Wednesday, June 21, 2017
Monday, I lived my life the whole day the way I’ve always said one should, consistent with The Way of Peace. This was an accomplishment, and has been a long time coming. At bedtime, I was so proud of myself, I fully expected to be rewarded with a pleasant dream.
That didn’t happen.
The dream I did have was all about concepts, and wasn’t pleasant. It said, “Conservatism is tight; liberalism is loose.” It said I am currently being tight. I didn’t like being told that, and I didn’t like the fact that it was so.
Not because I have anything against conservatism. Though I tend in a more liberal direction, conservatism and liberalism are both largely immaterial to me.
But I would wind up pondering a lot, Tuesday, about how I would rather be.
It came to me that liberalism is like an open palm — one is ready to give someone something, or to accept something — whereas conservatism is like a closed fist. The conservative wants to keep what she or he has, and isn’t interested in accepting any handouts.
Now, it’s not that one is right and the other wrong. In life, both are necessary. And that insight opened up a different point of view.
That explains much more than I supposed.
The Qabala says there are ten sephirot, or dimensions, through which the Life Force may express itself. Two that are normally juxtaposed are Chesed, or Loving-kindness, and Gevurah, or Severity. These correspond well to the open palm, on the one hand, and the closed fist, on the other, respectively. The question is not choosing one over the other, but holding the two in balance; for in life, we need both.
One is not right and the other wrong; instead, each one has its own “good” or light and “evil” or dark potentialities. A “dark” potentiality of Loving-kindness is permissiveness, which can lead to a complete loss of order in society. Some people keep their hands out all the time, and that’s not good. A “dark” potentiality of Severity is that one may use the closed fist to beat up on oneself or others, to engage in tyranny or extortion.
Severity pertains less to the imposition of order than to the restoration of order (Hebrew: Tikkun) after disruption occurs. Chesed will express itself in making and serving a meal — but also in making a mess. Gevurah expresses itself in washing the dishes.
And taking out trash.
And picking up litter.
It pertains to the establishment of social norms, and to encouraging people to conform to those norms. For example, pee and poop belong in the toilet bowl, not on the toilet seat or on the floor. But when I worked at City Hall, it was clear that many men haven’t learned this.
Some social norms express themselves as laws. Thus all police activity expresses Gervurah — both its use and its abuse.(*)
But a complete lack of Gervurah is equally devastating.
It is telling that the concept of accountability is controversial among black Americans. Dez Bryant’s April 2017 remarks got scant attention in the mainstream press, but lots of pushback from the only black voices America is allowed to hear. D. L. Hughley said, “There’s no such thing as black-on-black crime.” Stephen A. Smith questioned Bryant’s blackness. The ideal of a black world without norms manifests in the murders of Carter Scott , Chanetta Powell and Charmaine Wilson.
Chesed and Gervurah in balance would be like a parent who corrects her or his child with love. We don’t have many good models for this. The current American correctional system is not, in fact, about correction, but retaliation. Likewise, the God portrayed in the Book of Numbers in the Bible does not correct, but retaliates. But putting the toys back in the toybox does not require scolding. Putting an errant object back in its right place does not require anger. Love can be constant.
That’s how I want to be.
(*)(The auric color of Gevurah is blue, which is why police wear blue uniforms. The color of compassion is green, so the Green Party is so named. But green is also the color of envy.)