Letter from the Publisher: Via Transformativa – The Beginning Is Near
Categories: Society & Politics
The year 2016 is shaping up to be a year of significant change. There have been major upheavals throughout the world in the recent past and it seems likely that many storylines will see critical shifts and resolutions this year. And like many transitions, while there is the strong possibility for positive outcomes, the passage will likely be difficult and challenging.
This year concludes with the end of the second term of the first U.S. president of African descent, Barack Obama. His mere presence in the White House catalyzed and exposed the prejudice that exists throughout our society. And as the election cycle kicks into high gear, the current ideological schism becomes more clearly defined and the ramifications for the November election greater. As the rhetoric on both ends of the political spectrum becomes more heated, it has grown more and more difficult to envision the possibility of any candidate being successful in staking out a moderate position. A victory by Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders will energize the opposing party’s base to new levels of action and it is easy to imagine a much fractured socio-political landscape at the end of this year, regardless of who wins the election.
The last time our nation saw such a major schism was in the years preceding the Civil War. The nation was starkly divided by the issue of slavery and the various related questions and consequences. The economies of the North and South were developing in very different ways, creating very different social and cultural institutions in the process. Ultimately, the two distinct approaches came into conflict around their core philosophical differences and the result was four bloody years and the deaths of 620,000 Americans.
The world was similarly starkly divided in the early twentieth century between the fascist Axis powers and the Allies. The result of the Second World War clearly defined the power dynamics in the world that have remained in place to this day. At the time, the conflict unified the U.S. populace in a way that had not previously been experienced and it helped propel the Allies to victory. But while the totalitarian regimes of the Axis powers were defeated and new institutions like the United Nations were created to attempt a lasting peace, many underlying social issues such as racism, homophobia, and gender inequality continued to fester just beneath the surface. It was not until the 1960s that these issues began to be addressed in a more overt way, though the struggle continues to this day.
The current ideological divide is reflected globally as well. Religious and secular extremists are becoming increasingly militarized, reflecting a serious challenge to the community of nations. Social and environmental pressures further destabilize communities while the global economic model resists change and disparities increase.
What does this ideological divide mean for us as a global community? If the past is any guide, we are poised for some challenging times. But difficult times are necessary for transformation and new levels of mutual understanding. From the perspective of Creation Spirituality (as defined by author and theologian Matthew Fox), as a global community we are experiencing the most difficult phase of the fourfold path: moving from the Via Positiva to the Via Negativa, or the path of suffering. As Fox writes, the Via Negativa is “the path of silence, the path of meditation, calming the reptilian brain, but it’s also the path of emptying, being emptied. I mean how can you have mindfulness without mind emptiness? There’s an emptying that has to go on in order to refill, if you will, the mind and our consciousness. Then there’s also the suffering, because suffering is one of the avenues of emptying and being filled up anew.” Collectively, we are suffering, emptying to be filled with a new way of being together, through the Via Creativa, the path of creation and solutions, and finally to the Via Transformativa, or path of justice and compassion. Our emptying creates space to acknowledge our shadow, necessary for us to reach a place where solutions can be crafted and justice can be achieved.
In the U.S. we face some major challenges such as gun violence, gender inequality, restrictions on marriage equality, racial inequities and discord, and disagreement on the impact of climate change. Globally, we confront climate challenges and economic disparities that result in violence, hunger, and the displacement of entire populations. As we walk the Via Negativa together, resolutions are inevitable—but we don’t know what form they will take, or how dark the days ahead will be. A prayer for peace and understanding acknowledges the suffering inherent on the way to reconciliation. The beginning of a new path is near, when we will be able to walk the Via Transformativa together as a global family.
North Atlantic Books