The human solidarity brought by the grace of being cold together—A meditation for New Year’s Day 2023

The Manse sitting room window overlooking Christ’s Pieces on 15th December 2022

A short thought for the day” offered to the Cambridge Unitarian Church as part of the Sunday Service of Mindful Meditation


One of the many things that angers me almost beyond measure about the neoliberal project — which, since the mid-1970s, has done so much damage to the health and well-being of individuals, wider communities of belonging and, of course, to our common home, Mother Earth — is that it has done so much to destroy human networks of solidarity and compassion and replaced them with networks of competition and greed. It’s the project which, remember, made possible the shocking statement uttered by the Gordon Gekko character in the 1987 film, “Wall Street”, namely, “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good.”

But one of the very good things about the current dire, economic, financial, political and ecological situation in which we find ourselves today, which will only deepen in the coming year, is that the horrific consequences of the project have finally begun have a real, negative effect upon middle income and even many higher income workers and their families, and regardless of their party political preferences. Those on low incomes have, of course, been suffering dreadfully for decades but now the effects of the project are catching up with all but the ultra-rich and powerful. In truth, of course, it’s catching up with them, too, but they remain dangerously cushioned from, and oblivious to, its worst, immediate effects.  

Anyway, as we — a congregation mostly made up of middle-income individuals and families — meet in a cold church hall with the heating broken, exiled from the church which we can no longer afford to heat in the cold months, in the middle of a winter that has already seen ice form on the inside of some of our windows for the first time in decades because we have not been able to afford to turn the heating on as much as we would like, when we have all cut back on buying all kinds of good things, especially food, because of the effects of high inflation, my New Year message of hope to you this morning is that these visceral and unpleasant experiences can become for us experiences of god-or-nature’s (deus sive natura) grace. We can choose to see them, not as mere deprivations, but as positive and graceful goads to remember that on this astonishing and beautiful blue and green marbled globe hung in the velvety darkness of space, we are all always already in this together and that united we can stand and thrive but that divided we will fall and fail.

So may the cold we feel in our bones at this turning of the year help us to reignite the flame of human solidarity and then, warmed by its shared heat, begin to work together, rich and poor, conservative and socialist alike, finally to bring about the end of the neoliberal project in favour of the kind of humane project that the Jesus once preached, namely, a kingdom of heaven on earth in which everything, but everything, is dissolved into the call to show justice and love to one’s neighbour. 


Notices on the church front door this morning (click on the photo to enlarge)