian eschatology); and King also sees Moses as standing up to the “powers that be” and contemporary Beasts, and brings this tradition into the civil rights movement.
- Heschel is further out than MLK in this tradition and the civil rights leaders and members immediately embrace Herschel as key to bring in prophetic tradition into civil rights movement
- Prophets are both of radical amazement and love their people in this way, but awaken them to their comfort and complicity in God’s passionate engagement and witness to the beast in all its forms, those without and those within: both Heschel and King found complacency the most haunting and despairing of problems. For them, the Wonderment evoked by faith, the acutely physical sense that God is there, was disappearing and vanishing from the Western world. Jews in eastern Europe were not as affected, influenced by modern world, and had a greater sense that God is here.
- Both argue people of faith especially cannot be in enclaves; they must be in the world, this is a luxury they cannot afford.
- God takes men seriously, god cares about all humanity, offended by suffering and degradation, deep pathos, God is overcome by suffering.
- Prophet is a truth teller: they tell the community what they do not want to hear.
- A minor injustice takes on cosmic significance: if there is injustice in the world, we are all complicit in it, the prophetic tradition in the Hebrew Bible is that this God has entered into history in all its pains disappointments, suffering and inhumanity; and not only weeps, but condemns, rejects and inspires, guides and encourages his own passionate engagement to wash it all away.
- For King, this is the core of the Christian evangelical, Pentecostal and Black Church traditions: the People themselves to be free to then “usher in new heavens and a good earth.”
- Seared into Heschel was the fact that the Catholic church was unable or unwilling to resist the Nazi regime because it feared this could have led to the destruction of the Catholic church throughout Europe. Thus is what I mean by the theodicy of the evil and harm that the good do. And I deliberatively am avoiding irony quotes because the poignancy and agony of this theodicy is that this is the tragic problem of those whom we rightly admire as good people wholly alive and faithful in their love of god and thus their love of one another.
- Prophetic tradition is one of “social justice” whereas the liberal traditions are conformist, compact, enclosed, self-limiting, moral and rational, cautious.
- Heschel experiences culture shock when he comes to America, which he finds spiritually vacuous, he decries its cheerful sense that the sole purpose of the universe was to satisfy man’s needs.
- All of the Jewish world is being obliterated and the world doesn’t care. Hershel sees this as horror of the world’s war on difference, the willing desacralization, scapegoating, stigmatizing and degradation of human beings.
Both King and Heschel share in this one enduring anguish of their life, testimony of a life of both radical amazement and passionate engagement in profound reflection on this last point of the “horror of the world’s war on difference:
Where is God??!! This was not the question nor even a theodicy of much depth. The question is where is humanity??!! This again is the theodicy that I still struggle with, the one that does not point to God as the others, but increasingly points away. Thus: my unified twofold theology of liberation and utopia for everlasting expansive flourishing is literally a doubling of our worlds, humanity, our way, life and truth with and in God. I fear that in our one totalizing modern world, it is almost a miracle for us to be in any kind of radical amazement or passionate engagement as we deeply need and as God profoundly desires. We need two worlds to receive and give these two essential and critical to be in the palpable presence of God. Fortunately, our God meets our needs and desires before we are even aware of them!
My heart aches today and my news is not good but it is of this same prophetic tradition that both Heschel and King shared and was incandescent within them both. The radical amazement that is truly the full blessedness of God’s grace and love, the oceanic immersion in and of our illimitable humanity, every possibility and promise. It is not enough!! This is the witness of our age, of all humane beings, all with the same deep soul, same original fires in their hearts and minds, this is the realized utopian flesh and blood accomplishment and example of all the hundredfold multitudes like Heschel and King, those who pray with their feet, those who have struggled, given all that they had to give for and in and with God’s passionate engagement and then gave more. We are better than this! We must finally come to some kind of deeper understanding of where this barbarism comes from, where this worst of all theodicies draws its seductive allure where we harm and do evil to one another when we are faithful, moral, virtuous and rational, when we are sincerely in the radical amazement of mystic awe, our piety is that of Jesus, our social justice is that of Christ.
Why these thoughts and feelings today?
