This term was brought back to me this week in a different context from the one I remembered in American History. You may well recall that manifest destiny referred to a widely held cultural belief in the 19th century that America was destined, inspired, even divinely ordained, to expand its borders to the Pacific and beyond. That kind of arrogance lives on, however, as I discovered in the column Roadside Assistance by Rabbi Rami Shapiro, published recently in the magazine Spirituality and Health.
Roadside Assistance consists of folks’ letters to Rabbi Shapiro and his answers. This particular questioner suggested that she and her friends were into manifesting their future through the power of their minds. They were feeling sorry for folks who just manifest poverty and illness and unemployment. But they didn’t think that government handouts or charity would influence those people to choose differently. So what sort of world, they wanted to know, does the rabbi manifest?
The rabbi was both succinct and quite blunt: “One without people who hide their selfishness and privilege behind the mask of manifesting.”
When I was about 10, I recall seeing a rather disheveled woman in ragged clothes. She may well have been homeless, was certainly poor. From the comfort of our car as we drove by, I commented: “What kind of garb is THAT?” My memory is that I had only recently come across the word “garb” and saw that as an opportunity to use it. But my statement came out as very demeaning and mean-spirited. My mother quickly disabused me of the notion that I had any right to be judging her. More sharply than she generally spoke to me, she said: “That is probably the best clothing she has.” I felt appropriately shamed.
This world does not operate on a level playing field. I once witnessed a visual demonstration of this. Some college age students were going to be in a race. But first they were to respond to some directions such as: if you grew up with the two parents you were born to, take a step forward; if you always had sufficient food in your household, take a step forward; if you were able to get your education without any hindrance, take a step forward. There were many directions along these same lines. Pretty soon, there were some who were well ahead of the others.
If we are willing to face this reality, we can use our energies to develop compassion…..and perhaps to work to manifest a different world: one where our differing abilities are respected and the common good is sought.
May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter. Shalom, Kate
Hope’s Café Bonus: The question posed by the inquirer in Roadside Assistance may be repugnant. But, if we are honest, we likely recognize our own capacity for this. Challenge yourself this week to “catch yourself in the act” of judgement. You might even have a Judgement Jar for a fine each time you catch yourself. At some point, if the money accumulates, consider giving it to a good cause. 😊nifest
2 thoughts on ““Manifest Destiny””
I think I like this rabbi!
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I hope at some point our country gets back to working toward the common good. Everything is so bipartisan. I don’t think we are having the “destiny” our forefathers imagined for us. On a more personal level, I’ve tried in recent years to be more aware of times that I am mentally judging someone. I try to remember that I am not walking in their shoes. Thanks for your thoughtful post, Kate.
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