Smaller Is Beautiful

I had an argument with my wife the other day.

Not long ago, I bought a half gallon mason jar with plastic lid, handle and flip top pour spout. I have been using the pitcher to brew iced tea and sometimes to put water on the table during meals. We have two other half gallon pitchers, but I prefer the way this one functions.

Last week my wife decided she wanted to cold brew coffee. In an effort to be economical, she found a lid and filter setup designed for use with a half gallon mason jar and bought it. Only she drinks iced coffee, while we both drink ice tea. Her proposal was to use the jar to brew coffee, then transfer that coffee to two quart-sized mason jars, which used the same size lids as the larger jar. This would leave the mason jar available for tea or water use. No need for an extra jar.

I was doubtful about the efficacy of this plan. It seemed certain to me that my favorite pitcher was going to become her cold brew coffee pitcher. Indeed, she had already brewed some coffee and the pitcher was now residing in the refrigerator, unavailable for water or tea. She told me she couldn’t reach the quart sized jars which were on the top shelf in the kitchen. She had asked me to get the jars down for her a few days before, but I was annoyed that she was commandeering my favored pitcher and didn’t do it. Yah, I cop to it. I am passive -aggressive, a strategy developed in childhood to deal with a dictatorial, my way or the highway, father.

When I suggested we buy another half gallon jar, my wife accused me of always undoing her solutions to problems. I told her I modify them when they are not working for me. I reiterated that we should buy another jar. She wasn’t having any of it. Yup, we were engaged in something more than a conversation about pitcher use.

At this point, perhaps unwisely, I decided to site another example where her solution wasn’t working for me. She swims twice a week in the chlorine laden pool at our health club. Afterwards, she likes to rinse her bathing suit and soak it in the bathroom sink with some sort of bathing suit conditioning product. She leaves it there, usually for a couple of hours, but the day before, practically all day. The problem with her solution is that we have only one bathroom and one bathroom sink. When she’s soaking her bathing suit I can’t use the sink.

“So,” she said, “I have to make myself smaller for you? I’ve been making myself smaller for other people my entire life.” Yup, this is not about the jar or the bathing suit. At this point I felt it best to leave things alone for a while. We come to these impasses from time to time. We generally get through them in 24 hours or so, after we’ve had time to cool down and back away from whatever deep-seated trauma was expressing itself in the moment. And that is how it went.

The idea of making oneself smaller to accommodate another person stuck with me though, because it was true. I was asking her to make herself smaller. It wasn’t unreasonable for me to ask her to be considerate of me in her use of the bathroom sink but yes, I was asking her to make herself smaller for me.

To be in an intimate relationship, we necessarily have to make ourselves smaller in many ways. We have to make room for that other person. It’s not considerate to leave our clothes strewn all over the bedroom or our dishes undone in the sink, or to expect whatever we want whenever we want it. We have to make ourselves smaller to be in that intimate relationship. But, as most of us have experienced, there is great benefit to being in a good relationship. Good relationships are always more than the sum of their parts. So, we make ourselves smaller to become part of something larger. A larger something we benefit from in many ways.

We can easily lose sight of the benefits of compromise, especially when deep seated past traumas become engaged. And this dynamic is not exclusive to intimate relationships. It functions at the local, regional, national and, even global levels.

Presently, there is a crisis among the men and women of the mostly white patriarchy in my country. They are refusing to make room for people of color, immigrants, and LGBTQ+ people. They are insisting on extreme restrictions to the rights of women to manage their fertility. They are unwilling to make themselves smaller to be part of something larger.

There is also a crisis in our global economic system which is incapable of constraining itself to be in a sound relationship with the planet we depend on. A pathological relationship emerges when one part of a whole insists on being bigger at the continuous expense of other parts of the whole.

I have decided to let my wife have the half gallon jar for her cold brewed coffee. She’s right, we don’t need another jar. We have two more half gallon pitchers that are adequate for my purposes. So, I will make myself a little smaller for her because I value enormously the whole that is us. And the bathing suit soaking? Yesterday my wife found a plastic pail to soak her bathing suit in. She made herself a little smaller too.

