Yes, our world seems to be mired in anxiety and fear; and civic discourse has degenerated to accusations, outright lies, and rhetoric. We hear calls to “drain the swamp,” but it never seems to happen. Perhaps we are looking at the situation from too narrow a perspective. It is not just our politicians who are lost in the marsh; it is our spiritual life, too. That’s the message of “What Swamps Teach us About Spiritual Life,” which appeared this week in Swedenborg Foundation’s Spirituality in Practice blog.
The original version was published in this forum as What We Can Learn From Swamps: Stagnation, Entrenchment and Spiritual Renewal. The essay explores the correspondence of swamps in nature with the problem of psychological stagnation and economic and political entrenchment. The common thread connecting our negative image of wetlands, psychological stagnation, and societal entrenchment is this: when purity and freshness, in the image of clean water, does not flow in our wetlands, our personal lives and our civic lives, these systems cease to thrive and start to decompose and decay. As Ezekiel said millennia ago:
But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they are to be left for salt. (Ezekiel 47:11)
The same is true of our spiritual lives. If we close ourselves off to spiritual ideas, and the possibility of having spiritual experiences, then our spiritual life will be deprived of sustenance and will decay.” Without the water of spiritual renewal, meaning and purpose will no longer be present in our lives.
“It all ends where it begins: with the water of truth that is the source of life.” (essay conclusion)
This essay is a companion to an earlier essay, also republished by the Swedenborg Foundation, What Can We Learn From Fire: Ecology, Economics and Spiritual Growth.
I heard an interesting interview on the podcast “EconTalk” recently. Russ Robert’s guest was David Rose, author of a new book on The Moral Foundation of Economic Behavior. Both are self-described skeptics of religion. Dr. Rose’s key finding is that efficient and effective markets require specific foundational moral principles that promote and reinforce trust, without which markets will fail. His principles, which he claims to have derived from research and insights on the functioning of markets, sound remarkably similar to the Ten Commandments.