Like many, our family and I together, and me in my peculiar solitary way, have been struggling with the horrible violence engulfing Israel and Palestine today. It would be almost a hardening of our hearts to think of this as a recurring tragedy for it is a constant permanent one, the crouching ubiquity of the true hideous beast that is corrosive and overwhelming like the inescapable rains and floods of acid upon all the various and beautiful but vulnerable faces, bodies and humane beings that each and every one in their own unique ways are the living epic grandeur of our eternal God, our illimitable Humanity, the palpable presence of all that is sheer goodness, grace and love, and all godly and humane truths, virtues and blessedness. This is the sacred mystery, the eloquence of silence, the suffering and joy that psalms and laments and rejoices in the soft murmuring of little streams and the thundering shouting from mountaintops, the sacred mystery, the mystic awe, wonder that is within and without each and every one of us.
In light of our discussions about this, I offer this as the most eloquent and heart-aching witness of all that is our passionate engagement as with and in that of God. I think Francis would like to see this if not already seen by her. This author is simply beautiful in his testimony which I think is what you were saying Diane about how the Board could have risen to the occasion in the same way: touching our shared humanity in a reconciling but honest way of appreciating all our differences across ideological, cultural and historical spectrums.
“People of our time are losing the power of celebration. Instead of
celebrating we seek to be amused or entertained. Celebration is an active
state, an act of expressing reverence or appreciation. To be entertained is
a passive state–it is to receive pleasure afforded by an amusing act or a
spectacle…. Celebration is a confrontation, giving attention to the
transcendent meaning of one’s actions.
Source: The Wisdom of Heschel”
― Abraham Joshua Heschel
Dear Friends, I am reading Heschel’s The Prophets now and will begin to share from it this week. It was written in 1963 and is the kind of magisterial and seminal work that speaks to the very depths and sacred mysteries that are the extraordinary human, social, spiritual and universal paradoxes, truths and gifts within every individual humane being and interwoven people. I look forward to sharing this truly transcendent and beautiful book with you. Please know you must read, contemplate and enjoy intimately, sensually and contemplatively the fruitfulness of this spiritual radical to understand what he means when, for example, he laments our almost inescapable modern tendency to “see what we know, and not to know what we see.”
For me, Heschel is calling out the very fountainhead of all modern disorders like egoism, elitism, nativism, racism, patriarchy and tragically on and on: this is the moral growth imperative and self-determining “mission dei” to “civilize by excluding, depersonalizing, dehumanizing, enslaving and vanishing” all those too this, too that, and not “just so” as Rudyard Kipling sweetly and innocently wrote for the children of the British Empire during the high civilization reign of the Victorian Era. This fountainhead metaphor of mine is deliberatively chosen to make the clear analogy to Ayn Rand and her “objectivist community of unapologetic egotists and amoral capitalists (to which I add all those who need, desire and delight in similar kinds of unbound promethean power, whether political, cultural, economic, intellectual, social, family, church, local community, etc,).
We who are in the underlying spirit of this website, work and welcome say NO! to this fountainhead that is still horribly, hideously overflowing throughout the world, and in and of every near, dear and present community, state, nation, institution, ideology, culture, and tragically especially what was once a people who would be democratic and citizens of the world and their own local beloved ones. this tradition of mystic amazement like Heschel and/or the passionate engagement of all peoples in rising up, mobilizing and building democracies, realizing the utopias that are so-called because of established hegemonies that bind the world into categories and realities of “non-being, not here or no place” for to celebrate, affirm and fiercely advocate for all those of innocents who know this moral barbarism all too well. conforming to the standards, needs, desires and expectations of a eugenic and genocidal higher order, technology-augmented imperial “middle way” global world system.
NO!! We are a liberal, liberation people and simultaneously a divinehumane radical realized utopian democracy interwoven humanity “ushering in new heavens and a good earth” as all are called and welcome as amazing prophets, romantic poets and engaged democratic peoples who are unified, mobilizing and acting wherever they can with, in and of the epic grandeur of being souls, hearts, minds, imaginations and bodies on fire, here and now and with all living generations of all native first fruitful peoples and all similarly inspired triumphal last ones and those in between—past, present and future—“something new under the sun” again!!
Please note: I am providing the entire piece below; I find it’s every word and whole message the one I deeply needed.
Weep for this place in the season of wildflowers when it should be beautiful, weep for the dead and the living, weep for God who can’t get us to stop, weep for humanity.
