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Opinion: We need more than political will to move forward
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Attendees of a “United We Stand: Unity in the Community” event hold hands as they say a prayer before releasing balloons on Athens Street in Gainesville. Balloons were released in memory of family and friends killed in Gainesville and Hall County. - photo by Erin O. Smith

It is clear that we are living in volatile times. How are we called to reflect on our lives within the community?

Can we say that a persistent thread or theme in the development of civil society is the tension between the pursuit of our individual desires and the recognition of our interconnection with, dependence on, and responsibility for one another? 

On one hand, our attention goes to “what I want,” while on the other hand we are challenged to recognize “what we need.”

Such a reflection isn’t just a matter of political or economic theory. These questions are deeply spiritual and we would do well to turn our hearts and pay attention to the role of wisdom in facing the challenges of our days.

This deep wisdom spans the world’s religious traditions, from Buddhism’s concept of “self,” to Judaism’s image of tikkun olam and the healing of the world, to native and indigenous wisdom’s honoring of the created world, to Jesus’ own explicit call to care for the orphan and alien and lay down one’s life. 

The essence of an authentic religious practice is the placement of one’s own personal pursuit within the context of the common good.

When we recognize this tension and our challenge to move past our own self-centeredness, we move closer to nurturing a better world.

Given our circumstances, we need more than mere political will to face the struggles of our day. We have had more than enough political will that encourages ignorance while leveraging anxiety and fear. We must move past such a cynical disregard for the needs of the community and ground our political will in the wisdom that reminds us of how we belong to one another. We need a spiritual courage, a will that is grounded in the heart, in order to move forward together.

Stuart Higginbotham 

Grace Episcopal Church, Gainesville