Social Renewal

Social Renewal by K. King – January 2015:

The legacy of Reverend Martin Luther King comes to the forefront of American minds whenever the topic of social renewal is mentioned.  The following quote highlights his unrelenting campaign to establish equality and justice for all:

All life is inter-related.  We are all caught in an inescapable network of humanity.  Tied in a simple garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly …… Before you’ve finished breakfast, you’ve drawn on the labor of much of the world.  (soap from France, coffee from South America,  tea from China, towel from Turkey, or sponge from south sea islander, etc. )  This is the way our universe is structured.  This is its inter-related quality.  We aren’t going to have peace and justice on Earth until we recognize this basic fact of the inter-related structure of the universe.  ----- MLK

These same thoughts appeared fifty years earlier when Rudolf Steiner formulated the principles of a Three-Fold Social Order in an attempt to shift the hearts and minds of central Europeans in the wake of the widespread devastation after WWI.  Today every literate person is exposed to these ideals in one way or another, and is touched by the heroic efforts of such men.  Even so, this time in history remains plagued with terrible problems on a global scale – wars, poverty, the conundrum of global warming, human rights abuses, etc. etc.  Our hearts have to bear the burden daily of knowing that others live in a state of severe suffering.  Just knowing these facts impairs our health.  Literally we do not breathe or sleep with total ease because our soul takes these matters into sleep.   

All the while, we attempt to counteract the negative influences that touch our lives by occupying ourselves with productive activities at work in the world.  We are attracted to artistic masterpieces, amazing technological feats, humbling acts of random kindness, and illuminating sources of spiritual strength.  All those things live more at THE PERIFERY of our lives, we might say.  They make up the distant panorama of our lives.  Ultimately, the creative forces behind all great thoughts and deeds are part of the Omniscience, the All-Knowing that resides on the farthest peripheral boundary to which we belong!

In contrast, close in and at the CENTER of our lives, we live in relationship to whatever is immediately around us day by day.  Whether in family, the Waldorf world, in business communities or as Austinites, Texans, and Americans, these central relationships have a direct influence on our personal identity and become the greater measuring stick for how we value ourselves.  Here is where we experience that who we are being or what we are modeling actually creates positive or negative results in the world.  Have we been kind and generous, sympathetic and sensitive to the humanness of others, selfless and courageous?  Or have we behaved badly; have we been short-tempered, rude, jealous, petty or faint-hearted?  

Otto Scharmer, a life-long student of Rudolf Steiner, professor at MIT, and leading organizational management consultant, has drawn upon the insights found in anthroposophy, and brought to light a remarkable process for knowing who we are more intimately and resolving some of the impending challenges of our times.  In order to create change in the world, says Scharmer, we must work on both fronts, from CENTER and PERIPHERY.  What is new in his idea is that we must learn to exchange center for periphery and periphery for center.

As Ego-centered beings, we naturally feel ourselves as existing inside a central space.  In normal, day-waking consciousness, we look from inside out to a world outside of ourselves.  What if we remove ourselves from the center?  What if we push ourselves out of view and stand on the periphery?  Open-hearted, like-minded, similarly striving individuals would find themselves standing shoulder to shoulder around the periphery looking in.  Then the center that has been emptied out would be there ready to receive something new.  And if we can follow geometrical projections, that which was on the periphery would be that which floods into the empty space in the center.  The great truths, the inspirations of eons, the creative lawfulness in the Cosmos would actually come alive, become the living content of this center, the focus of our attention, the reality closest in.  The space in which the solutions to our problems can come to light is now in the center, at the core of our being.  In this redefined space, so to speak, are living the values truly worthy of captivating our attention and harnessing our energy.  

Social renewal requires building meaningful communities.  In order to create communities that follow anthroposophical principles, we might include:

Earth friendly buildings that use alternative energies

Biodynamic gardens with rainwater collection systems

Commercial kitchens offering nutritious snacks and meals

Retail businesses for green products and handmade crafts

Health clinics that promote prevention and well-being

It could grow to include care for elders, programs for those with special needs, biodynamic community farming, intergenerational housing, plus all the other impulses in our midst that are just waiting to emerge from the periphery in order to meet the challenges of our times!

In the words of Rudolf Steiner, It is a fundamental Social Law that the well-being of the community will be the greater, when a community of human beings succeeds in creating institutions of such a kind that no one can ever claim the results of his own labor for himself, but that they all, to the last fraction, go wholly to the benefit of the community. …  

… The problem of the present day is how to introduce people into conditions under which each will, of his own inner, private, impulse, do the work of the community.  No one, therefore, need try to discover a solution of the social questions that shall hold good for all time, but simply to find the right form for his social thoughts and actions, in view of the immediate needs of the times in which he is now living.