The “common good.” The term could slip easily into both-sides-ism, or “going along to get along,” some anodyne acceptance of being nice instead of being truthful.
That’s not what we mean.
The image could easily give rise to an image of two very different people meeting in the middle, along a path, and engaging in a polite discussion. At the end, they agree to disagree. They go their separate ways.
That’s not what we mean.
The “commons” has geographical origins. The commons were the place where people with differing claims of justice met on land to which no one held title or ownership claims. Without contestations over who belongs in a space, because everyone does, then other important differences become more obvious. The urgency of medical care, or food, or safety rises to the top when we stop policing who should or should not be in a space. The way that a community can help solve problems with one another using assets and gift becomes more obvious when a small number of people are not busy trying to fence everyone else out.
The common good is built from the ground up, with a focus on the smallest, the forgotten, the overlooked, those cast to the margins. The margins are where the deepest creativity and the greatest resilience show up. The edges and the margins are teeming with life. Healing is there.
Discovering the common good requires asking good questions. “Who should I vote for?” is not a good question. It is grounded in the primacy of the individual rather than the good of the community. It is the sort of question that leaves us grinding one another to the bone, hell-bent on asserting dominion over someone else. Ask it for long enough, and the margins, with all the answers and all the medicine and all the fecund creativity, get crushed by the policing of fences.
Better questions, we think, will be the ones that develop a community consciousness: How does this action affect those who are hungry? How does this policy affect the sick? Who is this fence keeping out? What is keeping me from seeing that we need them on the inside? How do we make sure that every gift gets expressed?
We offer you this short meditation this week. Next week, we will return to our regular schedule of bringing you insightful thinking and powerful meditations on building for the common good.
Until then, abandon your screens often. Head outside, into the world, into the margins. Healing is there. In the aftermath of a challenging and noisy week, that is where we begin.