A Humanist Concept of Sacred

What follows is derived from a talk I gave at the New York Society for Ethical Culture a decade ago. I am revisiting it because of the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and my efforts to parse what I think about the sanctity of life in relation to a woman’s right to choose. I am also compelled to return to it by the deeply divided nation I live in and the relentless attacks of one side of that division on principles I hold to be sacred.


Current theory in Physical Cosmology tells us that the Universe exploded into existence approximately 13.8 billion years ago from a single point. That it emerged out of a singularity suggests there was nothing adjacent to be savaged by the blast.

About 13.7 billion years ago the first stars and galaxies began to form. Stars are massive nuclear furnaces where matter is subjected to unimaginable extremes of pressure and heat. Scientists tell us that stars eventually burn out, many of them with cataclysmic explosions, and then turn cold (relatively speaking) or collapse into very dense matter, some reach densities sufficient to become black holes. At some point in the very distant future our sun will die, taking with it any life that still exists on Earth.

About 3.8 billion years ago the first primitive life forms appeared and the workings of the survival of the fittest were set in motion. It was a microbe eat microbe world back then.

800 million years ago the first primitive animals appear and bring the competition to be the next big thing to a new level.

About 200 million years ago mammals emerge, but since the dinosaurs won the big thing competition long before that, they remain a secondary trend for some 135 million years.

About 65 million years ago the dinosaurs become extinct, the apparent victims of a random catastrophic event. An asteroid or comet collided with the earth, indiscriminately killing all life near the impact and altering long term environmental conditions to such a degree that the dinosaurs fail to survive. Mammals begin their ascent to become the next planetary idol.

About 300 thousand years ago Homo sapiens arrives. Soon after, geologically speaking, these intelligent creatures begin to ponder the world around them and observe that it is a dog eat dog world and nobody gets out alive.

About 170,000 years ago, a supernova explodes in the large Magellanic Cloud, destroying who knows what in the immediate vicinity and sending a brilliant flash of radiation out to the far reaches of space.

On the 24th of August, 79AD, Mount Vesuvius erupts, burying the city of Pompeii and indiscriminately killing everyone, the good, the bad, the men, the women, the children.

On August 26th and 27th of 1883 an eruption of Krakatoa culminates in a series of massive explosions heard as far away as Perth in Austrailia. The official death toll recorded by Dutch authorities was 36,417. Tsunami waves were experienced by ships as far away as South Africa. So far reaching are the effects that researchers have proposed that the blood red sky depicted in Edvard Munch’s painting “The Scream” can be attributed to the lingering effects of the explosion. Munch is quoted as saying “suddenly the sky turned blood red … I stood there shaking with fear and felt an endless scream passing through nature.” The painting was made in 1893, a full ten years after the eruption.

In 1987, earth-based observers witness a super nova in the Large Magellanic Cloud, 170,000 years after it happens.

In October of 2003, a young boy was playing beneath the clay bluffs on Block Island, Rhode Island, and was suddenly buried under a dump truck sized hunk of clay that broke away. Frantic efforts to save him were to no avail.

On December 26, 2004, a great earthquake shook the floor of the Indian Ocean producing a tsunami that took the lives of almost 230,000 people.

On August 29th, 2005 Hurricane Katrina, one of the most costly and deadly hurricanes in the history of the United States, reached landfall on the Louisiana coast. Almost 2000 people died and an estimated 81.2 billion dollars worth of property damage was done.


This is an inquiry into a non-religious, or humanist concept of sacred and whether such a concept is meaningful without connection to a religious belief system derived from a higher power. I do not rely much on authorities to develop this argument. I am trying to reach deeply into my personal experience of the world and grapple directly with a concept that is key to our ability to live with one another peacefully. This is my concept of sacred, you are free to accept or reject it. Even so, what I hope to do is to provoke thought and reflection on your part as to what your concept of sacred is and its utility to you.

