Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A journey without shortcuts

Ever since I heard Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks preach at the opening of the new Cardiff synagogue two years ago, I have been a fan of his. While I have yet to make sufficient time to read any of his books, I take great pleasure in hearing him on '
Thought for the Day'.

His reflection on Jewish New Year last week was notable enough to include in the Spiritual Capital Blog. This Wednesday, he spoke about Sukkot, the celebration in which Jewish families erect improvised shelters and live outdoors for a week, in remembrance of the forty years spent wandering in the wilderness after the exodus from Egypt. Not such a penance to perform in Israel/Palestine at this time of year, maybe, but somewhat more challenging if it rains a lot and the seasonal average temperatures are starting to drop, as it does here. In these circumstances it is more of an expression of solidarity with the homeless and disposessed. He reflects :-

"It's easy to celebrate sudden deliverance, the dates every nation has inscribed in its database of memory; the day the war was won, or the walls came down, or the tyrant was deposed. It's much rarer to remember the long journey with all its disappointments and defeats, setbacks and wrong turnings, the story not of miracles but of human endurance and the courage to keep going even when the promised land is not in sight. Freedom is a journey across the wilderness with no shortcuts. And that unspectacular story of human spirit is what Sukkot represents."

He goes on to think about the Burmese people's current revolt against military dictatorship, and how many years some Burmese have continued to resist oppression, with inadequate recognition or support from the international community. '....a journey across the wilderness with no shortcuts' he says - the struggle of the human spirit to attain justice and freedom. It goes on all over the place, in social and political movements, also in human hearts striving to know what is worth valuing and living for, and summoning the will to strive for its attainment.

It think of the tragic figures of drug addicted beggars I see around the streets - a reproach to our consumer society, also an embarrasment, as nobody knows what to do with them or how to help them in a way that makes a clear difference. Or, if anyone knows a solution, it fails to become an effective priority in public life. How we deal with citizens at the bottom of the heap, who have fallen out of society, trapped in destructive ways of life abusing themselves and others through their criminal acts is an indicator of the kind of society we are. As it is, the police and the courts fail to deal constructivey with them, the social services are limited to performing a holding operation because their powers are limited by the policies of the judiciary, but shaped by national politics and economics. The sufferers are truly in the wilderness, and so too are those who see the need and are unable to help.

To set our culture and society free from drug and alcohol dependency is a long hard journey we've hardly begun. For a lucky few there may be an exodus, and new beginning, but many more are stuck, and the complexity of their personal problems is such that they are likely to remain stuck. And I too feel stuck because I cannot see any useful contribution I can make to opening up the path to freedom

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