Humans cannot actually view reality from a god’s-eye perspective, despite all the scriptures that have been written by some to help direct others in the name of God. At most, humans can intuit glimmers of insights that might align with a god’s-eye view. Consider the lilies of the field. The god’s-eye view continuously perceives and cherishes the individual agency of each and every creature in the cosmos, animate and inanimate. The god’s-eye view honors the spider in the corner and says, “There You are,” and traps it and releases it, rather than just squishing it. The spider has its own honor and agency, as much as it has its own role in the order of our planet.
Humans exert particular agency over a crucial line of creative tension: on the one hand, managing collections of creatures in patterns of co-creation (think pyramids, gardens, ballet, the internet), and on the other hand, honoring countless creatures individually as inheritors of the same dignity and integrity expected by all individuals. As a potential participant in your ballet, it makes all the difference to me whether I have the right to say “yes” or “no” to any particular role that you offer me. I have faith, based on glimmers I have seen – and glimmers I have learned about from others – that some dances express the Beloved Community and other dances express the Domination System. My longing is to dance in the former and not the latter.
It’s important for each of us to do our best to learn to perform our own roles well in this great balancing act. We have no time to waste on rumination over embarrassing – or tragic – past stumbles. We must pay enough attention to remain (become) conscious of history, learn from past mistakes, and repair broken relationships, but mainly, we need to focus our energies on taking stock of the current moment and moving forward from here. Our instructions are to “do justice” right now, “love kindness” right now, and “walk humbly with our God” right now. It is not humility, but vanity, that moves us to produce stacks of evidence to prove our wokeness or our regret, rather than simply submit to solidarity with our fellow creatures, who are endangered, and simply ask to be put to work.
The Religious Society of Friends was conceived as a corporately organized expression of the Word of God to all humanity. The Elders at Balby, who cast the first mold for the Society’s organization in 1656, explained that their instructions were: “From the Spirit of Truth to the children of the Light, to walk in the Light; that all in order be kept in obedience; that . . . God be blessed for ever.” The inheritance of our faith includes a responsibility to carry God’s blessing into the global order, not to discount the necessity for a global order in the modern era. The Elders at Balby were clear that one of the “necessary things” was: “That if any be called to serve the commonwealth in any public service, which is for the public wealth and good, that with cheerfulness it be undertaken, and in faithfulness discharged: and therein patterns and examples, in the thing that is righteous, you may be, to those that be without.”
A “mob” of people is a random aggregation of individuals who happen to be expressing common frustrations at the same time. A mob is easily managed by power-holders as an assortment of objects and provides some justification for the existence of the Domination System.
A “body” of people is an articulated organization that moves together toward a shared set of purposes. An organization has some chance of negotiating for power-sharing with other organizations. An organization is capable of serving as a pattern and example of the Beloved Community.
Our task is to infuse the global order with the god’s-eye, welcoming, reverent perspective of “I-Thou” relationships, rather than viewing all creatures (including humans) as “it” and “it” and “it.” The Beloved Community sees all creatures as “thou” and “thou” and “thou.” In the midst of the early European wars of conquest over the lands of indigenous Americans, John Woolman journeyed on foot into the wilderness of central Pennsylvania. “Love was the first motion, and then a concern arose to spend some time with the Indians, that I might feel and understand their life and the spirit they live in, if haply I might receive some instruction from them, or they be in any degree helped forward by my following the leadings of Truth among them.” (1763)
Let us carry the “I-thou” view of creation out into the harshness of our time. Let us help win humanity over to the cause of justice and kindness for all individuals. ~~~