By Mike Soika
The pace of change over these past few years has been both exhilarating and exhausting. Consider this:
Turmoil, chaos, petty politics, vitriol, hate, violence are in our face nearly every day. We had the investigation into Russia election interference, the #Me Too movement, children in cages at the border, and the president impeached. Just this year we are living through a worldwide pandemic with millions infected and hundreds of thousands dying. Our economy was shut down, the stock market plummeted, and 40 million are unemployed. Recently, we have witnessed weeks-long massive social justice protests in every state in the nation and in cities around the globe.
In 2019, there were more mass shootings in the USA than there were days in the year
Climate change is upon us. 2019 was the second warmest year on record, during which we saw massive wildfires rampage through Australia.
People are seeking change, but change does not come easily. It will take a counter balancing force to offset the political power of those who want to see things remain just as they are. A few elected officials and the money behind them have stymied advancement on social issues that the majority of Americans broadly agree on, such as gun control, climate change, health care reform, education, affordable housing and a myriad number of other important social justice issues.
Polls show that most Americans believe the protests are a positive sign. We are seeing a multi-racial and inter-generational mass of people in the streets who are loudly and collectively saying: enough, it is time for change and not just within police departments. It is time for America to realize that for capitalism to survive, it needs to be a system that works for the majority of people and not just the wealthy and powerful few.
Yes, we need dramatic political change. But for that change to be lasting, we also need to see spiritual transformation, both individually and collectively. After all, it would be unfathomable for a spiritually awakened person to ignore wide-spread pollution that threatens the survival of the planet; to allow millions of assault weapons to be used to prey upon society; to tolerate an economic system that holds a class and a race of people down and uses the labor of the many to enrich the pockets of the few.
So, how do we get there? How do we become a society that fosters individual and collective spiritual transformation?
I start with one basic premise: all change is personal. Author Stephen Covey writes that “change is a door that only unlocks from within.” He was writing about self-improvement, but I believe the same principle holds true for spiritual and political change as well.
We Quakers strive to become attuned to the internal voice that guides us and prods us to live out our values, as espoused by the axiom “Let your life speak.” This is truly a transformative statement, urging us to align our actions with our spiritual beliefs. “Let your life speak” is not only transformative, it is also a statement of accountability. If we adhere to the idea that our values and our lifestyle should be aligned, then it becomes painfully clear when one or the other is out of balance.
The ethic that we should let our life speak is one that is so clear, so true, so simple to understand that we would do well if we could make that the mantra of our life.
A Dutch proverb states that “He who is outside his door, already has the hard part of his journey behind him.” The protesters are letting their lives speak, and have taken that important first step of what will be a long and arduous journey. How will this movement be sustained? What value statement will carry us all through hard times?
Here is some advice: Let your life speak. Everyday.
If you want to end racial injustice, then let your life speak daily of inclusion.
If you want to end violence, then let your life speak daily of peaceful encounters.
If you want to foster justice, then let your life speak of collaboration and empowerment
Spiritual transformation is an internal journey seeking a state of tranquility and grace. Letting our lives speak is how we walk with grace in the world.