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The quiet army

IN this summer of 1988, when all of us take fleeting breaks from the work routine and resort to beach or woods or a quiet town, what should we think about? Even on vacation we never fully disengage from the human community; our thoughts continue to have an impact as we shape and reshape our views of world, national, local, workplace, and family conditions. One topic to consider: What really drives human events?

Is it personalities, the celebrated people featured in interviews as if they were chief among us? External forces, like too much rain on the prairies or, lately, too little? Psychological competition - the hunger for power or other aspects of office and political combat? What about perils like war, drugs, coups, alligators in Florida lagoons? Such concerns would make us feel helpless - no wonder people often look to vacations for respite from a human condition in continual churn.

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May we suggest some alternative starting points: that constructive spiritually mental forces are the more genuine impulsion behind world events, that they lead to change in a progressive direction for societies as well as for individuals.

These forces we recognize in the intelligence, coherence, courage, goodwill, and persistence we see evidenced at moments in human affairs. They may often seem obscured by the negative evidence they dislodge. Behind the current Pentagon scandal, for example, is not only the alleged wrongdoing but also the integrity of law enforcement officials and those in industry who first exposed it.

Behind the Soviet Union's economic and other reforms under challenge this week at the Moscow party conference lies a wider international dynamic: Technological change and global trade are demanding greater individual freedom within all societies, more flexibility than their bureaucracies can often deliver, a shift of resources from war-dominated to consumer-need priorities. If we look at the Soviet conference chiefly as a barometer of Chairman Gorbachev's political standing, we would overlook this more impersonal set of influences at work.

We often think the world of nature is a world apart from the human community. But the energy and aesthetic that carpet a meadow with a billion flowers reflects a universal impulsion to abundance and beauty, a force available right where human institutions like governments and businesses and schools may be showing signs of acute stress.

Famine, repression, ignorance cannot be accepted. Neglect is costly. The world cannot be passively accepted as it is.

We prune and water our gardens so that they produce more abundantly, in a modest measure taking advantage of the biblical promise of dominion for humankind over the earth. Our governments and societies too can be brought under the discipline of intelligent policies.

Again, we may well head off on vacation in flight from a troubled world. But if we consider that constructive forces are working in countless individuals around that world - engineers, scientists, planners, teachers, even children - we will not only find rest but will join the quiet army of spiritually inspired people leading the world to better times.

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