The world’s drama carries on
Wasn’t it a summer? But now the transformation has happened. The school buses are back on the road. Our children and youth have given up the joys of summer and settled into the rigours of education. The rest of us turn to meet the year that lies ahead. (All this with a pause for Dorian and its aftermath).
Whatever the calendar may say, a new year spreads before us.
The machinations of politics and world affairs seem immune to the passing seasons and abide with us always. The year ahead promises the playing out of some of the basic tensions that have beset humanity for eons.
Hong Kong is an item in practically every news cast.
It is a microcosm of the conflict between democracy and dictatorship that is appearing throughout the world. The Hong Kong confrontation seems inevitable. The simple background is that a democratic enclave was set up within a dictatorship. Neither can tolerate the other. They are fundamentally different ways of understanding how countries are to be governed; how power is chosen and administered.
Governing is a hazardous business at best. Winston Churchill is supposed to have said that democracy is the worst form of government imaginable, until you consider all the others. We see a radical conservatism emerging in many places that is undermining democratic institutions. An independent press and an independent judiciary are essential to a well-functioning democracy. In other words, there must be an informed public living within generally accepted rules and the means of enforcing communal standards. In the U.S., Donald Trump is at the top of a multitude who are unhappy with their democracy. The seeds of dictatorship are being sown. The same forces are alive in practically all democracies.
There are other fundamental tensions at work – racism, sexism, ageism, and all isms. People see life and world in different ways, and they are not always compatible. There are many things that divide us.
Religions are far removed from being of one heart and mind. The differences among religions is minor compared to the tensions within each. There are all kinds of shades and degrees but the division is often described as fundamentalists/ modernist, those who take the Bible, or whatever their sacred literature is, literally as their ultimate authority, and those who accept science and other ways of knowing. Neither way of seeing understands the other. I probably don’t have to mention that I am on the “modernist” side.
At the personal level, an abiding division is between our own needs and compassion. We all have the need for personal identity and security. Sometime that is provided by a political party or a religion; or some group or ideology that one holds. It is easy to find our identity and security by belonging to some group. The need to belong is the primary dynamic of youth gangs.
Finding our identity within ourselves is the challenge we all face. Most of us are mixtures. I cheer for the Blue Jays – a hard task these days – and the Maple Leafs, and no doubt much worse things. Finding inner identity does not do away with the challenges and tensions of life and world. We hold these challenges within ourselves.
One of the most transforming moments of my life came when I read, “the tensions of our modern world have come to rest in us.” That was back in the mid1960s in William Hamilton’s, The New Essence of Christianity. My life-issue has been the loss of a traditional faith and the need for a spiritual connection with something profound and all encompassing.
Carl Jung says that if we are able to hold the divisions of life and world within ourselves that eventually there will be a resolution. For me that came with the discovery of Carl Jung and the transforming of religious belief and language into psychologically meaningful experience.
Know that the divisions within life and world live within us. Your challenge for this New School Year is to be aware of what your inner being is urging you to do. Hold it. Meditate upon it. Act on it. You can help resolve the big issues which now face our world.