I am interested in the idea that places, things, or concepts become sacred when respected and actively held up as a standard or apart from abuse and violation. As more of us hold these places, things, or concepts up and apart from abuse and violation, they become more sacred.

I am a humanist. I don’t believe in a higher power of any kind and have difficulty with words commonly claimed by, and associated with, higher power belief systems. As a refugee from the Christian tradition, I am uncomfortable with anything that leads me back to it.

That said, I believe there are many words and attendant concepts that are still powerful when weaned from their supernatural connections and understood as human constructs which help us make our earthly existence tolerable, orderly, even happy.

This post began by reaching back to the beginning of time as we know it, and marching forward through a representative litany of the rumblings of the Universe which, as it turns out, regularly produces moments of great violence. I can find no reason to believe there is judgment involved in this churning of matter and energy in space over time. The universe is indifferent to what you and I perceive as the consequences of this churning. Stuff happens. There is no place or thing you, I, or anyone can wish to set apart from violation that this churning unfolding of the universe cannot easily wipe away. Things come and go according to the physical laws of the universe and that is that.

As my extremely partial list of cosmic calamities shows, we are at the mercy of these eruptions. Eventually, the universe will throw something big at us and there won’t be much we can do beyond trying to be among the survivors.

Very early on humanity noticed that the world could be a brutal place; that they had little control over the calamities that befell them; that, even if they managed to avoid those calamities it was inevitable they would one day feel their vitality slip away until they ceased to be. The unfolding of our lives after a certain point, 30, maybe 40 years of age, can seem a steady and continual chipping away by violations, small and large.

Thinking of it this way, it is not hard to understand why humanity develops a profound longing for a place where the continual indignities of the world don’t reach them; a place eternally free from violation, a sphere of perfection, a Heaven. Or that they might imagine a place that was beyond those violations in the distant past, a Garden of Eden. Or even that they would contemplate a place of eternal punishment with violations of the most awful kinds with which to damn the wicked, a Hell.

This line of thinking helps me understand how elaborate fantasies like Heaven, the Garden of Eden and Hell came into being and how so many of us believe in their literal existence. What one of us wouldn’t love to find a place free of violation or doesn’t dream of eternal punishment for those who do us grievous harm?

A Humanist Definition

I don’t believe these places are anything more than mythological constructs addressing deeply seated existential needs we all have. Once we free the concept of sacred from the supernatural we can start to examine it for its utility to our earthly existence. As we do, we recognize that a critical component of the concept of sacred is our experience of violation. We are more than creatures that live from day to day. We experience ourselves in the world, remember how things were, and dream about how things could be. We invent words like sacred and violate to share our hopes, fears and desires with one another. And, unfortunately, the violations we were most concerned about when we first identified the concept, are those that we all too readily perpetrate on one another. It is no accident that eight of the Ten Commandments are proscriptions against actions that violate and that six of those are proscriptions against actions through which we violate one another. Long ago, we came to the conclusion that a civil society required us to collectively set things apart from our propensity to violate them. We had to agree that certain things were sacred.

Sacred is a human construct. The universe, except through us or any other intelligent creatures there may be, does not make distinctions about what can and can’t be violated. Mother Nature will as easily wipe away a temple as uproot a tree or kill off the dinosaurs. We make the distinctions because they help us navigate our journey through life and our relationships with all the journeys unfolding around us.

There are all kinds of sacred when we define it simply as that which we agree to aspire to or hold apart from violation. Most, if not all of us, have numerous places, objects and aspirations that are sacred to us. We give them special reverence because they have utility in establishing meaning and giving orientation to our lives. They help us know who, what and where we are. We are incredibly distressed when someone takes, destroys, or desecrates them.

