By: Zoë Muntaner
By virtue of its name, Santa Monica affirms a spiritual and diverse identity. A Spanish name reveals more than meets the eye. Why then, our local government doesn’t represent those diverse heritage? I’m on search mode.
My father instilled spiritual curiosity on us. Although we are Catholic, Dad invited Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons, and other missionaries to our home to talk about their particular form of worship. We went to Pentecostal and Charismatic services and to top it off my grandfather was Jewish. When I told Abuelo Max that I started to celebrate and practice Jewish holidays he looked at me in disbelief, he was a secular Sephardic Jew. Still, that practice is the only way I have to connect to his legacy and honor his contributions to my life.
During one of the many debates of the 2014 City Council Campaign, I spoke about Tikkun Olam. A Jewish concept defined by acts of kindness performed to perfect or repair the world. The phrase is found in the Mishnah, a body of classical rabbinic teachings. There were three Jewish candidates but it took a Catholic to bring up the intersectionality of politics and spirituality because it is my philosophy in life that government should be the servant of the people, NOT the ruler of the people. I thought it was ironic, funny, and hope it made my grandfather’s soul proud. I still believe.
“Action is character.”- F. Scott Fitzgerald
It breaks my heart to see how government works in Santa Monica. Seriously, is one of the few things that keep me up at night. I experience the whole spectrum of emotions from anger to deep sadness. How I deal with it? Humor, it is indeed the best medicine. Some things are so sad you just have to laugh.
During my college years, I explored Buddhism and some mystical traditions. I like mystery. Misticysm is a particular interest of mine. In spite of all that exploration, I keep coming back to my Catholic roots, it feels familiar.
“We need the tonic of wildness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.” ~ Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods
A good friend from Puerto Rico, Sharon Koenig, has become a major spiritual and religious writer, we talked for hours on the phone about her journey. I’m in awe of spiritual transformations and the way God uses us to do work on earth while we are here to repair the damage done. Remember Moses, Juan Diego and the bunch of prophets who were unqualified for the job? For some reason, God is in the business of picking from that pool of characters. Santa Monica is in dire need of modern prophets. I believe Rick Cole can be the answer to that prayer. Let’s see what he has in store for us.
We are blessed to live in a city that offer many traditions of spiritual practice. An encounter with something bigger than ourselves can happen anywhere in our city. Out of my diverse upbringing, I don’t hold judgment on how people lead that particular relationship. I feel connected to that power on a hike at the Santa Monica Mountains, a sunset walk on the beach, on a Sunday service at St. Anne’s Catholic Church or Church of the Ocean Park or St. Monica’s Catholic Community, I also feel it meditating with Sikhs, yoga class or the silence at the Christian Science Reading Room. I plug-in and receive the grace available to me. I ask, I listen, I fight, I negotiate without profit, and finally promise to do better when I fail, which is often. I get scared, there is no coincidence that the Bible has numerous verses that tell us: “Do not be afraid”, but I still do. In those moments, I know in my heart that I was not taken to a place of challenge to be abandoned there. Try to tell that to my brain! The synapse factory is on overtime. That is the tricky part. I understand there’s an opportunity for growth, to transcend what I already mastered…but it’s not easy. It never is. This is as good of a time as any, to ask God to cut me some slack and ease the load. I show up imperfectly, uncomfortable, calm, willingly or in despair, that attitude is half of the battle.
“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans” ~John Lennon
As a young girl, I wanted to become a nun. Although is far from where I’m today, it is the truth. Life had other plans for me, but service is at the core of my calling in life and makes me feel alive. The nuns at my school were gentle, kind and patient. They spent lots of time praying, cooking and caring for us, that appealed to me. Perhaps is the reason I brought the Charter for Compassion to Santa Monica, and still endure its slow growth and challenges.
Is important for me to disclose that I’m imperfect and flawed, I’m human. I’m not a role model nor I pretend to be one. Am I always kind? Let’s say… I’m challenged when I’m treated as a doormat.
“If everything was perfect, you would never learn and you would never grow.” ~ Beyoncé
The twists and turns of my journey have been nothing short of dramatic and epic. I see miracles in the mundane and I’m part of that. Looking in the mirror each morning can be frightening. You deal with me here and there, I carry myself 24/7, is no joke and exhausting some days!
“In the morning I bathe my intellect in the stupendous and cosmogonal philosophy of the Bhagvat Geeta, since whose composition years of the gods have elapsed, and in comparison with which our modern world and its literature seem puny and trivial; and I doubt if that philosophy is not to be referred to a previous state of existence, so remote is its sublimity from our conceptions. I lay down the book and go to my well for water, and lo! there I meet the servant of the Bramin, priest of Brahma and Vishnu and Indra, who still sits in his temple on the Ganges reading the Vedas, or dwells at the root of a tree with his crust and water jug. I meet his servant come to draw water for his master, and our buckets as it were grate together in the same well. The pure Walden water is mingled with the sacred water of the Ganges.” ~Henry David Thoreau, Walden
FROM THE GOLDEN RULE TO THE GOLDEN REALITY
The Golden Rule or ethic of reciprocity is a moral maxim or principle of altruism found in many human cultures and religions, suggesting it may be related to a fundamental human nature. Karen Armstrong, the catalyst for the Charter for Compassion talks about its role in the 21st Century.
The most familiar version of the Golden Rule says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” My job is to wake up every day trying to do my best with what I have, to bring compassion awareness to the table. I pray to God to use me to achieve his will. I wish it to you as well. It becomes a different kind of life.
Indeed, we are blessed to live in an iconic city of political engagement. That is exciting. We need to pray for our city officials, they have a tough job to do and there is a lot of repair to be done in Santa Monica. The upcoming election will be a challenging time for many involved in activism. My hope and prayer are that we can maintain sensible respect for each others opinion, to honor the truth and come together as a community. That right there is asking for a miracle, and a miracle is a shift in perception.
I wish the statement “In God We Trust” printed on our currency bills truly honor those words, instead the private interests that further divide the diversity of the haves and the have-nots.