Opinion by Gershom Gorenberg
JERUSALEM — We could go on forever this way, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his cheering squad wanted us to think. The intifada was long past. We were secure.
We were supposed to believe Gaza could suffer quietly under blockade. The conflict, if not over, was under control. We would make peace with far-off oil kingdoms, without giving anything up or seeing the people living next to us.
The police could crush protests angrily, as if protesting were primarily a rude insult to the police themselves. They could neglect the daily violence of despair in Arab towns in Israel, and yet turn violent at protests against their neglect. Their anger came out again at the weekly protests at Netanyahu’s residence and at recent protests at Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem against expelling Palestinian families.
We could go on forever, like driving across a bridge where we could see cracks, like watching a safety rope fray.
Europe would go on helping pay the bills for the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, and Qatar would continue sending cash to Gaza. The occupation was a bargain, the people there living 10 miles away from us and yet beyond mountains of darkness, settlements could grow, and we could skip reading those stories. It was elsewhere; it had gone on so long it could clearly go on longer.
The former president of the United States “took Jerusalem off the table,” so Jerusalem was no longer a problem. Peace plans withered quicker than cut flowers. The United States could give up on diplomacy. It had only so much attention and problems elsewhere. Nothing was blowing up here, so nothing would.
In Ramallah, Mahmoud Abbas was president forever. In Gaza, Hamas ruled and built rockets. News stories about Palestinian reconciliation bloomed briefly and faded. Each side would hold onto its fiefdom and platform. There were two different Palestinian governments, which was convenient for Netanyahu because it meant there was no one to talk to, and things could go on as they were.
In Israel, we held elections. No one won. The government increased the number of ministries and governed less. Netanyahu helped the party of the racist right get into parliament so it could help him stay in power. Only a small, tired remnant of the left, proving it was obsolete, talked about occupation.
The threat of families being evicted in Sheikh Jarrah coincided with Ramadan and with the annual march of right-wing Jewish youths to the Old City in Jerusalem. The police used familiar aggressive tactics against protests at al-Aqsa Mosque, ignoring the effect of clashes on sacred ground. Because nothing had blown up, the government acted as if nothing would blow up.
The cracked bridge collapsed; the frayed rope snapped.
At night, the furies, Jewish and Arab, fill streets in Israeli towns and attack people. Hamas, finding a chance to be noticed, throws rockets, not caring who they hit. Israel’s military aims carefully at Gaza. Either way, people are shredded.
I remember the first time I saw a pool of blood after a terrorist bombing in my neighborhood, and the first time I saw torn pieces of what had been a person on a downtown storefront. Bombs did not liberate anyone. If you have looked on these things, and you now hear of the rockets hitting Israel and buildings bombed in Gaza, then it is impossible to bear hearing people far away talk with certainty about which missiles are evil and which are necessary.
Weep, damn it, weep for us. Weep for this place in the season of wildflowers when it should be beautiful, weep for the dead and the living, weep for God who can’t get us to stop, weep for humanity.
Somehow this will stop. May it happen now, as you read this. We will see each other’s faces, each other’s pain. We will realize this cannot go on. We will find each other. It is what can come after anger and grief, what must come. I have to believe.
These words are what I have left after all the explanations and counterfeit certainties. I have tears for two peoples, tangled together, and hope that we’ll finally see that this can’t go on. We can’t let it.
Mankind will not perish for want of information; but only for want of
appreciation. The beginning of our happiness lies in the understanding
that life without wonder is not worth living. What we lack is not a will to
believe but a will to wonder.”
― Abraham Joshua Heschel, God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism
This to me is the essence of what is possible of deep and alive faith in God. It is this whole world come alive in this weeping now because the world desires and is come alive in all that is good, beautiful, magnificent, loving, the ineffable pleasure that is God’s own excellence overfilling his own heart and all others as overfilling too. These are the words we need to hear and then act upon. This is the radical amazement, passionate engagement that is the extraordinary, impossible testimony of multitudes upon multitudes who have come like living waters and the bottomless reservoirs out of these faith traditions, cultures and lands in the Middle East, Palestine and Israel, neighboring peoples and all migrations North, East, West and South, the crossroads and cradling of first native peoples and the great complex, various, interwoven tapestries of world civilizations that began in Africa and then this Mediterranean world.
