Each day as I take my car out of the garage, I head out on public streets (many of which are in dire need of repair) -- who pays for them? I may not call upon them, but I rest easy knowing that there is police and fire protection. My son is in a public college (so I benefit there), but I don't have any kids in public schools (but I'm glad they're there for the families with children). Social Security and Medicare, which take up much of the non-defense related national spending provides essential services. I hear people say that they can take care of themselves, and yet we can't. We need each other.
As I'm thinking on these things, I'm reading Walter Brueggemann's Journey to the Common Good, (WJK Press, 2010). I'm taken with the book and its title, because it speaks to something that is, in my mind, being lost today. He writes:
You might wonder why wisdom is listed here. The reason is that the wisdom of Solomon is designed to "control the mystery and to reduce it to a technical operation; . . ." (p. 60).Now the two triads offered by Jeremiah constitute the decisive either/or of faith in ancient Israel and of faith in the derivative story of humanity:
- either: wisdom, might, and wealth;
One is a triad of death because it violates neighborliness. The other is a triad of life because it coheres with YHWH's best intention for all creation. In prophetic discourse there is no compromise on this either/or, no middle ground. It is a contestation that is designed to place all serious persons, liberal and conservative, in a profound crisis. It is the purpose of the poetry to invite the listener into serious contestation where we may, always again, redecide about our common life in the world. (p. 65).
- or: steadfast love, justice, righteousness.
What is the common good? What does it mean to be a neighbor? Indeed, who is my neighbor? Am I ready to contribute to the common good? These are questions that are up for contestation.