Let’s explore the sacred places that are our homes. Have you ever stopped to think how different it is to be on one side or the other of the threshold of the front door of your home; about how the simple act of crossing from one side to the other substantially changes your frame of mind? We cross it many times a day, and each time we do we experience a transition from domestic sanctuary to the bustling and demanding outer world or the reverse. There is a particular feeling to walking out the door to go to work; a particular feeling to walking out the door to run a few errands; a particular feeling to coming home at the end of a long day and closing the door behind us, leaving the energy draining challenges and frustrations of that day outside. There is significance to the invitations we offer to an acquaintance or friend to cross the threshold and join us inside our homes. As visitors, we intuitively understand that crossing the threshold into the home of another is a privilege and with it goes their trust that we will not violate the sanctity of it. What one of us does not cherish the sanctity of our homes? What one of us would not feel violated by the intrusion of the outside world in some uninvited way?

Significantly, we broadly agree that “one’s home is one’s castle,“ and that we are entitled to enjoy it free of violation by others. And, recognizing that there are at least a few for whom this common agreement does not hold, we deploy security tactics to keep ourselves free from violators, and we collectively agree to punish those who violate.

It is not only personal places and things that develop a sacred character. We collectively identify things, places, even concepts as sacred. Most of us commonly acknowledge that churches, synagogues, temples, shrines, etc., and all the relics that fill them, are sacred. We don’t necessarily share the beliefs of the communities to whom these places and things belong. We don’t experience them as sacred in the way those communities do, but we understand and respect that significance and, in so doing, reinforce their sanctity.

Somewhat less obvious would be the sacredness of our “secular” cultural institutions. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, MoMA, and my current favorite temple of contemplation, the DIA Art Museum in Beacon, NY, are examples of secular cultural places filled with sacred objects. Objects that are profoundly important to our collective memory of who and what we are.

We often hear the complaint “is nothing sacred anymore?” We nod our heads knowingly when we hear it because we have often experienced the violation of something that had relevance to our history and sense of being and therefore a measure of sacredness. Everywhere I look there is evidence of people deciding what is sacred and what is not. A surprising amount of the world is sacred to somebody, and an equally surprising amount of the world is sacred to large numbers of us.

Our ideas about what is sacred and what is not churn continuously. Part of that churning is an often necessary challenge to the status quo. We are, and should be, always asking, is this still worthy of setting apart or upholding?

Understanding the power of the sacred, when a collective of people seeks to dominate another, they will desecrate the places and things sacred to them. You destroy the will of a people by destroying what is sacred to them.

Places and objects are not all that can be sacred. Perhaps some of the most significant, as well as most difficult to parse, are conditions or states of being:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.1

These rights are sacred and not to be violated. Exactly what is meant by “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” is open to interpretation and there was, and still is, some distance to go before these rights in fact apply to everyone, regardless of religious affiliation, gender, sexual orientation or race.

It is in the realm of such concepts that we find the most significant instances of the sacred. This is the realm in which we are most likely to find agreement that approaches universal on what is deserving of reverent respect.

The sanctity of human life is a concept much of humanity clings to, despite the difficulty we have agreeing on when it begins and when it is acceptable to terminate a nascent one. The listing of calamities at the beginning avoids human created tragedies to make the point that “stuff happens,” without getting caught up in the why and wherefore of human violence. But, let’s admit the obvious, humanity is capable of incredibly destructive and violative acts. We are all too well reminded of this by the events of September 11th, the genocide of Darfur, the daily tragedies that occurred in Iraq and Afghanistan, the unbearable tragedies of mass shootings, the war in Ukraine.

It is our capacity to violate one another and everything living around us that makes a concept of the sacred important.


What, then, is the usefulness of a concept of the sacred without a belief in God? What should we as a society be holding apart from violation?

On the outside of the building of The New York Society for Ethical Culture, a humanist religious community I was a member of for years, this is inscribed:

Dedicated to the ever increasing knowledge, and practice and love of the right.

And above the stage in the auditorium:

The place where people meet to seek the highest is holy ground.

Notice that it is not the building that is holy, but any place where people meet to seek the highest. This building has importance as the first home of Ethical Culture. It has achieved sacred status within the Ethical Culture movement and even to many non-members familiar with the good that has emanated from it. But for Ethical Culture, the highest level of sacred is reserved for something else.

