While in graduate school, a speaker at one of our weekly convocations appeared with a patch over his right eye. He explained that he was not trying to start a fashion trend, but had an eye issue.
He had gotten a piece of debris in his eye and tried all the usual “do-it-yourself” remedies. Nothing worked. He even did the unmanly thing of asking his mate to help. That too was unsuccessful.
A call to his doctor got a referral to an eye specialist. After removing the offending bolder from his eye, the doctor said, “I’d like to do a complete exam. The swelling and redness I see could be caused by something more severe.”
Long story short—the specialist found a condition which—left untreated would have produced blindness in that eye in a matter of weeks. Now the doctor could have simply accepted her fee for the emergency, and scheduled a more thorough exam in a couple of months. Instead, she followed the professional practices and saved his sight.
This was a case of Vigilance.
The second of the five principles for creating a more viable society is Vigilance. It has to do with paying attention. Along with Community, Faith, Respect and The Common Good, Vigilance builds the foundation for a self-learning, adapting, compassionate, and egalitarian social order.
Everyone in the US is regularly told, “If you see something—say something.” Of course, that generally is interpreted “if you see something suspicious, or questionable—then say something about it.” We need that sort of attentiveness as long as there is the kind of dangers we hear of too often.
But there is also a positive side to being aware of our surroundings. Those who see someone drop their wallet and point it out, or pick it up and chase them down. Or the one who stops to help a motorist change a tire on the side of a busy highway.
Another positive form of vigilance comes from those who see hard-fought victories toward tolerance and respect being undermined by action or inaction of government or commerce. The reason the US constitution lifts up the press, public speech, and religion for special treatment is to create a voice. Those voices can be raised against the established procedures or dangerous directions which dehumanize, or put tribe and profit above dignity and compassion.
But for that part of the American experiment to work the press, faith communities and all of us with a voice must be vigilant. We need to measure our practice against our best values and speak out about how we can do better.
The Doorkeeper’s Secrets is futuristic fiction. However, the social justice envisioned in the book is within our grasp. Next time we will begin to look at Faith as the central essential for a collaborative social order.