These words are from the renowned civil rights activist and U.S. Congressman John Lewis, who passed away on Friday, July 17. He was known as the conscience of the Congress and the conscience of the nation.
We are one people; we are only family. And when we finally accept these truths, then we will be able to fulfill Dr. King’s dream to build a beloved community, a nation, and a world at peace with itself.
We, who share this Pulse of Spirit, are part of a Beloved Community, knowing that reality amongst ourselves. What a delight! What a joy to partake in it!
The most subversive thing we could possibly do is to be free and to create. Creation itself is a subversive act, an act that subtly undermines all the dysfunction of our culture, which is falling of its own weight anyway. The sooner the culture of the Beloved Community shows up, the faster the dysfunctionality of the culture that we live in can fall.
These words from Pope Francis speak of the ethos of the Beloved Community:
Rivers do not drink their own water; trees do not eat their own fruit; the sun does not shine on itself and flowers do not spread their fragrance for themselves. Living for others is a rule of nature. We are all born to help each other. No matter how difficult it is… Life is good when you are happy; but much better when others are happy because of you.
We have the opportunity to bring happiness to each other. What a joy it is to do that!
These words come from a Facebook post by Daniel Gutierrez, who has established the Catalina Retreat Center in Peru. He is replying to a post by someone in Sedona, Arizona:
When you mentioned on my feed that I look stupid for wearing my mask when no one was around, I wanted to wait until I could answer from love.
Here in the Cusco region of Peru, which includes the sacred valley of the Incas, we believe in what is called ayni. The word Ayni means “today for you, tomorrow for me.” Ayni involves all the relationships that exist among the Andean people as well as their relationship with Mother Earth, Pachamama. Ayni is a form of private reciprocity.
We, who share this Pulse of Spirit, are involved in an act of private reciprocity. At one level it is this simple: I write and you read. But truly there is far more possible. You have an opportunity to share your own thoughts by writing back. You have an opportunity to bring a liberating message to others. And together we have the opportunity to invite humankind to know itself as the Beloved Community that John Lewis and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke of.
Whatever we do it must be in keeping with the building of what he called the Beloved Community, of what some of us may call the kingdom of God here on earth. ~ John Lewis
Historian Jon Meacham is writing a book about John Lewis’s life, to be published later this year. He commented recently that John Lewis shared an unusual Christian perspective, along with Dr. King. He pointed out that a traditional Christian view is that the things of God come to us if we are good on earth, after we die and go to heaven. And yet there was this revolutionary notion that goes right back to the original teachings of Christianity: that the things of God are to be known here on earth; that the Beatitudes are for real, and that they don’t just teach us how to be rewarded later. They teach us how to live now, how to be the Beloved Community with each other, how to allow the kingdom of God to be present here on earth. This is not just some kind of traditional Christian concept but a living reality to be known in life by us, for real.
During the early days of the movement, I believed that the only true and real integration for that sense of the beloved community existed within the movement itself. Because in the final analysis, we did become a circle of trust, a band of brothers and sisters. So it didn’t matter whether you were black or white. It didn’t matter whether you came from the North to the South, or whether you’re a Northerner or Southerner. We were one. ~ John Lewis
How else could humanity come to know itself as the Beloved Community if not for some community of people who experience that together so that they could bring it to the larger culture? And I couldn’t hear those words without thinking of us and the opportunity that we have to share an experience of being the Beloved Community together. Not as some kind of selfish thing, not just for our own enjoyment, to keep it to ourselves, but so that as an act of reciprocity—an act of ayni as a community—we could make that offering to the world. Our own experience of Beloved Community can become an invitation to the world if we are truly knowing it together.
Our words of invitation are empty if they are just words. But when they become an expression of an experience, they carry the power of Creation and the magic of transmutation. That was said of John Lewis. He spoke words that were powerful because they were backed by his character and by the commitment of his life. And by his deeds. Truly it could be said he laid down his life for his country. And the fact that he did that meant that his words had power.
It is becoming more and more obvious that we, as humankind, are having a great impact on Pachamama, Planet Earth. We have been named the Crowning Creation, a phrase rooted in biblical text but found no place in the Bible. Psalm 8 says this:
What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?
For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.
Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands.
The Creation story in Genesis says it this way:
Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
This depicts our personal reciprocity as human beings, and collectively as humankind. In the late Bronze Age and in the early Iron Age this biblical description must have been understood differently by the people of Israel then how we might understand it today. Twenty-first century science is telling us plainly about the impact humankind is having on Pachamama, most of it destructive. We have abundant scientific reporting that we have missed our calling. That we are acting more like an aberrant apex predator who demolishes its habitat than the Crowning Creation, who tends and keeps the garden.
Spiritual traditions from around the world speak of a similar ethos—the call for ayni. A call for the spirit of personal reciprocity with the Creator, with each other, and with the Earth Mother.
In the natural world there are, in various ecologies, apex predators—the lion, the polar bear, the crocodile, and many more. For these animals, their function as apex predators is natural and lifegiving to the ecological systems in which they find themselves.
