With near 400,000 dead in America of a virulent pandemic, with the hottest sequence of years on record behind us, with deep fault lines of racial injustice clearly exposed, with a wide crack in the foundations of democracy evident, 2020 was a year of revelation! Revelation of what?
Consider the following: We know that our health rests upon the wellbeing of all; as goes the part so goes the whole. I have often said: “the State of Nevada will never be better than the state of our children.” As well, we are increasingly aware that the human footprint is having catastrophic effects upon the environment. We are also waking up to the significance of racial trauma and how deeply embedded racism is in our national and global culture. And, we are clearly sensing that our democracy is only as strong as the individuals who support it.
As the prophets of Israel declared: there is a reckoning for immoral behavior. The sage of Greece, Heraclitus proclaimed: “character is destiny.” A friend, Rabbi Awraham Soetendorp, the Chief Rabbi of Holland, has declared that the next ten years shall be “The Holy Decade.” In the decade before us there is important reparation work to be done. The good rabbi was thrown from a train as an infant into a farm field in France by his mother. The train was on its way to Auschwitz.
One of the most vivid pictures of the Old Testament is that in which the prophet Amos is standing in the midst of Israel holding a plumb line. A plumb line is a tool by which builders find the true vertical. In other words, the law of morality is just as fixed as the law of gravity. Goodness is not a sentimental human emotion; it is a law which governs the universe itself. Amos dared to say before the people of Israel that they had lost their way; the plumb line of morality revealed that their moral compass was amiss.
If you go about returning evil for evil, and injury for injury, breaking agreements, lying, and disrespecting those you serve, then whether you are the police, the Senator, or the President, you shall discover a day of reckoning. The moral laws of the invisible world will treat you as an offender, just as surely as the laws of gravity will pull you down.
The essayist and philosophical molder of American culture, Ralph Waldo Emerson, in his Address on Abraham Lincoln put it this way
“There is a serene Providence which rules the fate of nations, which makes little account of time, little of one generation, makes no account of disasters, conquers alike by what is called defeat or by what is called victory, thrusts aside enemy and obstruction, crushes everything immoral as inhuman, and obtains the ultimate triumph by the sacrifice of everything that resists the moral laws of the world.”
It is time that we bestow upon ourselves the beneficial influence of such a realization, whether it is in the hallways of academia or the hallways of our Congress. Lies are just that: lies. The misstatement of fact will forever be a lie. Truth never bends toward the lie, nor does real goodness toward evil. As Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle so clearly observed civilization, itself, exists upon the foundation of eternal values: truth, beauty, and goodness. Saying that such values are mere fictions does not make it so, whether in the court room, before the press, or in the chambers of the Senate.
The skeptic amongst us will continue to deny. But, the evidence, as noted above, lies in the consequences of our choices. Every choice carries within its two walls the inevitable consequence of that choice, which can be beneficial or harmful to the highest degree. The moral consequence of choice is as unvarying as the law of gravitation, as the swing of the planets around the Sun.
The great American philosopher, William James, says: the person may not “count” his wrong deed, “and a kind of heaven may not count it; but it is being counted none the less. Down among his nerve-cells and fibers the molecules are counting it, registering it and storing it up to be used against him (or her) when the next temptation comes."
Neuroscience clearly evidences this reality. The appearances of success that bring coveted results are poor substitutes for real character. The world with its inadequate assessment may approve a person who seems to reach its desired goals, but triumph carries a steep cost when it is at the expense of the soul.
The plumb line stands before us clearly. We have hard choices to make. Can we move forward during the next ten years, “The Holy Decade,” with moral courage and a willingness to engage one another with both a quality of respect and with genuine goodwill? I shared recently with one of our Congressional Representatives, Susie Lee: “what if every member of Congress were to sign and swear to an agreement to engage in a quality of genuine civil discourse with both respect and goodwill?” Do you think that might make a difference?
As Victor Frankl, Holocaust survivor, suggested, the only real freedom we have is the choice of our attitude. That choice helped him to survive one of the greatest immoral events of human history. That choice of attitude might just help us to survive and begin to thrive in the next ten years, and for generations thereafter. For the sake of those generations, I challenge you, each of us, no matter which side of the isle we find ourselves on, to adopt a genuine attitude of respectful goodwill, beneficial compassion, and altruistic motivation. What will be revealed in the adoption of such an attitude will be the greatest gift of all!
Co-founder, Children’s Advocacy Alliance, caanv.org
Co-founder, Volunteers in Medicine, vmsn.org
Founder, Compassionate Las Vegas, compassionatelv.org