I’ve just returned from a two week sojourn to the east coast to visit family and friends, and I want to share some thoughts I began to record while sitting in an airport.
Flying these days represents the ambivalence I feel for so much of my life when my values conflict with my practice. There is substantial information that airplane travel is a large contribution to our carbon footprint and thus to global warming and thus to my awareness of my part of participating in a significant threat to the welfare and health of the planet. So I sat at the airport struggling with my troubled conscience about flying while also acknowledging my heart’s need to see my family. And I seem to be particularly vulnerable to my plight when I am already uncomfortable enough just being at the airport at all surrounded by my largely dispassionate and joyless fellow travelers.
I have often written about the importance of reckoning that is so much of our current political, social, and economic challenge. I am very committed to the ethical imperatives of “truth and reconciliation” as the only way through our current crisis of squaring up and transcending the past and present injustices. How are we to find the ability to work through the divides and distrust that are the consequences of the past harm? And the reality is that the complexity to begin to address needed change is seemingly overwhelming.
My “airport reflection” about my participation in a harmful process is discouraging, but that is the iconic reality of any historical era when a culture faces its reckoning, and the imperative of “truth and reconciliation" feels like quicksand that not only immobilizes us but can seem hopeless. I find some consolation and hope, however, in the recorded messages of the ancient Hebrew prophets who were able to rise above the hopelessness with a transcendent voice that called the people to radical change and to remind them that indifference and exploitation of the poor is untenable and a contradiction to the ethic of compassion and justice that they claimed to receive from God. And I am convinced that their powerful transcendent ethical imperative speaks to us ever more viably today.
The message from God recorded by the ancient prophets, and supported by current scientific research, is that the planet and humanity cannot ignore and mock the injustices and practices that are self defeating behaviors. And as it was then, it is a message we prefer to resent and resist because it appears too large for our capacity to respond.
I can’t end there, of course, but I am not sure where to go forward either. I am pondering what, if any, consolation it is that our current plight has a precedent that the ancient prophets were addressing. But I do somehow feel assurance, as did the prophets, that their people would have the capacity to respond to their message, and the biblical narrative continues with the message of forgiveness, grace, and hope for a future that offers compassionate truth and reconciliation for the people. It’s not always easy to see that sitting in an airport - or late on a Saturday evening - but it is the ultimate promise from a transcendent God.