This is free writing this morning, so grab your coffee, sit back, hold on, and enjoy the ride.
I am fairly certain that at mid-life, I have become a socialist. I am being serious, and I don’t find this distressing at all; in fact I embrace it.
When I was a younger man, I used to get up early in the morning and run a local mountain trail, to the top, and sit on a large rock and watch the sun rise over the Valley of the Sun. Thinking back, I felt very meditative and contemplative at the time, though I did not know what to call it then, nor did I care. I just enjoyed the quiet morning, high above the city.
Years later, I wrapped myself up in the theological structures of my faith. It’s not a mistake that I did this, all things must be what they are going to be, but in doing so I went against the inner nature of myself. I didn’t listen to myself, knowing that a more simplistic approach to my faith and nature was all I needed.
It was not until I traveled to Israel, of all places, in my early forties, that I was able to begin to unwind my theology and learn to simply be kind, going back to embracing the simple faith and contentment that I had as a young man. We do end up right where we started sometimes, don’t we?
Which leads me to socialism. If I am being honest with myself, listening to my inner voice, I’ve always been somewhat of a socialist. Before you, dear family and friend, begin to think I have become unhinged, let me explain this situation.
I don’t believe the point of any life worth living is to have men and women buried in the corner, by themselves, reading Scripture in solitude to their personal savior who loves them. What I think is more the case is that we come out of our prayer closets and our personal relationships with “God,” and we live, move, and find our being in community, together, wrapping our big, fat loving arms around the least of these. I think the point is to do this thing called life together, making a stinking mess of it, but nonetheless knocking elbows and rubbing shoulders in community with our tribe.
Socialism, as least how I use the term here, is concerned with community, the commons, public spaces and places where communities of people live and move and find their being…together.
We all need private time and quiet space, reference my early runs up the mountain above. Jesus modeled this. He often went up the mountain to be alone and pray. But then, the majority of his life was spent in the trenches, teaching, preaching, and healing…in community.
As I have come to understand, the challenge with capitalism is the underlying assumptions which underlie this economic structure, which is to earn profit. The challenge is that moral development and courage must accompany capitalism for it to be healthy. Take one look around and one sees that few people take the time to develop their inner lives and spiritual nature, few take the time to exercise moral courage.
Where we do find moral development linked with capitalism, it is usually of the spiritual ‘form’ of white, evangelical, Protestant Christianity, where one views their path of salvation through a personal, direct relationship with their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ; the only thing necessary to get to heaven being a Bible. Or, said another way, an individual reading their bible alone is the current linkage of “morality” with capitalism. Reference our good, right-wing Republican friends.
So what happens is that capitalism takes on a form that becomes something other than serving, giving, and helping. It individualizes the masses, and negates community. It is community where moral development unfolds, where the lessons are hard won and lost.
Further, wealth does beget wealth and the playing field has become very uneven. The capitalistic structures in place now favor capitalists, and not those who need help.
I know that there are indeed honest business men and women, and I salute them. But in the main, the structures of business success do not favor honesty, and it becomes like a camel passing through the eye of a needle for a business man to conduct business fairly and justly while earning a profit in moral ways.
At any rate, I make no claims to expertise, only that I know my faith and spiritual practices are meant to be lived in the messy spaces and places of community, and that on par, socialism is a system with logical ends toward community, rather than the individualism that capitalism pushes us toward.
I knew years ago that I had Buddhist and socialist tendencies, but I did not allow myself to listen to myself. I refuse to do that any longer.
As for me, I aim to mix with the masses and figure out how to live this life in community, appreciating the commons, trying to open up healthy spaces and places for those in the working and poor classes. I don’t know, but if this is called socialism, then I guess this is where I find myself.