By Wayne Saalman
[Photo by Brittani Burns]
IN HIS CLASSIC WORK, ECSTATIC RELIGION, author I.M. Lewis wrote that, “Out of the agony of affliction and the dark night of the soul comes literally the ecstasy of spiritual victory.”
Humanity is collectively in such a dark night of the soul at this very moment. There is both conflict and affliction; there is pain and suffering. We have recently seen the deaths of two black men, African Americans, on our TVs at the hands of two white police officers, officers who had sworn an oath to serve and protect the citizens of their country, and uphold the laws of the land at all times.
Sadly, the police officers did not do that. One knelt on the neck of George Floyd, an unarmed citizen, until he could no longer breathe. The other shot Rayshard Brooks, yet another unarmed citizen, in the back. They did not protect and serve, nor uphold the law. They murdered their fellow citizens out of some misguided racist issues of their own, which is inexcusable.
These acts have justifiably unleashed waves of protest against police brutality right around the world. Those participating in the protest marches are expressing their outrage and understandably so. There is no justification for taking the life of a person simply because of the race to which he happens to belong, because of his skin color; especially someone who is not a threat to anyone, especially the police.
What these incidents have done is force us to think deeply about what has transpired. As a result, each of us has been made to face our own conscience on the matter. We are made to look at ourselves in the mirror and ask the obvious question: Are we racist, too, or are we totally against racism?
This, of course, is a moral concern and, therefore, a spiritual issue of great consequence. How we react to this issue, either defending the actions of the police officers or speaking out against racism as a matter of conscience tell us who we are as a person. It also tells us how spiritually evolved we are, for racism is the most blatant of superficialities in this world.
Personally, as a white man myself, I can wholeheartedly agree that “black lives matter”. I would, however, put it in more concise terms and say that “black lives matter equally”. So do yellow, brown and red lives.
As the recent pandemic has shown us, we are all in this together.
The pandemic, like death, infects everyone in precisely the same way and quite indiscriminately, for a virus has no moral qualms about infecting a person of any race or color. Death itself, likewise, comes to one and all. No exceptions.
In other words, there is nothing personal about death or a viral infection.
Racism, however, is down to a very personal viewpoint and actions of a very personal nature. To discriminate against another human being due to the color of his or her skin is quite simply an extremely profoundly personal matter of choice.
And choices matter.
In fact, that which is personal is precisely what makes any such matter “spiritual” in nature.
With all the marches — the picketing, shouting and divisive politics we see on the news these days — one might well grow disheartened by the state of things in our world. One might even lose all hope in humanity and in the future.
We shouldn’t lose hope, though, nor lose heart, for “Out of the agony of affliction and the dark night of the soul comes literally the ecstasy of spiritual victory.”
Those are words that should give us great hope, for this current collective upheaval is a positive sign that millions see systemic injustice and wish to correct it. What for decades and even centuries has been viewed in hushed whispers behind closed doors has now finally broken forth into a very public movement.
And that is a good thing. That is a positive thing. That is goodness itself breaking through like brilliant, beautiful rays of golden light through a dark cloudy sky roiling for much too long with heavy, heaving, menacing turmoil.
[Photo by Nathan Dumlao]