It is because of this history, this first inspiration that I today speak of my own gloriously life-affirming testimony of faith and lifelong struggles in what I now feel as God’s radical amazement peculiar in me as two worlds of humane and divine experiences, each supporting and challenging,, bewildering and enriching, fulfilling and surpassing the other. Mine is a doubling of all our beauty and pain. The first is the one well-known, it runs through every people like the same river and then branching into tributaries and streams: the suffering and joy as felt in the world of history, our shared world of differing tragic triumphs and overcoming of the unpredictable violence of dark nights and broken glass, and then persevering through new ones. This world cries out for liberation, healing and empathy: God, all humanity, our own common home, all that is of flourishing but now being impoverished, depleted, commodified and made into things. Our world is a beastly nightmare of things making other things in their own coding and imaging and through other things that are the quantified, surveilled, sorted, judged, stored, gathered “big data” and proprietary micro data sets that were once flesh and blood humane beings. Jesus weeps and the Beast smiles.
But then this is not enough of my radical amazement for I have since childhood cried out, felt and come alive in another inspired world that is wholly other to this one, and I could not be any more grateful to my eternal God who loves us so much he gives us two worlds, two ways of being on fire in our hearts, minds and souls, two ways of sensually, intimately, mutually and instinctively embracing all that is of God and humanity and epic grandeur. Our God gives us this twofold theology, palpable presence in the agony and ecstasy of being the whole world alive, the one we describe as being in the transcendent but palpable overwhelming Christ. This is the world we need most in however we come to it and it comes to us.
“Lift up your eyes and see. How does a man lift up his eyes to see a little
higher than himself? The grand premise of religion is that man is able to
surpass himself; that man who is part of this world may enter into a
relationship with Him who is greater than the world; that man may lift
up his mind and be attached to the absolute; that man who is
conditioned by a multiplicity of factors is capable of living with demands
that are unconditioned. How does one rise above the horizon of the
mind? How does one free oneself from the perspectives of ego, group,
earth, and age? How does one find a way in this world that would lead to
an awareness of Him who is beyond this world?”
― Abraham Joshua Heschel, God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism
For me, this is the being the world “with no more tears,” no more slaughter of the children of innocence, this expansively includes each and every one of us. This is the impossible ineffable extraordinary complete communion, ultimate peace and whole humane and social flourishing that is the promise, life, light and call of every faith and science, every person and every people. This is the world we need to overcome this Beast in the world of history that is the pure evil of hating people because of the differences that are the true gifts of unique originality, the knitting together in the artistry and complex looming in our life together, our divinehumane beautifully and fearsomely made individual and social humane personhoods and beloved communities.
Why is this important today? We cannot overcome the unspeakable barbarism of our hating of each other’s differences because it is by some mystery or theodicy of the harm and evil that the good, as well as bad and ugly, do to one another: we tear each other to pieces as we try to hold ourselves together in the palm of God, warm and rest our hearts in his ultimate peace. N!! This is the one way, life, and truth, the one righteous path that is sufficient for our own particular great “I Ams.” But it is scarcely sufficient for the grace of our eternal God and the love of our illimitable Humanity: this is a simultaneous overflowing of all that is in each into each and all of our own divine inner lights and own humane social being. Please feel free to think of all that you are affirmed by in your faith and that makes you whole and complete in loving communion as a finite human with the infinite, the taste of the transcendent, immanent or kairos that is the stuff not only dreams, hopes and faiths are made of: this is the liberating substance and enchanting presence of God.
Consider this then your particular suffering and joy that is with and in the sheer mystery and goodness of God, your being wholly alive in the world of history, your heart overfilling with the pleasure that is overfilling that of God.
