In Hebrew the word for love, ahava, is related to the root for "binding together" much like the Latin word re-ligio (to re-bind, or tie together). Love and religion, in this way, are both playing a critical role in elevating the collective soul of the planet, harmonizing the sacred and the secular (a rather artificial distinction that is a holdover from the European middle ages). This elevation is manifest in a new spirituality or global ensouling that is affecting the entire planet. I believe that the forces emerging that are fighting against fundamentalist intolerance and religiously sponsored violence are a hint of the awakening to the divine love and to the eternal life planted within us. In our Jewish language: messianic consciousness without the person of messiah.
To utter the cliché that what the world needs now is sweet love is my very point, but it's not just about love, it's about making spirit the "bottom line." Developing an emancipatory spirituality will bring us into a new world where everyone speaks different tongues, while all hearing the same message: "I hear you, I appreciate you, I respect you, and I want you to experience both justice and love in your life."
In the symbolic language of Jewish mysticism, the kabbalistic tradition, there's a planetary imbalance: too much unrestricted hesed (permission and no-boundaried chaos) and too little restriction of violence, greed and degraded behavior. There's also still too much gevurah — harsh regimes characterized by intolerance and totalitarianism. There are still many countries that long for freedom, while others cannot tolerate the freedom that post-modern society and true democracy provide. Many corporations are unhindered by government and environmental responsibility and remain accountable to no one. That needs to change, even as businesses provide new jobs globally. As religious people, whether working in or out of institutional religious life, we need learn to balance freedom with responsibility.
So, even during this season of great uncertainty, when things seem to be in painful ebb and flow, a great planetary flux, I remain hopeful of the manifestation of global spiritualization. How might this spiritual globalization manifest in a desirable way?
It speaks in a multi-vocal way — deepening historical and communal roots, while getting beyond the notion of "mixing" and dumbing down cultures into a bland colorless soup. It works unceasingly toward loving the neighbor, accompanied by justice for all working people of the planet (and that includes a just distribution of food and resources). It uses power justly to end war and give local communities the ability to reconstruct war-torn areas. It enlists a new corps of volunteers to heal these areas, giving people in first world countries new jobs and roles in healing.
The global spirit of love helps create meaningful communities, not around making profits, but around prophets: those who speak forth for justice, for love and heartfelt compassionate respect for the Other. It defeats the media's manipulation of the crasser aspects of human nature and overcomes the marketing of things the world does not need that simply uses up resources that are actually limited. It defeats the cynicism that is found operating in the capitalist marketplace, yet does not demonize business. This global spirit builds love into a new eco-economic system, which will evolve and is already creating new means of creating and distributing wealth. It catalyzes a new means of just giving while recognizing that God also gave us beautiful things to enjoy and experience (People are entitled to more than a life of bare subsistence and wealth is not a bad thing!)
This is a time of sprouting consciousness of the interdependence of all life, an awakening of all sentient creatures that seek to go beyond the brutality of dog-eat-dog (a cruel and unfair image). May we realize this love that God has placed within us. May we all, in our recognition of the unity of creation, work to respect diversity and yet to overcome the divisive aspects of duality and separation in this world. As our "view" of the universe becomes more sophisticated through space science and travel, we might learn to "think intergalactically and act locally."
So, dear friends of compassion and justice, let us work to bring sanctity and holiness into every action, every moment, every awakening of the great love that the creator has showered upon us. Let us work to do it together, beyond any particular faith or religious denomination or ethnic restriction. We can, while affirming diversity and pluralism, actively build on the common wealth. Let us concern ourselves with strengthening the beautiful tapestry of human expression, which along with the other creatures of this planet (whose health we must protect), is so splendid. Let us unblock the channels and get the love moving, soon, and in our day.
Jonathan Seidel of Eugene serves on the steering committee of Two Rivers Interfaith Ministries, teaches religious studies at UO and PSU and is directing a new interfaith arts and education project for Lane County.