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A Change Is Gonna Come

Cosmic Justice, Progress, and Sam Cooke

There is a great reckoning happening, wherein we all are being held accountable. None of us are immune or outside of this process. The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis revealed a level of tension that cannot be ignored by anyone. We all have work to do in building a world based on equity. We must all take our place in the great circle that holds us all together, where all voices contribute their wisdom. To resolve our differences is to acknowledge where and how we are creating them. We cannot settle for loose arrangements that lend themselves to unethical slipperiness. We must be fastidious in cataloguing and dismantling all the personal and collective conditioning of separateness. Many of us are asking for a fundamental change in society and for a reform or reconstruction of social systems in search of justice. Complex problems do not have simple solutions.

Cosmic justice looks nothing like its human correlate. Cosmic justice is the underlying order that gives rise to the laws of nature. It is impersonal, impartial, and unfeeling. It lacks all sentimentality. It is inflexible, and has no reasons; it is not predicated on mental concepts. It is pre-verbal, universal, and needs no reform. We can appreciate cosmic order by observing that absolutely nothing is wasted or lost in the closed system of the universe; "matter or energy cannot be created nor destroyed." Human justice is conformity to facts, reason, or truth; it often manifests as righteousness or retribution. The laws we create are born out of the flawed, egoic, and personal whims of people who create a moral and logical framework for their own benefit. We have a rich historical record of how the standards and foundations are flexible on what is ethical or moral. Relying on either cosmic justice or human justice alone is inadequate at best, and terribly destructive at worst.

Although we inherently participate in the play of cosmic forces (because we are made of cosmic stuff), we are seldom really aware of and take for granted its presence. Instead, our lives are governed by human laws. We can see the flaws in the systems we have generated over time. We can see the inconsistency in the words and actions of "leaders" in position of authority. We can see the gross disparity between the amount of work and effort we exert, and the level of material prosperity that is available to some and not others. We can see violence and inequity in staggering detail with the disproportionate use of deadly force against people of color in the US and many other countries. We can appreciate the level of ingrained racial, class, and gender biases that exist no matter where we look in our world. We can see clearly how the misuse of the richness of our environment is causing ecological devastation. At the same time many of us believe or trust that there is a deeper order to life that has room for all forms of life. We tend to lament the inadequacy of our human-created social order and defer to the power of some larger cosmic order that rarely, if ever, makes itself known to us. Or we hold a belief in the hope that progress is taking place, and slowly, although we do not see it, a gradual process of change will come. But as Frank Herbert wrote in Dune, “The concept of progress acts as a protective mechanism to shield us from the terrors of the future.”

Alternatively, what if we took personal and collective responsibility for our own experience here on this planet?

Each of us has their own inner landscape, colored by charged moments from this lifetime and from the inherited lifetimes of our ancestors. We are interpreting and constructing the rolling narrative of who we are in relationship with the changing world around us. Our experience is fluid, and who we are and how we experience our world is constantly in flux at any given moment. We become immobilized by trauma, through own experience or through the vicarious trauma of living in a world that is filled with violence and injustice. We all arrive on the set of the world-scene with a limited grasp of how we fit into the collective picture. And we have little awareness of how others fit into the scene with us; what part they are playing, what reasons they choose what they choose, what their inner world is really like. In this complex and shifting landscape, we tend to orient ourselves to what is familiar, what we believe, and what helps us to feel in control of our own story. The collective social fabric that we weave is colored by our inner narratives, held together by our beliefs and ideas, and is what we cling to in order to try to control our inner emotional and psychological framework. Each of us is building and maintaining the social construct by continuing to ignore the inner threads that hold it together. Our inner biases, beliefs, and desires move us to choose what we choose, they are the lens through which we perceive and interpret events, and they are the foundation upon which we create our own framework of justice.

Whether any of the above makes any sense, consider the facts. Everything that lives operates within the closed system of this cosmos, which runs by unarguable rules of which we are all subject. The differences we can identify between one another are a construction of our own inner world, which are present because of real causes and conditions. Attempting to solely create rules and regulations to "level the playing field" fall short if we do not address the inherent biases, beliefs, attitudes, and desires within us. Each person must make considerable effort to eradicate notions of separateness within themselves if we hope to have new attitudes with which to create an equitable or fair experience for all of us. None of this process is linear, straightforward, simple, or immediate. We must be invested in the long term effort of dismantling and recreating thousands of years of conflict, bitterness, and violence. We each have our own process to attend to, but we are also responsible for being accountable to ourselves and each other as this takes place. There is no formula, no timetable, and our only benchmark is the feedback we give each other as we stumble our way through the learning and unlearning.

If your heart is broken, like mine, by everything you are seeing, feeling, and thinking, I refer you to the magic of Sam Cooke's voice in "A Change Is Gonna Come."

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