In the Northern Pacific, the sea otter is an apex predator. We picture them floating on their backs, eating shellfish off their belly. The sea otters were hunted for their furs, to the brink of extinction. The entire ecology suffered. Kelp beds were devastated, and all of the life that depended on the kelp diminished as well. And why? It turns out that the sea otters eat the sea urchins, and the urchins feast on kelp beds. And so, without the sea otter, the sea urchins demolished the kelp beds and the circle of life that depended on them.
In nature, an apex predator is a healthy part of the ecology. But we are somehow different as human beings. Our instincts as an apex predator do not serve us well.
We have a level of consciousness that is uncommon in the natural world. Our level of conscious awareness gives us great power. The sea otter was fulfilling its role as the apex predator in the ecological system. In hunting for sea otter hides, human beings were acting as a pathological apex predator in a way that was unhealthy for the coastal ecology.
With the level of consciousness we have as human beings, there is a power of choice that is uncommon in the natural world. No other species has the same kind of conscious choice to do things that demolish their habitat and threaten the preservation of their species. No other species impacts itself and the planet like we do.
We, as human beings, can demolish our own culture, as has happened numerous times for human culture over millennia. We can wreak havoc for the Earth Mother. And we know that the Earth Mother is strong, and she will adapt and continue. But that doesn’t mean that we will thrive or that we are fulfilling our role in the global ecology.
This is the crisis we are facing as a species. If we have the honesty to face it, our science is telling us that we must move from being an apex predator, who is unnaturally preying on its environment, to being the Crowning Creation, under whom the whole planetary system thrives. And this is the change that is transpiring, rooted in the evolutionary urge erupting out of the depth of our souls.
The pivotal factor is the crown of the Crowning Creation. In the Pulse of Spirit last week, I referred to this crown as The Reciprocity of Sacredness: the sacred exchange that we have to share as human beings, as the Beloved Community.
Today for you, tomorrow for me.
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
In this great shift, we are entering into a reciprocity and a mutuality, and an awareness of an ecology of consciousness that is based on an exchange of sacredness, one to another. Do you think that if we got that right, maybe everything else would go right? And is it possible that if a human being could violate the reciprocity of sacredness that they’re meant to have with their fellow human beings, particularly those closest to them, they could violate all kinds of other things? That they could be out of their integrity in the ecology of the community in which they live? And the ecology of their organization, their nation, and the planet Earth itself?
The crown of the Crowning Creation is consciousness and the conscious exchange of what is truly sacred. We have that to give and to receive.
So I invite you to consider today, how clear is what is most sacred to you? What is most precious? How vivid is it in your awareness? How front-of-mind is it for you? How fully is it flowing through your heart? Is it buried deep someplace where you can’t find it? Or right there, present with you, consciously known? The sweetness, the wonder, the preciousness of what is most sacred.
This sacred exchange among us as the Beloved Community is the ultimate act of subversion. It subverts all that’s dysfunctional in the world in which we live, not because we’re trying to take it down but because what is meant to be is born, and we are liberated into that birth.
Some might think that a political act is the most subversive thing that you could do. And I’m all for a good political act, and I’m all for voting for the right person. Some might believe that an act of charity would make the greatest difference in the world, and I’m all for acts of charity and for helping those less fortunate among us. And yet I say that the real game-changer for humankind is to wear the crown of the Crowning Creation, what’s happening in consciousness at the apex of our experience as humankind. If that shifts, everything shifts.
That shift is the most subversive act. It is the ultimate act of Creation. It is moving from being an apex predator to being the Crowning Creation.
We can let this change for ourselves, and then be with others who are letting it change too. We can let it change for us together. First of all, because of an act of total personal responsibility and self-reliance regarding that change and my part in it, for myself. And then, in making that change, by knowing it with others who are doing the same. That creates a Beloved Community of self-reliant people, all of whom wear the crown of the Crowning Creation.
So we are wearing our crown. Our crown is our awareness and exchange of the Most Sacred. And so we say to every human being we meet, in essence: Wear your crown. That is our message to all people in all places.
Wear your crown. Know what is Most Sacred. Allow it to be top of mind and flowing in your heart. Find a way to let it be expressed and embodied through every role that you have, in every phase of your life, in every word and every deed, every act of ayni, every act of reciprocity.
So may it be.
The Nguni languages of Southern Africa have a word similar to “ayni”. “ubuntu” pertains to the connectedness which should exist between people; meaning that which builds community. So, in Cape Town, our friend Anne-Lise Bure is Director of the Novalis Ubuntu Institute, and she is passionate about civil society and how people connect and build community – in this part of the world, and elsewhere.
A royal crown, particularly one used for a coronation, is extremely weighty, being made of gold, jewels and other worldly materials. However, in Africa, you see the great strength in the women who have learnt from a young age to carry water on their heads; one liter of water weighs one kilo! These women have magnificent posture and a kind of nobility about them; perhaps there is some symbolism in water which they carry on the crowns of their heads which brings ubuntu and much else to their communities.
I wonder what balances on my head?