Known as both a provocative religious leader and a respected spiritual iconoclast, Irwin Kula has inspired thousands nationwide using Jewish wisdom in ways that speak to modern life. He is the author of Yearnings: Embracing the Sacred Messiness of Life (Hyperion, Sept. 2006), which won a “Books for a Better Life Award,” and was selected as one of “10 Best Spiritual Books of 2006.” Featured in the public TV special, “The Hidden Wisdom of Our Yearnings,” and the acclaimed film, Time for a New God, he ranked No. 8 in the “Top 50 Rabbis in America,” listed in Newsweek, and was named by Fast Company magazine and “Religion and Ethics Newsweekly” (PBS) as one of the new leaders shaping the American spiritual landscape. A regular on The Today Show, he is the co-host of Hirschfield and Kula: Intelligent Talk Radio (KXL, Portland, OR), and hosted his own public TV series, Simple Wisdom with Irwin Kula. Rabbi Kula is the President of CLAL, The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership.
Transcript:Well I mean short term, long term I don’t know; but clearly the Iraq war is a pretty big issue. And it’s not really just the Iraq war. It is how are we as the “we” – United States of America, Americans – who are right now situated as the most powerful country in the world . . . We’re never as powerful as we think. On the other hand we’re pretty powerful. How is the most powerful country in the world actually going to demonstrate leadership as we move from nation state to a more globalized world in which those boundaries . . . We can build all the walls we want; those boundaries are going to be more permeable than any human being in the human community ever could have imagined them. And that’s very unnerving. And how to function in that environment without a kind of . . . without simply returning to a kind of primal, flight-fight response . . . You know flight, we have to give up on the world and protect our . . . build everything as strong as possible because the world’s crazy and we’re the best; or a fight response, which is kind of the response we went into post 9/11. We’re gonna have to evolve past the fight or flight response. And that . . . I think globally as an American, I think that’s the most serious international issue. And that’s gonna call for tremendous discipline and very difficult questions. I’m not one of those people that believes that there’s no evil, and there aren’t times you have to go to war, and that there aren’t times you have to do difficult things. But at the same time that you’re doing those difficult things, it’s really important to ask, “What did I do to help cause this situation?” Not in a blame game, and not to justify what has been perpetrated; but simply so that you can have a better assessment on how to deal with whatever is coming down. And right now we tend to immediately blame someone else, project all of our shadows on someone else, determine that the problem is “out there”, that it’s “that evil person” – the evil is in Saddam Hussein, or the evil is in Iraq, or the evil is Iran; or in our country, the evil is in fundamentalist one side, or the evil is in pro life or pro choice, or the evil is in someone that we deeply disagree with. That’s gonna get us all killed. See it didn’t make a difference when only people had a . . . when a person had a little, you know, a stick or a rock. So big deal. You know you bothered me and I was a little undeveloped. I hit you with a rock, and maybe I killed you and it was one person dead. Now it’s not a joke. Now when people really begin to disagree with each other and don’t understand that they’re always shadow projecting – always – the kinds of power we have is a small network of people can blow up a whole building. And that’s . . . that’s really, really serious. So everyone from politicians all the way at the top to us small people right here have to always be asking this question: “How am I implicated? How am I in any way, shape, or form . . .” It may be only one percent or a little bit. “How am I somehow responsible for where ‘we’ are?” Now that’s gonna be a really hard questions for us.