Tikkun Magazine, Winter 2011 

How to Face the Future

by Ed Gaffney

In a century touted as the American one, we are bogged down in two unwinnable wars. Perhaps that is because the unthinkable has become so familiar; we accept it as normative when it recurs. Thus the "just war" theory has come to mean legal tricks to justify almost every imaginable war. We are awash in short op-eds and big fat essays that offer implausible excuses for atrocities like mass murder and torture.

War and Peace. Tolstoy got the order right. We must know in deep and dark detail how horrible war is before we will have the courage or wisdom to do much to stop it long enough to resolve and transform a conflict. The Hebrew word for this is "tikkun" -- healing and transformation.

The task of receiving and giving this healing and transformative energy is boundless. The Hebrew word for it is "olam" -- the wide world, the whole universe, all places and times, everywhere and always. Tikkun olam.

Over the past quarter-century, Tikkun magazine has regularly challenged all of us -- Jews and non-Jews, believers and atheists, men and women, gay and straight -- to engage in this enormous (olam) task of reconciliation (tikkun).

This journal and this interreligious community have recurrently proved themselves indispensable resources for renewing our commitment to the protection of the human.

The capacity of this important community to sustain hope in a time of widespread despair is not based in a glib or naive optimism, or in a Panglossian sense that we are already living in the best of all possible worlds.

Tikkun attempts a broader, more reliable way of facing our future. The journal provides a steady stream of analysis by commentators willing to imagine serious alternatives to the status quo. In these pages we receive the intellectual stimulus necessary to make sense of policies ordered and implemented in our name, but without our informed consent.

Reader, beware. The pursuit of tikkun olam can be dangerous. To hear the central claim of this movement -- that spiritual energy can heal and even transform human conflict -- can require us to change our lives and our habits of the mind and heart. In short, tikkun invites teshuvah, a radical U-turn of personal and communal priorities.

Transformation begins as an inside job. We recognize the call for change and accept its challenge. This unleashes a series of questions within us that compel a social response, an engagement in politics -- perhaps not by running for office, but at least by voting against politicians in both parties who waste vast sums of money to pursue policies that literally entail a dead end.

Mindful that we may not indulge the luxury of mindlessness, Tikkun (the journal) sustains a thoughtful critique of policies that are destructive of human values.

Aware that urgent needs of our world demand collective spiritual witness, the Tikkun Community already lives a spirit of shared faith, hope, and love not yet shared by many in our fractured world so much in need of tikkun olam.

Ed Gaffney teaches international law and genocide studies at Valparaiso University and has made two documentary films about conflict resolution.

Source Citation: Gaffney, Ed. 2011. How to Face the Future. Tikkun 26(1): online exclusive.

tags: Spiritual Politics  
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