The place where people meet to seek the highest is holy ground. The highest what? Why should we want to know and appreciate and love “the right?” Because the fundamental belief of Ethical Culture, and humanism in general, is in the worth and dignity, indeed, the sanctity of every human being; because every human being brims with potential and has the capacity to do remarkable things; because achieving that potential requires that we conduct ourselves and the affairs of our institutions in such a way that we honor that worth and dignity. We honor that worth and dignity by refraining from unreasonably or selfishly restricting an individual’s potential. And even more importantly, we are enjoined to conduct ourselves in a way that moves us and those around us ever closer to the realization of that remarkable potential.

Humanists do not assume we are helpless to help ourselves. In fact, the assumption is that in the here and now, we are the only ones who can help ourselves. And how do we go about helping ourselves? We do that by building relationships with integrity that honor and respect the worth and dignity of all involved. That is the fundamental core of Humanism.

Relationships with Integrity

How do we build relationships with integrity? I’d like to answer this question by looking at a set of human capacities that are essential to possessed and clearly demonstrate if there are to be relationships with integrity. They are courage, honesty, fairness, forgiveness, tolerance, respect, empathy, and joy. Together, these capacities determine the integrity of our relationships by setting the level of trust and commitment we have to one another.

When an individual has courage, we know they will stand by us under difficult situations and do the right thing by us in those situations. This will be true whether doing right by us means facing an outer peril together or the inner peril of our anger when they tell us something we don’t want but need to hear. We know they will have the capacity to do the right thing, regardless of the consequences for themselves. Several of the other capacities are intimately linked to, even dependent on courage.

When an individual is both honest and has courage, we know we can rely on them to give an accurate account of any given situation and that they will do so regardless of how it reflects on us or them. We know they will have the capacity to admit mistakes.

The capacity to be fair tells us that an individual can regularly overcome prejudices, regardless of what they are or how they arise, and that they can consistently resist the temptation to benefit to another’s detriment.

An individual’s capacity for forgiveness tells us that mistakes can be made, but they will always be reviewed in the light of our intentions and the circumstances. It also tells us there is room for redemption, even when the transgression is significant. Who among us has not transgressed significantly at least a few times in our lives?

The capacity for tolerance tells us that there will be room for our differences, without which a diverse group of individuals cannot hope to congregate in peace.

The capacity for respect tells us that we will have worth and dignity in an individual’s eyes and that they will honor that worth and dignity even while disagreeing with us or having their faith in us challenged.

An individual’s capacity for empathy tells us they are able to understand the world as we see and experience it.

And finally, an individual’s capacity for joy lets us know that they can join together with us in optimism, wonderment and a full appreciation of all that is possible.

Combine these capacities together, add the leavening of the experience of one another over time, and you have the prime content of any relationship with integrity, trust. To come to a place of mutual trust and respect is the mother of all sacred places. It is only from this place that we can help one another to reach his or her greatest potential.

It is not easy work to get to this place. Possessing this set of capacities is not a given. We must work on it throughout our lives. Even if we have all of these capacities in good measure, it takes time and effort for individuals to come together and create that space of mutual trust and respect. And once achieved it is an exquisite, but delicate flowering. Failing, even modestly, in any one of these capacities can damage or shatter it. Even so, it is a place of sanctity that is eminently worth trying for, again, and again, and again.

Sacred is created through an act, or a series of acts of respect and honor. By offering our respect and honor, we acknowledge the importance of right relationship to a place, an object, an individual, a concept, and in doing so, we hold them apart from abuse and violation. This is true whether we do so as individuals or collectively. The significance of the sacred is contained in its power to center us on what is most important to our lives. When we find people, places, things or concepts worthy of honor, and we honor them, they become beacons from which we obtain our bearings. They helps us solidify ourselves and move out with confidence. Only by honoring and protecting these beacons can they be of value to us. For each of us there are numerous individuals, places, things, and concepts which we honor and the fabric of our being, both individual and collective, is woven around them. We define ourselves through what we choose to include and exclude from the realm of the sacred.

