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Blog by Alan Seale, January 11, 2021,  Society, Culture, and Government

It’s been quite a week in the U.S. So much has broken open. A Southern state runoff election in which a Black minister and a Jewish filmmaker tipped the power of the Senate. An insurrection at the U.S. Capitol leaving the world in shock and disbelief. A shifting tone from some members of Congress. The certification of Joe Biden as the next President of the United States. Calls for using the 25th Amendment or a second impeachment to remove Donald Trump from office. A deepening split in the Republican party. Ongoing tensions and threats of violence. All while COVID-19 rages on. 

Yet I feel more hopeful than I have in quite some time. Could it be that last week was a turning point for our country? That, of course, is up to us—all of us. So much is stirring inside of me. One question, however, is clear. At this moment in history, will we step forward or step back? 

As I sit down to write, words from several wisdom keepers from our past and present speak to my heart. I believe they also speak to our times.

American psychologist Abraham Maslow wrote: 

In any given moment we have two options:
to step forward into growth
or to step back into safety.

Alongside Maslow’s quote, I think of Father William McNamara, 20th-century mystic and author, and the way he defined contemplation—“a long loving look at the real.” 

The “real” is the hard stuff. The stuff we don’t want to look at. The many things that may be working for some but certainly not for all. And by “loving look,” he invites us to look with honesty, clarity, and compassion at what we have created and continue to create. And the unvarnished truth about who we are and who we aren’t, both as individuals and as a society.  

Bringing Maslow’s and McNamara’s words together at this moment in time, are we willing to have “a long loving look at the real” and step forward into growth? Or will we go back to denying some parts of what is real in our world and step back into safety? In other words, to put our efforts towards getting back to “normal?” 

The Two Most Important Questions of Our Time

This brings me to what I believe are the two most important questions of our time:

  1. Who do I choose to be? How do I choose to show up in the world?
  2. Who do we choose to be together? Therefore, how must I show up?

The inquiry starts with each of us as individuals, then opens to all of us together, and from there, circles back to each of us for our own responsibility in creating a collective culture. The second question ultimately takes us back to the first. At every step of the way, these two questions can be our guide. 

For some of us, the pandemic lockdown and all that has broken open in the last year has brought us face-to-face with the real—with the hard stuff. And that’s a start. 

Yet are we willing to go there on two fronts at once—the individual and the collective?  Are we willing to make clear and committed choices to step forward into growth and create a new world that works for everyone? To become ever more conscious of how we are showing up in the world and how that is shaping who and how we are together? 

Trappist monk Thomas Merton wrote:

The gate of heaven is everywhere. 

Everywhere. Every moment. Every situation. What if heaven is a world that works for all? What if heaven is all of us making clear choices about how we will be together—the kind of society we will create together in service of something bigger than ourselves? 

How do we do it? 

How do we find that gate of heaven? How do we create a society that works for all? Thomas Merton anticipated that ubiquitous question. He taught: 

You do not need to know precisely 
what is happening, or exactly 
where it is all going. 
What you need is to recognize
the possibilities and challenges
offered by the present moment, and 
embrace them with 
courage, faith and hope. 

We get so caught up in thinking we have to know how to do things before we begin. Nobody who ever did something for the first time knew how to do it already. Nobody. They had a sense of where to begin, and so they did. And step-by-step, through trial and error, they found their way.  

We are facing enormous challenges at every level of society and in nearly every country in the world. We are standing at many “first time” moments. Nobody can see everything there is to know about how to proceed. However, there are some strong and visionary leaders, some already recognized and others not yet, who have ideas and enough deep experience and clear wisdom to sense next steps. Those leaders will come in all skin colors, speak many different languages, sometimes have unconventional backgrounds, and will come to the forefront in unexpected ways.  

Furthermore, it is critical that we teach more and more people how to tap into their intuitive intelligence to sense what is happening and what wants to happen next. With practice, we can learn to trust that the wisdom and guidance we need to show us the way forward is actually present within what is happening. Everything we need is in the energy field of the situation. Our job is to pay attention and respond. Transformational Presence offers a multitude of tools, frameworks, skills, and capacities to support working in this new way.

Making Friends with Uncertainty

Finally, echoing Thomas Merton’s words, Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen, founder of the Remen Institute for the Study of Health and Illness, wrote:

The willingness to consider possibility
requires a tolerance of uncertainty.

If you haven’t already made friends with uncertainty, now would be a good time. With the change of administration at the top of the U.S. government, we are sure to be shown a clearer sense of direction than under the administration of the last four years. And hopefully we can begin trusting government and institutions again. That will take time as well as strong, authentic, honest, and transparent leadership. 

Let us acknowledge at the outset, however, that Joe Biden and the people he is calling forward to serve are not miracle workers. They have to find their path forward, too. It won’t be easy.

We’re all in this together. Fighting amongst ourselves will not get us anywhere. Respectful disagreement and commitment to working through differences will be critical. We will often lack certainty about what is happening or how to move forward. Yet that doesn’t mean that there are not enormous possibilities.

Back to Two Questions

So, I come back to those two most important questions for our time, worded slightly more directly. Asking these questions can be a first step in towards building a strong foundation on which our greatest possibilities can come to life. 

  1. Who do I choose to be today? How do I choose to show up in my interactions with others?  
  2. Who do we choose to be together? What is the culture or relationship space we choose to create together? Therefore, how must I show up in that relationship space?