And now go to the very innermost and outermost rims of this faith and leap into a chasm of what in completely missing, before, after, beyond and “utopian,” not here or no place, simply impossible, and then jump into this unknowable, wholly other and terrifying, transgressive, forbidden wilderness because the agony you now experience is somehow more real, compelling than the suffering you already know: but your pain has gone far too beyond its limiting and perfecting of redemption, meaning and pointing you joyously to God’s loving, constant presence. And yet now this agony becomes meaningful too in the same way, though unbearable, and thus, it like suffering and joy, leads and is interwoven with an ecstasy correspondingly far beyond that containable in the world’s spectrum of differing kinds of joy in the sheer goodness, abundant love, and eternal life of God. This is the agony and ecstasy of being in a world that is outside this one, but of the same flesh and spirit, the same humanity and God: it is the one we need to have the triumphal whole world come alive, to be in the very eternity, music, poetry, mind and language of God that delights as if pure ecstasy in every astonishing difference and originality, all deep souled creatures, great and small.
In this twofold way, we have a new way of overcoming this double bind tragedy. First is the overwhelming cruelty of this barbarism of savage hatred of differance, as overloaded with profound threatening significance, existential dangers to one’s own sense of deep welcome and peace, own home, identity and very meaning and significance, and first and foremost, underlying and ultimately one’s own concern, need, cherishing of their own salvific separate peace and living transfiguring communion with God.
Second is the immediate disquiet, distracting and intensifying of these painful and unwanted hellish hatreds over other’s and our own differences that is our righteous angers and passionate advocacies, our constant theological, cultural, historical and political warfare in possessing and dispossessing others and to force, divide and fragment all differing peoples to be on the right side of these polarizing enduring and recurring oppositions. We simply need a Sabbath, if only a brief moment, for rest, pause, silence, eloquence, radical amazement, passionate engagement again with our eternal God who is passionately engaged with and in us, engaged in history, and in my testimony and understanding of the world and history, its modern disorders and historical sins that God finds this kind of hatred, the stigmatizing, scapegoating, exclusionary social distancing, mass incarcerations, genocides and eugenicide the epitome of the madness of civilization.
This is the great confinement of the “idle poor, disabled, sick, insane, criminal, all those who are of non-being, unseen, untouchable, and so on” not just in actually barbaric asylums and prisons and refugee camps, but in our own fears, nightmares and waking lives. We who are different are the world’s first usable villainy to justify a moral and immoral growth imperative, the tragic but triumphal optimal sustainable growth by constantly extending and deepening our public interwoven living corporate body and sphere (i.e. political, cultural, social, economic, religious, communications, linguistic, etc.) that at first may be immoral, cruel, almost beyond the pale of civilization, but ultimately moral, optimizing, modernizing, we are told, they say, we believe, we perpetuate in the lie). The fountainhead of all of our modern disorders today that is the tragedy and violence flooding and smothering our world today, violence and barbarism and poverty anywhere is our own, and the agony and suffering that is not redemptive, meaningful or forgiven in terms of our call to place our hearts in each other’s and feel the ever greater pleasure of God’s overfilling, overflowing unsurpassed ecstasy. Our faith or love or individuality is not to merely possess God and the cosmos and creation as if our own, our own sacred work, worship, ritual and missio dei. No!! It is to do the same with one another.
“Civilization by Dehumanization” is the fountainhead of all modern disorders like “just hierarchy,” racism, patriarchy, imperialism, poverty, and so on. It is the deeply embedded problem of the world’s war on difference, the world we have made that is making us. This is my construct, civilization by dehumanization, as the pure and simple truth of the tragic depth and thoroughly saturating nature of violence in the world where it is not only acceptable but cherished, desired, moral and rational to hate, despise and eliminate those who are different i.e., do not support the conformist, coherent, compact and closed norms, values and uses of a particular polity.
It is to be a people who are of course infinitely divided, differing
and opposing, for we are each extraordinary and unique among equal peers, each and every one of us is a part of the whole living sacred and transcendent and sensual and instinctive mystery; each of us is this whole in every part of each other. We need to radically reimagine our faith and science traditions, secular and ecclesial ideologies and theologies, if we cannot overcome this tragic fact that it is our paradoxical embrace of our perfecting love of our own tragic gaps (the essential premise of our liminal, messianic or dialectical dynamic real relationship with our eternal God, illimitable humanity, objective reality, our subjective union with the cosmos, and unitive consciousness, and so on.
