THE MISSING ELEMENT
We are in such a mess.
I don’t know anyone who is not complaining about the sorry state of our world: the bifurcation of wealth, wars, rampant greed, divided politics worldwide, religious conflicts of every stripe, mistreatment of minorities - the list is so very long.
All these problems are man made. We got ourselves in this mess because we have come to believe that we are in control of all matters when, in fact, we are not. We have come to revere the wrong things and the wrong rules for living revolving around materialism.
Perhaps God created us with these tendencies, but no one can argue that conflict of all sorts has become worse in the last decade or two.
Why is this? What is missing in our selves, our communities and the world that is fueling such rancor and conflict? What is the missing element? Have we forgotten something important?
THE MISSING ELEMENT IS REVERENCE - REVERENCE for the One who made us, for each other, and for the countless bounty in which we live. We have traded real meaning in our lives for power. In a nutshell we have traded what is sacred (reverence) for money.
We have lost our reverence. Like with electronic devices, we say when they have "lost their smoke” they don’t work anymore. We have lost our “reverence” and we are not working anymore. We have come to revere man-made things, man-made political systems, and recently technology.
I’d like to begin with a quote from Paul Woodruff (a University of Texas Philosophy professor):
"Reverence begins in a deep understanding of human limitations; from this grows the capacity to be in awe of whatever we believe lies outside our control - God, truth, justice, nature, even death." (from his book Reverence).
Given that our modern world is about self control, societal control, technological control, and environmental control, it is not surprising that we never, even once a week, hear the word reverence.
We think we are in control so who needs awe or reverence?
What is REVERENCE
Reverence is simply the feeling of respect, awe, and honor, coming from a stance of wonder and mystery
Reverence flows from the knowledge that we are not in control, that all life is temporary, and we cannot create a single atom.
"Just as white light consists of colored rays, so reverence for life and God contains all the components of ethics: love, worship, kindliness, sympathy, empathy, peacefulness and power to forgive." (Albert Schweitzer)
Out of reverence comes the capacity to respect others, to listen without judgement, to feel remorse, and to treat our brothers as we would like to be treated.
Reverence keeps leaders from trying to act like gods, which is the opposite of reverence.
An irreverent soul is arrogant and shameless, unable to feel awe in the face of things higher than himself.
Reverence is the cure for human arrogance.
Reverence is the the root of all ethics, worship, and smooth social behavior.
How we lost REVERENCE
Aldous Huxley, in his novel Brave New World, paints a bleak picture of how technology can be used to garner control over pretty much everything including how we as individuals think, behave, and how we frame our collective psychological state.
Is it not through the advances of technology over the ages:
that we have come to believe we have more and more control over our physical and psychological world? All this technological advancement has contributed to the loss of reverence.
We, through technology have come to believe that we are in control of all things.
Who needs reverence or awe when that is true?
Without reverence, we find ourselves:
Without reverence we imagine ourselves to be masters of all, invulnerable, and not in need of others.
This is a blueprint for a life of disappointment and suffering.
Milestones towards REVERENCE
Albert Einstein noted that: "Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them."
The rancor and conflict prevalent in the world today cannot be solved by politics, law, or reason. These are indeed the levels of thinking that got us in the mess in which we find ourselves. Our laws, politics, and economics were formed by greedy traders several centuries ago. We are still living with that thinking. More of the same will only make it worse. We cannot solve spiritual problems with economics.
The one thing that all religions easily agree on is reverence. Reverence is the missing element that alone can undo the massive conflict we find in the world. Reverence trumps politics, laws, and economic systems.
Reverence, worship, awe - these are the keystones of all the world’s religions. From our sacred texts:
In the council of the holy ones God is greatly feared; he is more awesome than all who
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind
and with all your strength'. The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'
There is no commandment greater than these."
O you who believe, you shall revere God and believe in His messenger. He will then grant
you a double portion of His mercy and grant you a light with which you shall walk and He
will forgive you. God is Forgiver, Merciful.
There are steps that can be taken to undo the mess we are in. I think of these as ceramonies of reverence. Some of them are:
The first step is to become more reverent ourselves. We cannot hope to teach or share what we have not yet learned or practice.
spend more time in nature. It is the master teacher on reverence
turn off our televisions. TV only reinforces self-centeredness, materialism, and the belief that we have power over all things if we are just clever enough, work hard enough, and persist
employ a silent meditation and prayer practice
grow some food in your backyard or herb box
participate in local charitable activities
ride a bike or walk - it’s amazing what one notices when not in a car, bus, or plane
use your cell phone as a phone. Real wisdom surrounds us - it is not to be found on our phones
read daily from the Holy books: the Torah, the Bible, and the Quran
pray often daily
We need to educate our youth about the dangers of power, and how power leads us to thinking that we are in control of all matters which in turn leads to horrible disasters like the American invasion of Afghanistan.
We need to introduce the idea of reverence and all its implications into our grade schools. After all, is this country about ethics, justice, human dignity or maximizing profits? Sadly, our attempts to keep religion out of public education left out ethics and the key virtue of reverence. To teach reverence, you must find the seeds of reverence in each person and help them grow.
Live frugally - buy only what you need. It is truly amazing how little one actually needs to be happy.
Start a local alternative news outlet (that includes Jews, Christians, and Muslims) whose topics are about undoing conflict through reverence toward God, other people, our fragile planet, and the importance of the afterlife.
Once again nature is our master teacher on reverence - Spend a good deal of time marveling over sunrises and sunsets.