When we understand the sacred as being created by an act or a series of acts of respect, then we also understand to what extent the world can become sacred. If we choose to honor and treat with respect everything that impinges on our being, the entire world becomes sacred. If we honor nothing, then the entire world is profane. We must recognize, however, that whatever is not honored and made sacred becomes open to abuse and violation. A world in which nothing is sacred is a world of anarchy.

  1. Preamble to The Declaration of Independence ↩︎

Finding the Mother Community

Fox News Corp (FNC) has been on my mind. The release to the public of the 1.6 billion lawsuit legal filing by Dominion Voting Systems has painted a picture of a company and its executives that is about as venal as it gets. The brief makes it clear that Fox News Corp was aware that they were spreading lies to their audience without regard for consequences. Ratings and profit were of paramount importance. Fear of loosing ratings and profits to other outlets that would pander to their audience drove them to feed the wild claims of the big lie to their viewership. The result was January 6, 2020. This is not a one off thing.

For financial profit, Fox has for years radicalized its viewers and reaffirmed their most profound apprehensions and most malevolent biases. In the aftermath of the 2020 election, Fox had to pander to what they had created or risk losing audience share. It chose the former, opting for demagoguery over democracy to make a buck.1


Murdoch’s company is being exposed for what it is: a disinformation-for-profit noise machine controlled by a vile billionaire and operated by a pack of jackals who distort and pervert the national discourse.2

Among the thoughts I am having is that the effects of this venality have been accumulating for a long time and they reach deeper and farther than the radicalization of a very vocal minority. I don’t think there are too many of us that haven’t had a relationship with a family member, relative or friend made more complicated because of it.

My dad and I had a very difficult relationship. I can’t blame that entirely on Fox News Corp, his main source of information, but vehement and bullying disagreements over politics was a threat that loomed over every family gathering.

My informal survey of friends and acquaintances indicates that my experience hasn’t been unique. All of us have at least one relative or friend that has been made angry by what they see and hear on Fox News and other outlets that feed distorted ways of looking at the world and one another. Estrangement is the other epidemic. Even the pandemic estranged us as we rallied to one political view of the crisis or another, making coordinated communal action difficult. How many lives were lost because of that?

I recently read Finding the Mother Tree by Suzanne Simard and came across this quote:

Ecosystems are so similar to human societies—they’re built on relationships. The stronger those are, the more resilient the system. And since our world’s systems are composed of individual organisms, they have the capacity to change.3

Two concepts are important here. Societies and Ecosystems depend on relationships. Systems are composed of individuals. Systems composed of diverse individuals in strong relationship have a capacity to adjust to new circumstances and meet big challenges.

Suzanne Simard spent her life investigating the ecology of forests. In particular, the outcomes of forestry practice that clearcut old growth, diverse forests and replaced them with monocultures of commercially valuable trees. She noted early on that the saplings planted to replace the forest didn’t fare well. A large number of them languished and died. She wanted to know why. The question “why” leads her to the discovery that trees in a forest are dependent on one another, connected by a mycorrhizal fungal network connecting their roots to all the other trees in their vicinity, both of the same species and different species. The network enables communication and the rendering of assistance to their offspring, other trees of their own species, and trees of different species. A “mother” tree can distinguish its own progeny from the progeny of other trees of the same species. Trees can warn each other of incoming pestilence allowing trees not yet affected to mount a defense. She makes clear that forests have intelligence.

Clear cutting, a practice of industrial production, destroys the network of connection and monoculture lacks the partnerships trees form with other species to share resources back and forth as needed throughout the year and their lifecycle. Discussing the practices of the timber industry and industrial farming:

We emphasize domination and competition in the management of trees in forests. And crops in agricultural fields. And stock animals on farms. We emphasize factions instead of coalitions. In forestry, the theory of dominance is put into practice through weeding, spacing, thinning, and other methods that promote growth of the prized individuals. In agriculture, it provides the rationale for multimillion-dollar pesticide, fertilizer, and genetic programs to promote single high-yield crops instead of diverse fields.4

I think one could adjust this description quite easily to capitalism and authoritarianism. In capitalism, the system I know intimately, it is profitable to promote competition and domination through monocultures of factionalism fueled by anger and grievance. That is, to make a buck, some of us are quite happy to destroy the networks that make us strong and resilient.

