"...For those who are huddling in shelters trying to escape the rain...For those who are walking the streets in the all but futile search for work...For those who think that there is no hope for the future, no recognition of their plight -- this little paper is addressed..." And so began the Catholic Worker movement...
In the midst of the Great Depression, Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin began a "viewspaper" -- The Catholic Worker --and when folks came knocking on their door to ask if they really meant what they were writing, they brought out a soup pot and fixed dinner for their few guests. And as such things happen, the word spread and hundreds started showing up... and then hundreds of Catholic Worker Houses began all over the United States, along with a number in other countries as well...
A unique aspect of Dorothy's life and radical witness -- and a fundamental aspect at that -- was that Dorothy wasn't interested in "becoming a saint by doing good". No, not at all! But she was interested in asking why there were hungry people, unemployed people, marginalized people all over this incredibly rich and dynamic and powerful country. Why indeed! She had no hesitation in connecting the dots: monopoly capitalism (in contrast to the traditional American Village cooperative-capitalism), by its very nature, requires that wealth become increasingly concentrated into fewer and fewer hands; monopoly capitalism, by its very nature, requires that many people suffer poverty and degradation as a "cost/benefit" of the "free market system" -- the "greatest system ever invented by man"... at least for the men on the top of the predatory food chain; monopoly capitalism, by its very nature, requires the existence of a permanent war economy -- everyone knows that war is good for business! Dorothy wrote for decades about these issues and summarized her analysis with this pithy quote: "Our problems stem from our acceptance of this filthy, rotten system."
It is essential that monopoly capitalism be contrasted with traditional American Village cooperative-capitalism, which is in line with the thinking of both Thomas Jefferson and Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi taught, "There is enough for everyone's need, not for everyone's greed." In years gone by, every village, town, and city had their home-grown versions of the "Ma and Pa Cafe", "Tom's Hardware", "Miller's Feed and General Store" -- someone could repair shoes, everyone had a garden, produce was grown and sold locally: by and large, communities were self-sufficient. Traditional American Village cooperative-capitalism bred satisfaction and contentment -- two hallmarks of safety, health, and well-being. Monopoly capitalism, on the other hand, requires endless growth -- even beyond the capacity of the Earth to sustain. Endless growth requires endless consumption. Between advertisers, credit, guaranteed-to-break products, and the deliberate cultivation of "new and improved" -- dissatisfaction and boredom whiplash lives and entire communities. No one has to be anyone's neighbor in the globalized order of monopoly capitalism...
But what did Dorothy Day (and Jefferson and Gandhi) want instead of the "filthy, rotten system"? Her answer: "We want land, bread, work, children, and the joys of community in play and work and worship." This is still the dream of the poor of this world! The poor don't want to get drunk on the same power that is destroying both the rich and this planet -- the poor of this world simply want the opportunity to live and to rejoice in the possibilities of their children. Haven't you read John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath"? (If not, read it!).
And after you've considered the incredible strength of Ma Joad, the powerful commitment of Tom, rest awhile thinking about the total transformation of the Rose of Sharon -- from a very small, insignificant, selfish "self", into the Mother of New Possibilities... and the great surprise and truth of The Grapes of Wrath -- especially when considering the life of Dorothy Day -- is that there is a Rose of Sharon within all of us...
Now is our time to set our inner Rose of Sharon loose upon this precious blue Planet!
There has never been a better time to be alive: 98% of our planet's climate scientists believe that Earth is at risk for catastrophic climate changes; there are still roughly 30,000 children who starve to death everyday; economies around the entire planet are increasingly fragile; poverty is increasing everywhere; terrorism is everywhere; violence is financially very rewarding - especially if you can get a big government contract; and, well, the list could go on and on...
So, why are these the best of times to be alive, you might be wondering? There are a number of great reasons! Each of these reasons are pointing the way to how our problems will be overcome: 1) There is an increasing sense of global interconnectivity. The internet is available on the top of Mount Everest. Probably during this decade the majority of the world's population will have internet access. This surge of information will awaken a universal desire for the liberation and full development of every people and person. 2) The reality of economic globalization will actually strengthen current efforts to "localize" and enhance and fully develop local resources towards long-term sustainability; free trade will increasingly become fair trade for everyone's benefit. 3) The fledgling "new thought" movement will become increasingly influential as the abuse of power in the mainline religions becomes more and more evident. All of the justifications for the acceptance of intolerance and violence will finally be confronted: folks will simply stop going to church, temple, and mosque. Folks will simply stop paying for the priests of the world to intimidate them with theologies rooted in domination, threats of eternal punishment, etc. 4) Women are getting organized and stronger everywhere on the planet! This is the real key to global change and our planetary possibilities. Women will no longer tolerate systems of abuse and oppression -- while at the very same time organizing and creating new theologies, new economics, new politics, new art and literature, and, while they are at it, a new humanity out of the old. 5) Young people everywhere are seriously recognizing their opportunities to create change! If you thought the 1960's were really something in either the US or France, take a look at Egypt. The power of an organized youth -- the world over -- will unite with a renewed women's movement, for the saving of the planet! Neither corporations nor countries can stop the New World Movement for Peace and Justice!
Ah, yes! This is the best of all possible times to be alive! You, YOU!, have the opportunity to change, to re-direct, the very course of human history! What if you really and truly show up for this rEvolution everyday for the rest of your life? You, YOU!, my friend will be remembered and cherished for the rest of human history!
What if the fundamental definition of the human person is this: "a sacred experiment designed for the manifestation of the Holy and the evolution of the Universe"?
What if our divine possibilities unfold in direct proportion to our unified interior / exterior identification with the world around us in the practice of beauty and justice?
What if "what if" were to become our sacred mantra -- the mantra of our conspiracy with the Holy One to transfigure ourselves, our communities, every person, our social institutions, and all of nature into perfect "mirrors" of Beauty and Justice?
What if every religion were to become unified, radiant, voices for the practice of beauty and justice -- in spiritual liberty?
"Holy One, Beloved Friend,
Awaken me to One Love!
Quicken my heart,
Enliven my soul,
Stir my blood,
Awaken within me,
The radiant Light of Only One:
Then transfigure that which remains
Robert Daniel Smith was privileged to serve the homeless and marginalized for 30 years in Salinas, California. Together with his wife, Michelle, they founded an intentional community called the 'Companions of the Way', also in Salinas. Robert and Michelle are community organizers, Catholic Worker renegades, sacred activists, writers, poets, artists, Divine Mother devotees, and practitioners of Kriya Yoga as taught by Rev. Ellen Grace O'Brian of the Center for Spiritual Enlightenment. Michelle is also a Montessori public school teacher. Robert is also an ordained Interfaith Minister.