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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

river folk

I haven't blogged in a while, but I have been thinking a lot, which is good, because thought matters.

A couple things:

First, I hate political races, particularly presidential races.

Second, the Buddha had it right.

Okay, first things first. There is a very solid and substantial reason why politics, and presidential races in particular, disgust me: they are not instances of truth in our society. There is no transparency; there is no passion; there is only deception and distortion. Political races in America are isolated events of extreme, though controlled, chaos. They are divisive, and the delude the population. Reading through the platforms of the two parties this year, I find no mention of humanity that rings true. I find plenty of points on the rights of the human being, many of which ring true, but none of them are rooted in the solid and concrete reality of the human person. Life, my friends, is painfully messy. It is a series of triumphs and disappointments. The fabric of our lives is not made up of universal healthcare or fair tax brackets. It is made up of love, lust, passion, pain, frustration, joy, terror, and — ultimately — a lovely brokenness that no amount of political discourse can ever piece together. "All the King's horses and all the King's men could not put Humpty Dumpty back together again." That's the sorry truth, right there in that playful and oddly sad nursery rhyme. We won't be saved by referendums or initiatives. Neither Obama nor Romney will turn out to be our messiah. In the end, they will deepen the chaos, because that is what power does. It distorts and contorts the very real and very poignant act of being human; it reduces all the vivacity of the self into a number. And I balk at becoming a number.

I want a candidate who does not hide behind their Harvard education or their success as a business man. I want a candidate who does not tell me what I want to hear. What I want is a candidate who tells me exactly what I do not want to hear. I want a person who looks America in the eyes and says, "We are failing. Our children are committing suicide in epidemic numbers; our elderly feel alienated; our poor get poorer; our hungry don't get fed; our mentally ill hide; we are self-interested, and our self-interest is crippling the third world; and this needs to change." Don't win my vote. Win my very human soul.

Second things second. The Buddha once said, "Live like a mighty river." What he meant by that was interesting. Mighty rivers do a few fascinating things. They do not stop; when a mighty river is challenged it flows over, around, and through the challenge. It continues. They are pure; the sheer volume of water outweighs the impurities that the broken world dumps into them. I feel comfortable drinking from a river that is mighty. They give life; trees, plants, flowers, and animals depend upon the mighty river to sustain them; the very earth's survival is dependent upon the mighty river. They flow to the ocean; they seek to be reunited with that which is greater than themselves. I have a tattoo on my wrist that reads AD MARE SEMPER, which is Latin for "To the sea always." The sea dwarfs me. The very sight of it, the way its smell permeates the air, the boundlessness of it, its power — all of these things remind me that my obstacles are insignificant, that I, too, will flow to that which is great in the end.

In the face of the brokenness which we all feel, which collectively contaminates our world, we ought not be numbers to small men on great thrones. We ought to be mighty rivers: indomitable, uncorrupted, life-giving, and aware of the greatness beyond our isolated selves. We are one body of water moving in one massive exodus to the sea.

And for that reason, I refuse to be separated from my brothers and sisters by differing opinions. What is good shall come to pass, and, eventually, shall pass away. And what is bad, too, shall pass.

"Love all, serve all, and create no sorrow." —Trevor Hall

May your coffee be strong, your passions electric, and your laughter easy.
—michael


1 comment:

  1. Michael, the world we have is never the world we want. The candidates are fallible human beings and they're never going to address love, lust, passion, pain, frustration, joy, terror- the things which comprise our existence at the deepest level- because they're too vast and sprawling to fit inside the neatly delineated boxes of a presidential ballot. But aren't the things that do fit inside those boxes just as important, insofar as they have real and lasting impacts on those vast and sprawling things? Can't we for a moment conceive of ourselves as numbers without necessarily reducing ourselves to them, and acknowledge that policy, whether domestic or foreign, is inextricably bound up with the stuff of life, with the important topics that no debate could possibly range over in the course of one and a half hours? And sure, power corrupts. But if we frame our situation in such grim terms, how will we ever make substantive progress as a nation? It's one thing to be realistic about how the prospects of each candidate, but quite another to say that they will inevitably "deepen the chaos." How else are we to be mighty rivers?

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