THE BLOG

The Pope and a Collective Conscience

Have you ever seen this country and its media so addictively involved in the daily movements of a single man? With resultant security measures that nearly paralyzed three cities? A single man who was also invited to speak to both our country's governing body and the governing body of the entire world?

Now that we're all back to moving around in our lives again, let's see what the essence, the very heart of the pope's trip and message was all about.

I think it was all about the heart. That common thumper whose function and need is shared by all human beings. The pope extended that human need from the purely physical to the emotional, the spiritual and the practical. To recognize the common need we all have to live together in some modicum of peace and safety in order to survive. So his major outreach to the whole world was to ask us to become aware of the need for a collective conscience that we all must develop and share. Or, as philosopher Thomas Hobbes said, there would be an endless "war of all against all."

So as the head of a giant religious institution, he named this a request from God. Actually each religious belief system asks the same thing in the words of its own God -- to follow a path to love, to peace and kindness, to see and understand the others on the planet and let us all live safely together. This has been a universal human need from our oldest days together as a species. Hence, the creation of all religions and the search for God. For someone or something bigger than us to tell us how to curb some destructive instincts and expand our better ones. Many approaches to this quest, from primitively simple to hugely organized and complex, but all with one basic goal -- to survive together, to find a modus vivendi with some order, some individual protection and even kindness toward each other. And each form of religion has its serious rule book or taboos that underlines, demands and threatens deep reprisals if those golden rules are not followed.

Since we as a species historically created religions to find a way to teach us to live together, many of us have found our own versions of moral behavior, our own decent responses to our fellow humans without needing an organized series of symbols, rituals, even punitive threats to manage this coexistence with some decency and some ideals.

But isn't it amazing to see that, in the midst of today's ongoing global wars and terrorist attacks, of international governmental power grabs and refugee crises, this planet's whole governing body should agree to sit and listen to such a deeply thoughtful, basic message, brought by a teacher of the golden rule? A message that essentially condemns all that is happening now? A message that talks to the personal, hidden places of each soul there, to their own sense of morality and awareness of others that each of us learned something about long ago -- those "rights" and "wrongs" of childhood, whose echoes still reside deep inside.

Pope Francis rang those old chimes where everyone had to hear them. To know that at the heart of it all is the fact that we cannot hope to continue to live and grow and breathe unless we all develop a collective conscience that sees all of us, where each lets go of some of his or her self for a more enlightened kind of self interest which includes the survival of all. And these powerful representatives' response? Lots of applause, even tears, saying that these listeners -- these global listeners -- heard and recognized the basic truths, the call for new behaviors, the reminders to wake up and evaluate where we are and what we're doing to each other now and what the future results can be.

Did he get through to them? To us? Can we really move some of our basic human faults to the rear -- the greed, the intolerance, the competition, the fury and bigotry that marks today's world in such sharp outlines -- and find some basic, human connections? Some release of our common human ability to see and care for each other through a new sense of community -- a collective conscience?

What do you think?