If I want to, I can quickly name a dozen reasons why this legacy of destruction is not mine. But, deny it or not, it is my legacy.
There is so much work to do. Peace, justice, empathy, and compassion are so far from being the norm. It does not take much effort for me to look around and see how horribly we are treating one another. It is overwhelming to my spirit and paralyzing to my actions. And as I review history and learn the stories that come to me from the far corners of this planet, I recognize that this is not new. In truth, we, you and I, are caught up in a legacy of destruction. From our continued oppression of people of color through systemic and institutional racism to our armed conflicts and wars over land, resources, and power to our willful allowance of starvation and famine so that our grain prices remain steady, we are committing acts of evil against one another. And this is just a smidgen of the obvious evil we see everyday in the news and in our communities. We are participating in a legacy of destruction. This is a hard truth.
If I want to, I can quickly name a dozen reasons why this legacy of destruction is not mine. But, deny it or not, it is my legacy. Sadly, we as a species are so far along this legacy of destruction that we have lost control of our ability to not do evil to one another. The food I ate for dinner, were the workers exploited in its harvest? So that I might write, were indigenous peoples in far away countries torn from their homes, subjected to contaminated water, and massive amounts of cancerous, toxic fumes so that the magnesium and aluminum that build this laptop’s processors could be mined? Or you, as you sit reading this with your coffee in hand, are the wages and healthcare coverage of the barista who served you kept so inadequately low that she is forced below the poverty line so that you might enjoy a latte made with beans harvested in the jungles of Sumatra? We are all doing it. Unconscious, unintended, uncontrollable evil is so wrapped up in who we are and what we do that we can literally not separate ourselves from it.
This is the reality of our lives.
But, this is not the only reality of our lives.
Each day, I bear witness to the subtle, unmistakable curve of the moral arc of the universe. Slowly, ever so slowly, we, you and I, are waking up to the light that burns in our cores. We are slowly but steadily owning our capacity to do good because we be good. And slowly we, as a collective species, are moving along the curve of the moral arc of the universe towards wholeness. Those who have been denied a voice are receiving their voice. Those who have suffered are receiving healing. Doors that have been closed are being opened and those that have been denied access are making their way in. Those who have been beaten down because of their skin color, beliefs, gender, and sexual orientation are being lifted up. And the beauty is that all of this is happening together through our collective actions. We are doing this together. We are choosing this path and we are walking this path.
To do good because we be good is to seek the fullest for each other. This can be a pretty lofty, difficult idea to understand. And it is an immensely more difficult idea to actually put into practice in our daily lives. It is much easier to strike out in anger, to destroy in vengeance, and to dehumanize each other. But anger and rage, destruction and anarchy are but the quick flash of gasoline exploding. They provide only a quick flame and no warmth. They burn quickly and they burn entirely and they leave us cold and empty on the other side. That is not the future we seek. The future we seek is built upon our commitment to the fullest for each other. As difficult as it may be, it is possible and it starts with one small act each day. We must commit that we will do our best to be good to one another as much as we can. And we have to mean it. I repeat, we must mean it. The goal is not to rush out and undo all violence and oppression today. The goal is to make small choices that impact those we talk with, walk with, interact with, and meet with throughout the day. How can we be better towards them? How can we seek their fullest?
This is the starting point and it is a completely unglamorous, boring, humble beginning. But it must be. This is the call of every new morning and every closing nightfall. This is the call that we, you and I, must answer from now through every moment until we leave this earth. This is the call that unravels evil and gives value to our lifetimes of work for justice, love, and wholeness. This is the call that guides us on the moral arc of the universe away from our legacy of destruction.
Be brave and stand together. Be humble and be committed to the daily work of light and goodness.
Luke Black is a graduate student at Seattle University.(CC)