The visible and invisible dynamism was palpable on spiritual, intellectual, and practical levels. Spokespersons for religions largely presented themselves in terms of universal values, rather than advertising their own wonderfulness. And the overall goal was to mobilize a spirit of unity in the universal family, as we turn to cooperate in dealing with planetary ecological, social, economic, and political problems. And the special emphasis that marked this gathering was the emphasis on women. Leadership of the younger generation was also unforgettably vibrant. I’ll put some links at the end.
One of the ways to develop a manufacturing business is to expand toward horizontal integration, gaining a greater and greater share of the market in that segment of the industry. Another way to develop a business is vertical integration, where you bring together the functions of getting and preparing the raw materials, and take on marketing, retail, and customer support as well.
Not many businesses attempt vertical integration. In a similar way, many religious leaders, philosophers, and activists do not see their work as integrating these three dimensions. To do this work well, each group needs to learn something of the others’ specialties, while respecting the differing functions of the others. For example, religion should leave political details to those who specialize in such things.
Although there were many sessions that focused entirely on spiritual and religious topics, the 2015 Parliament was a largely activist conference. I had never experienced such a thing. But it helped me elevate goodness to its proper role in the triad of truth (the foundation), beauty (a essential blessing in itself and an essential dimension of truth and goodness), and goodness—the dominant value for human living.
The experience of the Parliament did little to modify my beliefs, but much to rearrange them. I had long accepted the belief that we need to make a lot of changes quickly in our value system to avoid disaster, but now that belief came into much greater prominence—and I am utterly thrilled with the integrating realism of this perspective on what it means to be alive on the planet today. I had long believed that women are statistically speaking more spiritual than men and to tend to function as moral leaders in society; but not that belief has become more effective in me—and I am deeply excited about this awakening. I had long believed that my religious and philosophical teachings need to touch somehow on ecological, social, economic, and political matters, and now I’m beginning to see how, and I feel great as a missing piece of the puzzle has been found. A month ago I had begun the practice of showering using 10 percent as much water as I had previously used in the shower and keeping the thermostat in the low 60s as the weather gets colder. But now I’m just beginning to entertain several other ideas for personal lifestyle.
One of the things that struck me in a few of the Parliament presentations was the anger in the voice of the speaker. I came to a merciful understanding of that anger: God, too, is mightly determined in response to the worst of human actions.
At the same time, I know that anger is not my way. Whenever my emotions lose their grounding orientation in love and mercy, I abuse my privilege and betray my responsibility as a teacher of truth. That happened once during the Parliament. I had been receiving angry messages from some of the speakers, but had not processed my subterranean reactions, had not taken the time to cleanse my heart from even a minor version of the instinct to retaliate in kind. I had heard a few ideas that I thought were very deficient, and I had not recognized my need to refresh my brotherly attitude toward the individuals in question. And then I was put off by something that was said in conversation, and brought forth a very excessive criticism. My prompt apology was not accepted by the person to whom I had spoken, who said that she had taken no offense. But what a lesson! The next day I heard a presenter talk about the demonstrated effectiveness of taking six seconds to pray, count to ten, whatever, as soon as one feels the onset of inappropriate emotion. I started to recognize such arousal in my emotions and take the six seconds (or more) needed to restore calm. But most of all, the newly integrated vision connects with a cosmic dynamism that is sweeping away the roots of anger.
One of my criticisms of a number of the speakers I heard had to do with their sweeping generalizations, which struck me as reflecting ignorance of high-quality conservative thinking that could nuance their generalizations and complement their insights in a way that would enable a spirit of cooperation to replace the broadsides that alienate the very people that we need to work with.
It is not reasonable to expect activists to be scholars, especially well-balanced scholars in the way that I regard as ideal. As a religious philosopher with a specific sense of mission, I do not presently regard it to be part of my task to search for excellent conservative and liberal (and libertarian, socialist, ecofeminist, Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish, indigenous . . .) presentations of various sides of key policy debates. But I know that I must model and foster to inclusive, big-tent spiritual and religious discourse that does not needlessly antagonize any of the groups that I dream of indirectly helping to lead to join in the increasingly mature and world-wide worship of the one Creator God.
Here are links to a few of the many the persons (or their organizations) who impressed me.
https://www.circlesanctuary.org Selena Fox, the single most Jeff-changing presenter.
https://www.abrahamicreunion.org/ The session I found most inspiring was an introduction to twelve heroes of interfaith cooperation in Palestine and Israel, three of whom gave talks on their awesome work.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hWB0zw_02O0 Tariq Ramadan was to me the most impressive speaker, a religious philosopher and Oxford University Professor of Islamic Studies. He challenged the emotional tendency to applaud and asked simply for silence surrounding his words. On the picture at the top of this blog post, he’s the fourth from the left.
http://www.listenforlife.org/donna-stoering.html In the top 1 percent of spiritually moving music I have ever heard, pianist Donna Stoering and master of the oud Naser Musa each did some solo pieces and a number of pieces together https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0lRQ9XQyzUI
http://www.scarboromissions.ca/golden-rule The world’s most inspiring interfaith golden rule leader, Paul McKenna
http://faithseekerkids.com/ Vicki Garlock, a neuroscientist Ph.D., cognitive science professor who has been devoting herself to Bible-based curriculum development for children.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ylDD_pXGNNs Elizabeth McAnally, who gave an outstanding talk on Buddhist appreciation of water. She’s a doctoral student at the California Institute of Integral Studies.
http://rabata.org/about/anse-tamara-gray/ Anse Tamara Gray, a Muslim leader: “We are each a sign of the absolute truth of divine goodness.” A doctoral student at St. Thomas University in St. Paul, Minnesota, in Leadership, Policy, and Administration.
http://www.interreligiousinsight.org/ Alan Race and Jim Kenny have pioneered this journal of dialogue and engagement.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:ShokoKat Rabbi Joseph Gelberman outstanding Hasidic teacher, who has died, but who was mentioned by Denise Scotto, an impressive lawyer working at the United Nations. She told me that “peace” is a controversial notion now at the U.N. because some people insist that there is no peace without education, nourishment, and other goods.
http://www.utahmoca.org/ Immediately north of the Salt Palace Convention Center was the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, where thanks to Alexandria Lang, Kathy Zhou, and others, I had a peak experience of contemporary art, seeing some pieces that conveyed some insights more effectively than the speeches I had been hearing.