January is a time for new beginnings and transitions. Named for the Roman god Janus –
the Latin word for door, we hope for better days to come. New Year’s is even better than buying hope for $2 in a lottery ticket. It’s free – so we pay nothing to close doors and open new ones, every year.
This year, there may be more reason and urgency to go through those doors and make something of them. So it’s worth recalling the words of January 17, 1961, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower in his Farewell Address intoned: “We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without asking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.”
We are undertaking another election cycle in 2016, and these words remind us to hope for a moment of true citizen maturity ahead. That’s not so say we are not much more educated as a populace than in 1961. But the question is, is it the right form of education for the large issues of our time?
Society has organized itself with great precision around the intensive requirements of information education and technology so most everyday functions go forward seamlessly. Yet, living in a belt of information flows – starting with the computer, running across our daily work, and now social communications – has not fashioned a deeper vision of responsibility for the state of our national order.
Today, across governments and the world, and in our daily lives as well, too much we hear and do is “half-baked.” We have a half-baked health care system currently, a half-baked response to terrorism, a financial condition we don’t confront, and a spiritual malaise if not division that is enfeebling. We are not very “tuned up” as a country.
We’ve done better organizing society than organizing ourselves to be stewards of its welfare. Our scattering of interests splinter us too much, leave us in some desolation, and crimp a sense of undivided purpose and overriding intent as a people. The Public Square would like to see this confusion start to wind down. There are signs of early breakthroughs that may be occurring.
One of the biggest is a new hankering after the leaven of truth. There may be a movement away from the fetish of self. Our citizens are yearning for a more internal peace of mind, which alone, in the end, will bring an end to the external discords of the time that are reaching new levels of discomfort and stridency.
It’s one thing to defeat challenges to our well being within the nation or abroad. It’s another to establish those sturdy aspirations that ignite a world’s prospects. National campaigns can be a time to chisel those goals. Regardless of political leanings, everyone would
like their and their fellow citizens’ lives to be better than they think they are in the current environment.
We seem, however, to run more on our limits about what can be done than our dreams for reaching beyond these limits. Yet doing a lot of right things is more than a human endeavor.
Our deeper purposes must somehow be re-established. For this to happen, our citizenship must have a stronger taproot. It also must extend beyond our own devices of mind to draw upon a Design of the Universe greater than we are.
The search for the leaven of truth is a start. By nature, we want to define and press and invent the future. We think a brighter tomorrow relies only on our time, resources, and money at hand to form answers.
But leavening by nature happens without self-action. As with bread rising on its own, unaided by human hands, our faith is again perhaps paramount to our citizenship, and part of it.
Any dampening of hope must sooner or later reach beyond itself. Out of darkness, listening can bring us a new sovereignty of mind. Truth on its own can be transforming, if we get out of the way and lessen the ingredients we try and impose on the picture.
The Public Square believes no one can tell another what to believe, and that there is also no right to tell anyone they cannot believe in those thins which transcend the existing order. We all are coping to organize the future a little more hopefully than today.
The Public Square believes all of us can benefit to have our consciences leavened. It believes the fruits of the spirit must have a role in the future of our democracy. It holds our “political and spiritual heritage” depends on underlying principles of citizenship first. It sees a need for wisdom and maturity to guide our 2016 choices ahead.