Bruce Cockburn feels “as if there’s a war going on in the human species between our hunger for contact with the divine and our urge to self-destruct” [“In a Dangerous Time,” interview by Greg King, June 2004]. In actuality, the two desires are not in opposition. The urge to self-destruct is rooted in the longing to know — not just to believe or to grasp intellectually — that we are connected to the divine and can exist in a state of connectedness, if we so choose.
The feeling of divine oneness can easily be confused with the sense of power we humans strive for externally: always hoping for a better job, a bigger car, a larger salary, a fitter body. When these material longings are realized, we experi-ence a fleeting sense of rightness with the world, which only leaves us craving more.
Even in our most self-destructive moments, we are able to feel this rightness. Perhaps many of us have felt it only while engaged in self-destructive behavior, be it drinking, embezzling from stockholders, or raping the earth to build another strip mall.
We need to recognize that our darkest longings and worst behaviors are not in opposition to our connection to the divine, but rather mask our desire to rediscover this connection. Only then will we stop destroying ourselves, one another, and the earth.
I’m grateful to Bruce Cockburn for recognizing his own complicity in international atrocities, but when he goes on to vent his rage at “market-hungry military profiteers,” he indirectly excuses himself. We’re all guilty, and we’re all innocent. We should be fighting our own fear and guilt, not each other.
We compete for housing, bidding as much thirty-year debt as the banks will mire us in. We strive to make more money, for fear of losing our homes, our healthcare, our retirement, and our children’s futures. Security always dangles just out of reach, because “enough” grows with what we stand to lose. Fear keeps us in the game, not greed. The devaluation of labor has made us a service economy, dependent on global slaves for material goods. Deep down, we know that the ability to consume without producing can be maintained only through constant violence. The military does our dirty work, while we claim innocence.
I used to assume that the problems of the world would be solved if those with money and power were like me. Then I realized that they are like me, but have more at stake and therefore more to fear. My own fears about money are equally irrational to those who live hand-to-mouth. We all do the best we can for those we love, based on our perception of “enough.” I’m less likely to change my own perception when I put the blame on others.