Enlightened Insurgency

by Bob Schwartz

There are a variety of insurgencies—political, economic, social, cultural, spiritual.

There are also a variety of drivers for these. The same as for the insurgencies themselves, but not necessarily congruent. There are, for example, political insurgencies that are driven by economic forces.

It may be thought that spiritual traditions including practices such as meditation and beliefs in equanimity are quietistic and do not induce or allow insurgency. The same might be thought about other contemplative traditions. This is an incomplete understanding.

In the psychology realm, there are therapies that urge patients to “get in touch with their anger.” The point is not that the patient will never, ever be angry again. That might be as unrealistic and maladaptive as being angry all the time. Instead the thought is that once anger is seen in a different light, it can be experienced in a different way.

Just so, enlightened paths can lead to enlightened insurgencies. This is as tricky as it sounds. In the face of things going in the wrong direction, in the face of injustices, inequities or just plain thoughtless and destructive stupidity, it is easy to forget your principles and, as the cliché goes, become part of the problem and not part of the solution.

We’ve seen it in every movement for change and reform. We’ve seen it in the civil rights movement in America, where there was (and is) continuing disagreement about the vehemence of protest and resistance. Every prophet has faced this—the wrongs may be easy to see, but the rights are harder to formulate, even if God supposedly inspired you to action.

How much harder it is for those of us who are light years from being prophets. All we can do is keep our feet more or less on the path, watch ourselves and our indignation, and figure out, as best we can, how to make things better as quickly as possible without making them worse.