I received an interesting comment from a reader named Ruth in response to my posting about the president and the bridge. It went like this:
“I value your passion and feel your frustration in regards to your view of our President. But please don’t let bitterness take root and choke out even a portion of the beauty that’s in your heart. He may simply be the subject of the moment (or even the summer) but there is no room for bitterness in the garden of your soul – no matter how justified.”
I understand Ruth’s concern and I thank her for the compliment. She set me to thinking.
I oftentimes worry about this blog, simply because you readers tend to fall into two distinct groups — those who wish to see the “hidden beauty of everyday life,” and those of you who feel outrage and moral responsibility for crimes committed against the innocent. One looks toward the light, and the other cries out against the darkness. It is my conviction that both are spiritual paths, and we must follow the one that fits our spiritual makeup.
This is a complex subject that requires a complex unraveling that could easily be the contents of an entire book. The short form is this: there are those among us who believe we must clarify and purify our individual spiritual consciousness before we turn toward the world’s injustices. There are others who feel that an honorable spiritual life requires shining a light on the world’s injustices and standing up them. Think the Dalai Lama and Martin Luther King.
Now, it is worth pointing out that the greatness of a King was that he did not let bitterness take root in his soul, even as he stood up to injustice. But he did feel and express a keen outrage at the world’s wrongs, and he did not wait for spiritual clarity before acting against those wrongs. It was through his struggles against injustice that his spiritual clarity was gained.
The point I would make is that it is equally valid to point toward the light or point toward the darkness. They are both part of the world in which we live. Jesus said, “I am the light,” even as he knocked over the tables of the money changers in the temple.
My own struggle is, as Ruth put it, not to allow bitterness to take root in my heart. But this is not the same thing as standing up to injustice or cruelty where I see it. There are those who could walk through Darfur or Rwanda and shine a healing light on all they see, but there are those who walking through those streets and villages would be filled with a conviction that they must stand up against such horrors and hold accountable those responsible for them so they never happen again. The world needs both.
May we each find the path we can walk with conviction, and walk it with confidence and clarity and no bitterness in our heart. It is the least we can do, and the most we can do. There need be no shame if our sights are more on the light toward which we are walking or the darkness through which we are traveling. All paths lead to the top of the mountain; all streams lead to the sea.