The fountain head of all modern disorders is the construct of “behavioral modernity” that various disciplines and scholarship find as a change in our evolutionary trajectory around 50 to 40 thousand years ago. I see this is the beginning of a new kind of consciousness, a new way of developing and sustaining and growing farming or pastoral communities than what was the intimate forming of the first modern homo sapiens humane beings in small social bands where each person is sacred, essential, simultaneously twofold as extraordinary individual and interwoven humane be intimately engaged in the making of all creation, themselves and each other as they are making of them in turn. This is a forming that begins about 300 thousand years ago. Then suddenly with the advent of the neocortical prefrontal cortex as evolving and integrating in the brain i.e., the executive seat of organizing, integrating, sorting, selecting, judging, moral, rational, and so on. This “behavioral modernity” that begins as if a sudden bifurcating evolutionary biological anthropological branching into two primary “via modernas.” I argue the one that becomes dominant and to such an extent as crowding out the other is the one that rationalizes as a moral growth imperative the “civilizing by dehumanizing and enslaving of others, those on the other side of “our new frontiers.” This is the disease of hatred of differences that we actually cherish; it is bred in our very bone, marrow and tissue.
This is the longer, more tragic, horrible evolutionary origins and shared histories of this current madness, irony and tragedy. We are better than this. We are the radical amazement of God. We are two worlds for this very reason that one is the direct witness and fighting of this beast that is within us all, and how extraordinary that people can be so honest about this fact and persevere and courageously engage in overcoming and fighting this; this is historical and contingent, not of a transcendent “original sin” or of our humane, spiritual or divine nature. It is our historically-situated nature as determined and determining within our public living bodies (i.e., political, cultural and economic tribes, nations or communities. And thus, we need to be in a “non-historical” world in a matter of speaking that is solely based on our true humane, spiritual and divine nature. This is what the world needs most today. Two ways of being in the world: the one of inescapable political realism and this ethos of civilizing by dehumanizing and desacralizing, this hating of “others’ differences” as a way to sublimate, distract, evade or cope this this immoral growth imperative.
My twofold theology and interpretive framework for being in these two opposing worlds that are mutually enriching, challenging and turned upside-down in embracing their differences in the same way that God does who makes, sustains and delights in them. This does not have to be of any particular faith or philosophy or practical wisdom, and who is passionately engaged in seeking that we not only rest our hearts in his but in each other’s, and to be in his own ineffable awe before the vitality, mystery, truth, vulnerability, honesty, integrity, beauty and creativity that is in other extraordinary persons as within you as well.
This is the additional calling of “double grace” (please see this and other Key Ideas and Images under About) to go as far outside of ourselves, our faith traditions, our sciences, our histories, our costly disciplines and spiritual practices, and simply stop!! Please, please, please simply stop, stop talking, and rejoice in the sabbath, the stillness, and then not just see the “Christ” in another who is also in you. Be completely with and in this other world, reality, that is in the slightest of differences of another.
Don’t see but be with others as having the sacred mystery within.
As our family tried to come close, near and dear in the need for pause, the eloquence of silence, seeking to rest our hearts in that of God, we acknowledged that there was a certain kind of deeper pain that took hold of us, and it was the sad irony that even when we have these sacred moments to try to reflect and pause.
Just a moment’s pause in the constant fighting, cultural and political wars of every kind, and hold the complexities of life for a little time in peace, a Sabbath of rest and replenishing, and try to gain new insights for how to get out of this insanity of constantly intensifying the violence and cruelty of the world as if leading to a different outcome than just more violence and cruelty in regard to hating people because of difference, the lifetime testimony and struggle of King and Heschel, multitudes and multitudes more in this same prophetic tradition, the twin suffering and joy and agony and ecstasy of both radical amazement as individuals and passionate engagement as equal participatory partners and extraordinary individuals among equal peers and interwoven in the same humanity and creation: we need our feet to do our praying, and we need to discover ways to get outside the world we are for the new thinking required to overcome its problems.
And then in an instant this possibility was gone. The overheating of these issues, the deep pains of these differences and the traumas of historical memory and individuals and families caught up in this horror brought in the immediate hatreds and angers and passions of protest and lamentation and politics…
There was no moment for either radical amazement or passionate engagement.
No!! That is not how this essay ends! Where is humanity?? That is actually not the right question. But “Where am I??!! That is by far the better question! Actually, “Where am I?” is too much of the problem of “I am” that underlies all this hating of differences. No. That is not enough, not right.
The better question is “Where are we??!!”