Editor’s Note: The following article appears in the latest issue of Tikkun magazine (VOL. 35 NO. 1). To read all the other wonderful articles, purchase the issue here.
The streets are flowing like a mighty stream filled with people of all ages, races, genders, and religions in a unified call that Black Lives Matter. We are seeing young and old, black, brown, and white, male, female, and queer, rabbis, yogis, and pastors alike facing police brutality, being attacked with tear gas, bully sticks, rubber bullets, and more, yet they return to the streets day after day, night after night (in the midst of a global pandemic) putting their bodies and lives on the line fighting for the humanity of Black people (and ultimately for the humanity of all of us and our nation). This is a radical, revolutionary act of love.
This love is a powerful antidote to the values on which our country was founded; namely, selfishness, greed, and individualism – me, not we. Today we are witnessing the embodiment of a different worldview – one grounded in love and justice.
This worldview is foundational to most religious and spiritual traditions that teach us that the world was created out of love; that the energy that flows through and holds the universe together is love (gravity is just the scientific name for it!). Human beings are embodiments of that loving energy. According to this worldview, three elements are critical to a thriving society. First, it must be built on a moral foundation. Second, collaboration and cooperation are intrinsic to the way the world works and our survival depends on it. Third, we must create a beloved community that uplifts and brings out the best in each of us. In such a society, we will love the stranger and see the divine in all life. When we see the sacred in the ‘other’, we will act on their behalf. We will stand for and uplift the oppressed. We will actively protect others from harm.
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We are witnessing this divine love in human action before our very eyes. In addition to showing up again and again, individuals and organizations are centering the voices of the most oppressed and hurting amongst us. They are uplifting the ‘other’ in profound ways. They are donating money and asking their supporters and friends to donate money to support the actions and needs of Black people. This is love in action.
Not only are people standing in solidarity, they are also calling for a transformed world with profound systemic change. They seek a world not based in fear and domination, individualism and selfishness, but rather one grounded in love, care, and justice. We see this modeled not only in the ongoing protests and actions, but also in the spirit of generosity that permeates the actions. Strangers opening their doors to protesting youth to protect them from police attacks. White activists standing between police and Black protesters to ensure their safety. Seattle residents reclaiming their streets, feeding each other, engaging in collective educational experiences, and more. We also see it in protesters’ demands to defund police and redirect resources to bolster life so that Black communities receive the resources and money they need to thrive.
We all yearn for a world that supports us to be our most loving and generous selves. These protests and calls to educate ourselves about the history of racism in our country and transform the society as a whole help us understand that individual transformation and societal transformation go hand-in-hand. We cannot be the highest embodiment of our selves while living in a morally bankrupt society. Likewise, we cannot wait to create a morally thriving society until everyone has reached a higher level of consciousness. We are being called to both transform as individuals and as a society. This is difficult and messy work. But we humans are up to the task. We can create a world that embodies the highest vision for who we strive to be. And when we do, we will, in turn, find that more and more people embody their highest selves.
We have a choice. We can continue to live in a society based on the assumption that people are selfish, only care about themselves, are independent actors and greedy, or we can build a new society based on the assumption that people are caring, generous, and want to connect with others. Rather than create laws to protect against what we fear, we can create laws that uplift morality and love in public and private. Generosity can be woven into the law. This society will inspire human beings to be their highest selves. It is beyond time we do so.
People are putting their lives on the line because they feel the burning bush that pulses within them to stand for human life and human dignity. They are putting their lives on the line because #BlackLivesMatter. They are looking in the eye of the ‘other’ and seeing the divine within. That love calls them to action. Thank God.