This is my final column for Real Change. I’m looking forward to handing it over to younger voices and multiple voices. I’m also full of gratitude that I have been entrusted with this space for the past few years. I am particularly grateful for editors Rosette Royale and Aaron Burkhalter, both of whom made my writing better. I also want to express oodles of gratitude to Tim Harris, whom I consider one of the great heroes of this city. Tim is one of the kindest, most compassionate Christ-like people I have met. I am better because of his influence on my life.
And I certainly would be remiss if I didn’t express my deep appreciation toward those of you who read these columns, commented on them and engaged me in relationship. It is a humbling experience to know that someone else appreciates one’s efforts. You have strengthened my life, and I am grateful.
I suppose as a last word I should say something about the institution of religion. What religious institutions do best is to organize people to help people (and the earth), even as they continually lift up visionary words that a better world is possible. Everything else they do is pretty much of the devil.
There is, I believe, a deep primal spirituality in all of us. My assumption in life is that even the Dick Cheneys of the world carry within them the image of God. That is, we are created from benevolence for the purpose of benevolence. We are created out of goodness for goodness. But something happens to all of us. We lose connection with our original blessing. Usually this comes about through some form of suffering. We respond to our sufferings, and our loss of connection, by creating an identity, a personality, a role for our self in life. We get lost in our script and forget about our essence.
Religion, at its best, wakes us up from the matrix of illusion and deception we have fallen into. It reminds us that the all mighty I is a lie. Rather, life is a web of mutually dependent relationships. There is no I, there is only us. The point of life is to glue ourselves together, with the earth, in an adventure of love. And love is constant awareness of gratitude, kindness, compassion, the original goodness, happiness and joy of being alive. To love is the most difficult and the most ecstatic of all life’s journeys.
It is, I admit, almost impossible to stay awake to one’s original blessing in a world where we are asked to choose between Trump or Clinton. It’s hard to believe in goodness in a post-9/11 world of permanent war, including one’s own country as a terrorist nation. It is the heaviest of heavy lifts to dare assume that the neighbor can be trusted and has a right to be treated respectfully, especially in a world of commodification and class segregation. Like I said, it isn’t easy to love. It’s not easy to live as if one’s original blessing was more real than the Matrix-world we face daily.
Religion, at its best, teaches pathways both backward to our Source, but also forward toward our destiny. There are some who fall deeply into apathy and nihilism, masking their pain with ongoing cynicism and, dare I say it, narcissistic hedonism. But it doesn’t have to be this way. We can choose to greet the other as an us. We can choose to hold hands. We can choose to smile and to say hello. We can choose to help. We can choose solidarity. We can choose the light and, in doing so, the darkness fades away. Religion taught me this. It is why I remain a believer. It is why my last words will be these: The Christ in me greets the Christ in thee. May it always be.