Those advocating personal salvation as an alternative to civic engagement have fundamentally misunderstood the nature of their species.
Humans are a group species made up of complex, choosing individuals. Seen from an aeroplane we look and behave very much like ants. Seen through our own eyes we look and behave like individual spirits. Both perspectives are true, and to side with one view exclusively is to miss the big picture.
Civic engagement requires the humble recognition of our mutual interdependence, and the demotion of ego in the face of the reality of group decision making.
To assert the abandonment of civic engagement betrays an immaturity that advocates of that view would be embarrassed to observe in themselves. Promoting self improvement as an alternative to civic engagement requires an almost unbelievable degree of intentional ignorance about the lives and practices of every great spiritual leader from every great tradition. Buddha, Jesus, Moses, Mohammed, MLK and Ghandi, all devoted their lives to civic engagement – they saw their personal enlightenment as a stepping stone to understanding the web that connects all humanity, and indeed all life, into a single tapestry. Their personal, inner peace gave rise, inexorably, to a desire for common peace.
Obviously the quality of civic engagement, and the usefulness of anyone’s contributions to the group, are weighted by the degree of their individual awareness, mindfulness and inner peace. This goes without saying, and is neither revelatory nor particularly insightful.
The truth is that we must do both. We must strive for the deepest understanding and inner peace we can, and we must engage with our contemporaries in the pursuit of common understanding and common peace, at the same time. One does not precede the other, one is not dependent on the other, they are simultaneous and interdependent, in the present time reality of now.
So, please, don’t sit this one out. We need you, and your hard won personal liberation. Join in, we promise our unawareness and unmindfulness can only serve as training to hone your inner peace.