Let’s Widen Our Gaze
The coronavirus continues to dominate our headlines and articles. It also dominates much of what we, as individuals, discuss and ruminate, often leaving us overwhelmed and discouraged. Uncertainty makes us crave media coverage as we seek a way to be able to take action around our fundamental concerns, but leaves us feeling small as we hunker in our homes with little way to impact the events around us. The truth is, headlines don’t prepare us for our ‘next normal’. Where else can we turn our attention? What else can we discuss?
“The America We Need”
Enter the New York Times, embracing its long held commitment to “All the News That’s Fit to Print.” Beginning April 19th in their Sunday Review section, they launched a three month, multi-chapter project to report on all the elements of fragility in our economy and society that existed before the pandemic.1
Already a month in, their foundational chapter includes publication of nineteen articles on various aspects of health policy, racial and economic equity issues, prospects for cities looking forward, education, downward mobility, workplace policy, and how to understand the perspective of people outside your own community. The second chapter focusing more specifically on the geography of inequality should be launched shortly (we’re guessing in this coming Sunday Review). The third chapter on the dynamics of labor and capital, together with their approach to solutions, should arrive in the second half of June.
With both research and opinion pieces, and authors ranging from Jamelle Bouie to David Brooks, the articles represent a first stepping stone to our national way forward. The prose is readable, and more satisfying with their historical basis than the uncertainty of coronavirus news. Accessible and forward looking, they offer a path to think beyond today to that next normal. What do we want it to be? And how might we each engage?
Widening our Gaze: Tikkun Olam
In the Jewish tradition, there is a concept called tikkun olam.2 Currently translated from the Hebrew as “mending the world,” it was originally intended to refer to legal measures to be taken to ameliorate social conditions. It is understood by contemporary pluralistic Rabbis to refer to “Jewish social justice” or as an aspiration to behave and act constructively and beneficially in society.3 Getting informed about the world beyond your home and local workplace and community can be deeply satisfying, and make a big difference for people and places you may not currently know about, or don’t understand.
Traditions of social justice exist in all religions, and whether you are religious or not, or consider yourself politically progressive or conservative, you likely have some practices of compassion and generosity in your own life. Those practices are personal, beneficial and necessary; tikkun olam looks further to the need for deliberate effort to enact systemic change. Think of Martin Luther King, Jr, Mother Theresa, the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s or the enactment of Medicare in the 1960s. Both personal and systemic efforts are needed, but right now as individuals we need help imagining the breadth and depth of that larger project.
Acceptance and Change
Processing grief opens the road forward to envisioning change and new options.4 The classic stages progressing past grief aren’t necessarily linear, but they illustrate how human psychology has to endure a rocky road in order to reach acceptance, at which point forward action and change becomes easier.
Our work with clients who act as stewards for financial assets on behalf of their families, businesses, and communities has taught us that a collaborative effort supports stewardship even in the quietest of ways. You don’t have to be an activist to want a clear sense of what’s next for your community and the country as a whole, and we encourage you to dive in. If you are starting to itch to move forward as a steward of social change, we think you’ll find The America We Need to be satisfying and thought-provoking.
Digital NYT subscriptions (or inclusion of home delivery) varies from $1/week up to $20/week, depending on whether you are eligible for a new subscription deal or are currently a subscriber. The best deals we see are $4/four weeks for a year for new subscribers, or full digital access for up to three people with home delivery of the Saturday and Sunday papers for $10/week.
1 “The America We Need,” entire section of the Sunday Review in the New York Times, April 19, 2020.
3 See Rabbi Michael Lerner’s interfaith Tikkun website and journal. For a more conservative perspective, and discussion of whether social justice needs immediate manifestation or is geared towards long term change, see Jane Kanarek’s essay “What does Tikkun Olam Actually Mean?” in Righteous Indignation: A Jewish Call for Justice,” edited by Or N. Rose, Jo Ellen Green Kaiser, and Margie Klein, 2008. In it, she discusses the way in which tikkun olam differs from the more personal and immediate acts of compassion and generosity expressed in the concept of chesed.
4 Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler defined a seven-stage cycle of experiencing grief, including shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, testing, and acceptance.
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