But action doesn’t depend on what might happen. The authors of Savage Grace want us to do the right thing, regardless of what occurs. In their previous book, Return to Joy, the authors advise seeking not “happiness,” a Jeffersonian goal, but a state closer to such virtues as equanimity and compassion, plus resistance to evil and devotion to service.
In a recent article “Beyond Trump: Rebooting the System from inside the Death Machine,” Nafeez Ahmed, Andrew Markell, and Gunther Sonnenfeld articulated their perspective on Trump’s rise to power less succinctly and with fewer no-nonsense tools than I intend to offer in this essay. While coming close to the heart of the matter, they didn’t quite arrive which often happens when attempting to clarify “the crisis of civilization.” After all, we’ve never been here before, and if we’re honest, we must admit that we have difficulty articulating it for ourselves and never quite know how to articulate it to others.
Be willing to step into, not turn away from, the crisis of our times. My grandparents, a musician and artist, were lovers of beauty. They were unlikely people to step into acts of questionable legality, then abandon their comfortable lives and multi-century history with their country for the uncertain life of “penniless refugees”. Good thing that they were willing to step into this uncomfortable place – for them, for my mother and for me. Offering to others, offering to the future, will widen your vision and horizon – and deepen your life’s meaning. Your life may grow and expand in surprising, meaningful, and beautiful ways. There is a great gift to self in offering yourself to others, to the future.
The Occupy movement may be an instinctive response, not just to the greatest disparity of wealth and power in the history of America, but also to the emptying out of institutions and loss of meaning at all levels of life. An underlying instinct to inhabit life more fully may be arising and taking root in different places for different reasons. The message of Occupy may be “all over the place” because the underlying message is about “place,” about reclaiming and more fully inhabiting public places, about being more present to the critical issues in each place, and about taking one’s own place in life more fully.