Posted by: Ken Homer | March 6, 2008

Layer cake

Not long ago, I was asked to lead a group of about 135 people in an exploration of how religion informs social justice, and a second group of about the same size to inquire into how economics informs social justice. This request put me into a terrible state of agitation.

For weeks I had an inner battle raging as I tried to find a way to frame these conversations so that they could be fruitfully engaged. I knew something was wrong with the way I was going about it, but it took some time before I stumbled on the solution.

One morning in that state between waking and sleeping, I had an image of a three layer cake, and suddenly the doorway into the conversations I was seeking revealed itself. In this layer cake image the bottom layer was economics, the middle social justice and the top was religion. I awoke knowing that to be effective the conversations had to include all three layers.

As I have worked this image over time, it has served as a useful model to examine some ways that we humans relate to ourselves, each other and the world.

  How we relate to the Sacred – Religion

How we relate to Humanity – Social Justice

How we relate to the Earth – Economics

Although the specifics of the circumstances will vary widely for individuals depending on time, culture and station within their community, each and every human life will be lived within and shaped by the context of these relationships. Moreover, each of these relationships is tightly intertwined with the others and cannot actually be separated from them. 

I assert that a great many of the challenges we collectively face today arise from the fact that we treat each layer as separate and unrelated to the others. To make matters worse, most of us fail to recognize, that due to our upbringing and conditioning, we have a preferred layer that acts as our center of gravity and attention from which we observe and act in the world. This is the layer where we are most familiar, comfortable and at ease. Considering the other layers may provoke anxiety, distaste or worse, but consider them we must if we want to make the world a safer, healthier place to raise children and experience the wonder of life.


What is your favorite layer?

From where do you most often find yourself observing and acting in the world?

What happens in your body when you began to include another layer in your thinking?



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