What is it about the human animal that lets us go so astray of what is good for us or become enmeshed in an economic or political system that exaggerates our most selfish tendencies. Why is it so easy for us to be provoked into anger and why is anger so much more powerful than love? Why do we crave power and wealth? Crave it so much we ignore the irreparable harm we do to each other and the planet. I suppose one has to allow for the possibility that this too is a way of nature, but if that is so, nature is far more grim a proposition than one might suppose from a study of forests. But then forests have had a longer time to evolve into cooperative communities. My best answer so far is that we remain primal beings in spite of our “advances,” driven by a basic set of instincts that are easy to manipulate. I don’t know that anyone has ever found the equivalent of FNC in a mature forest.

One of the articles that caught my attention this past week was about a spontaneous Christian revival that occurred at Asbury college in Wilmore Kentucky. After a worship service with an apparently compelling sermon, a group of students stayed behind to pray and talk. Those who were there describe a feeling that filled the sanctuary:

People I have spoken with who entered these spaces describe encountering a “sweet presence,” “deep peace,” or “the quiet, heavy presence of God.” A sense of awe prevails. It is, one participant told me, as if “heaven opened up.”5

Word got out and…

… a stream of pilgrims has made its way to Wilmore. All of the auditorium’s almost 1,500 wooden flip seats are occupied; the walls and archways leading into the gathering space are crammed with people hungering to join in. Crowds have congregated in auditoriums and chapels elsewhere in town, singing and praying and reading the Bible.6

I am deeply suspicious of organized religion, Evangelical Christianity especially. But there was something about this “revival” that spoke to me of a deep longing for spiritual connection in community. It struck me as honest and real. Not of organized religion, but of a need for connection, community.

Apparently Tucker Carlson of Fox News Corp wanted to do a segment on his show but…

… was asked not to come to cover the revival, because it has nothing to do with politics or business. No one wants to pervert or disrupt what God is seemingly doing in this community.

We live in discontinuous times. Everywhere, it seems, we are being atomized, disconnected from one another. There is madness afoot driven by capitalist greed and authoritarian lust.

In Modern Spirituality Is a Consumers Choice Now Conor Friedersdorf discusses the atomization of belief which is partially but not solely attributable to a rise in the embracing of a scientific world view writes:

But this kind of (scientific) intellectual disenchantment remains a minority phenomenon. Most people who have fallen away from organized religious life remain exuberantly credulous: as G. K. Chesterton put it, “When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing, they then become capable of believing in anything.” More than four in ten Americans believe that ghosts and demons exist and that psychics are real; a third believe in reincarnation; nearly 30 percent believe in astrology. In Europe, the churches may be empty, but comfortable majorities continue to profess faith in God or some higher power.

I have generally had respect for what I call “religion on the ground,” which is religion at the local community level. It, along with shared history and rituals had the power to knit people together into resilient communities.

There is a lot of conversation about Indigenous wisdom. Four books I have read recently, Sacred Economics, The Gift, Braiding Sweetgrass and Finding the Mother Tree talk about it. We have to be careful not to romanticize native wisdom, but the message, over and over again, is that we have to recognize our connections to one another and to all life. We have to treat all life as a gift. This attitude is profoundly absent from capitalism and authoritarianism, which treat everything as a means to power, wealth and dominance, rather than as tendrils of connection and community and cooperation where we all not only survive, but thrive.

I am hopeful that we can find and learn to nourish our equivalent to mycorrhizal networks. I think this is a process that will happen at a local community level. That we can find and nurture “mother” communities all around the planet and nourish them. And then, in collaboration, we will work at riding ourselves of the pestilence of profit and power for profit and power’s sake.

  1. ↩︎

  2. Ibid ↩︎

  3. Simard, Suzanne, Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest. Kindle edition, location 3103. ↩︎

  4. Ibid, location 2285 ↩︎

  5. ↩︎

  6. ↩︎