Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Differing Views of a Mountain

In the next few years, this country has some enormous decisions to make about its directions, and our government’s best role and what services it should deliver how to we the citizens. The process of arriving at these decisions is inevitably going to bring out many divergent opinions across the political and philosophical spectrum. Will we listen respectfully and learn from each other in this process, or continue to posture ourselves in the “I’m Right / You’re Wrong” dialog that has so crippled us for far too long? I offer the following narrative as a context for this forthcoming national discussion, written some months ago but held until an appropriate time, such as is now.

I was recently standing alone on the front porch of my mountain home, looking at the clear view of layers of mountain ridges in the distance. For me, such a view affirms “the biggestness” of this world and our life in it, and testifies to the extraordinary design creativity that is part of God. But I also began to think about what others might see if standing in this same exact place, looking at the same picture in their eyes.

· The naturist, who sees in these mountains an unending nurturing home for myriad wildlife and plant life coexisting together;
· The geologist, who sees in these mountains the beauty of mounds of rock piled upon each other from millions of years of physical pressure and erosion;
· The farmer, who sees in these mountains all of the steep angles and knows this is “worthless” farm country;
· The natural food aficionado, who sees in these mountains nature’s farm already producing all the sustenance needed;
· The logger, who sees in these mountains all the trees that can be taken out of these woods for the new homes that can be built;
· The home developer, who sees in these mountains large parcels of one-acre home sites waiting to be bulldozed out into “vacation homes”;
· The conservationist, who sees in these mountains so many of those vacation homes to thereby obviate the original vacation attraction;
· The outdoors person, who sees in these mountains virgin woods in God’s original state to experience;
· The mystic, who sees in these mountains a gathering of nature spirits that tie all the elements into equilibrium and interdependency;
· The spiritualist, who sees in these mountains proof of a God that is un-provable.

We are all looking at the same picture. But we each “see” something different. Yet the mountain simply sees itself as “the mountain.”

The Buddhists talk about seeing the “emptiness of things,” seeing things as they truly are versus what we choose to interpret onto them. As we grow in chronological age we overlay our personal experiences and lessons learned onto that which we see, and thereby narrow our view. As we grow spiritually we conversely see all of these overlays, and yet we also see none of these. It is simply what it is: the mountains. And that is what we now see clearest of all.

The mountain may have its Facts of trees, rocks and dirt. But its Truth is relative, and its Rightness or Wrongness is entirely subjective to the lens of our own personal experiences and exposures that shape our individual perspectives. Our Wisdom is found in our capacity to hold all of those divergent views together in our hearts and minds, and our ability to reach beyond them all to find and build upon the largest common thread that runs through them all.

“People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they’re not on your road doesn’t mean they’ve gotten lost.” (H. Jackson Browne)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Post-Election Observations - 2008

It is finally over, this marathon presidential election of 2008. And while it is still fresh, I offer some general comments about what we have seen during this long period of campaigning, regardless of your candidate of choice.

Best Run Campaign: Obama, no question. Highly disciplined, consistently on message (minus a few Biden relapses), smart visuals, overwhelming organization. Right out of past Republican election machines (without the sleaze) that left even Bill O’Reilly marveling. Hopefully an indication of his governing ability to come.

Most Intelligent Comment Made: From Colin Powell, who said of Obama “He is not a Muslim, but what if he was?” A disarming challenge to all of us, to the collective Republican Party, and to all small-minded bigots around the country regardless of political affiliation.

Biggest Broken Promise: No, it was not Obama’s reneging on limiting himself to public financing, which thereby allowed the Democratic candidate for the first time to have a greater financial war chest than his Republican opponent. Rather, it was McCain breaking his promise to run a “respectful campaign”; it was anything but.

Worst Campaign Selection: Sarah Palin. Trading our country’s future for support from a limited-interest group.
Good Campaign Selection: Joe Biden. The difference in credentials said it all.

Worst Political Decision: McCain’s call to “suspend his campaign” (he didn’t) and return to Washington to straighten out the financial mess. A national emergency became subsumed to electioneering (as Obama predicted). McCain didn’t deliver, and further he showed he was not even in command of his own party. He showed impetuousness and erratic behavior, not leadership. The man who would be on his white horse had it shot out from under him.

Best Political Decision: Obama’s strategy to “take it to the red states,” building on his organizational strength and financing resulting from his long national setup run against Hillary.

Biggest Lies and Lousy Arguments: Truth was, as usual, a major casualty of the election. The distortions made of facts, including the insulting use of “labels” (terrorists, socialists, etc.); the reach backwards by Republicans to tired old themes (e.g. tax cuts when we are already broke; “socialized medicine” from the 1950s) versus new ideas; drilling for off-shore oil that is a miniscule source for our needs and will not be available for 10 years instead of focusing on non-energy oil; etc.

Greatest Exhaustion: 21 months and over $2billion to elect a President is inane. Other than giving Obama time and training to be ready for the final stretch run against the other party, was all of this time and money really needed?

Big Anticipation: A few future weeks of political quiet on TV, and sending hundreds of mediocre, previously nameless self-appointed would-be political pundits and analysts back to deserved anonymity. Start with Joe the Plumber and the ridiculous airing of his irrelevant opinions for his 15 minutes of undeserved fame.

Looking Forward To: Being able to go to sleep at night without having to pray for the continuing good health of a President in order to keep a scary Vice President out of the White House (i.e. Cheney, Palin)

Biggest Hope: That the Karl Rovian ugly tactics have been sufficiently trashed by enough Americans that divisiveness and name-calling campaigns disappear. That patriotism no longer wears a party hat, and “Real Americans” are not separated good guys/bad guys, but includes all of our many diverse peoples, beliefs, geographies, religions, and aspirations.

And in Conclusion …: Regardless of your political convictions and desired outcomes, the objective assessment is that Obama ran a poised, focused, smart, and controlled campaign a la prior Republican and Bill Clinton campaigns. McCain ran an erratic, shoot-from-the-hip, lurching campaign that was continually looking for a message, constantly on the defensive a la Dukakis, Gore and Kerry. And so Obama won, and McCain lost. Competency still matters.

November 4th was an historical day of demonstrating an overwhelming expression of the democratic vote and peaceful change which we are called to represent to the world, reaching a new milestone in equal opportunity, hearing a very classy concession speech from the John McCain integrity we used to know, and receiving an excellent summation of where we have arrived from Obama’s victory speech. Now the real work of “delivery of promise” begins. That won’t be easy. That delivery needs the participation, help, hope and prayers of all of us.