We have seen the first crack in the American world of patriarchy and bigotry. We have participated in an election that now shows a new American face to the world. As lovers of life and soul above money, we have begun setting stones in a path that leads to unity and harmony. How are we going to behave?
While fundamentalists may judge and ridicule, we do not. As a spiritual community, we work toward unity. And unity does not mean we gloat over our progress.
Of course, I am not for caving in to Republican classism, bigotry or misogyny. I hold the belief that the news (just read this at Huff) that Republicans are going to work for immigration reform is not rising from their desire for unity, but their desire to win. No surprise. Politics is about winning.
But I say it’s time to stop talking about winning, and engage in some serious self-reflection.
What are our true values?
Last June, I sat on an Alaska flight to California from Seattle. I used my extra miles to fly first class. I sat next to a guy who was clearly very rich. Hand made shoes. Crisp white shirt, hand tailored. Briefcase worth 1k. Impeccably quaffed, and glowing with a subtle tan and well-tended health that can only come when you live The Very Good Life.
We didn’t speak for most of the trip. I was writing; he was reading. But something broke the silence (our drinks arrived, I think), and we began to talk.
He was a self-described financial genius who lived for his family. He didn’t mean he loved his family, although I suppose he did as he understood the notion. He worked to keep his family elevated, separate, superior. He was a self-proclaimed man of power and influence, arrogant to the core. He was a third-generation financier.
He laughed when I told him what I did, giving him the 2 minute explanation. “I hate nature,” he said. “There’s a tree that’s growing outside my house and I hate it.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Because I do,” he said. “And people are coming to chop it down Monday because I hate it. I own it. It’s mine. I can kill it if I hate it.”
I wish I had a recording of our conversation so you could be sure I am not speaking in hyperbole. This was our literal conversation.
I told him about some of the bear work I was doing. “I love killing bears. I just like killing them. I don’t skin them or take their heads. I just like seeing them die.”
And on it went.
“My child is superior to everyone else and knows it.’
“My family motto is ‘Power and Revenge.’
“Money is all that matters, and it is what rules the world.”
Imagine it. Sitting down with the physical manifestation of every value that horrifies you.
But as the conversation went on, I realized something. He was pointedly trying to make me hate him. He hated ME. I could feel it.
And once I did, I said, “You know, no matter what you say, I am not going to hate you. I don't hate you. I can be angry about what you do, but I’m not going to hate you.”
He stopped talking for a minute, and just looked at me like I was an idiot. And I realized something.
I felt sorry for him. Not in a patronizing “I know more than you” way.” I mean a tiny piece of my heart ached for him because he lived in such isolation, such pain. What would it be like to have hate rule your life?
The conversation had a profound impact on me. I realized that somewhere along the line, my deepest values moved from a belief system into the marrow of my bones, the blood pulsing through my heart.
I hesitate to write that because it could sound effete. I am well aware that I am a deeply flawed human being. I am in a constant state of renovation. I continue to scrape my heart when I find I have built walls of fear or anger there. I can be hard at times – my way of bulldozing through fear.
In short, I am human, and I behave like one. Our species has created all kinds of dynamics to keep us separate and special. I participate in that in my own ways. We are ALL works in progress.
Because I am a shamanic practitioner, I am under no illusions about what total love and compassion look like. I see it when I journey with my helping spirits. When people ask if the spirits will “forgive” them for a human foible or mistake, I reply, “Think about what you are asking. They are MADE of love and compassion. If that is true, the notion of “forgiving” isn’t relevant because they have never judged you to begin with.”
Yes, we know that the helping spirits leave people when people set out to harm others with malice. Intentionally hurting someone is the way you lose your spirits. They will not participate with active evil.
But what is key here is this: they are omniscient, and sometimes when we behave out of anger or fear, I think they can see that we are NOT evil, just wounded in a way that is far more complex than we know. How could it not be more complex than we can understand? I don’t presume, cannot presume what it is like to be omniscient, but I have observed that they have a very different barometer than we do.
I have hurt people. I have acted in ways I am not proud of. I have been unconscious when I know better. I have been arrogant in my own ways. I have consumed too much, and still do.
I am not hammering myself with my failings. I hope I hold myself in self-compassion, learning as I go. Doing my best to live in resonance with both the real person and the person-I-am-always-changing into. Regardless of failings, or maybe because of them, hate is a remote feeling now in my life. The spirits have a way of keeping you humble if you really listen and learn. And for this, I am supremely grateful. It would seem that we are capable of evolution.
So as we sit here and bask in the glow of the light of a dazzling victory, it may be time to stop the gloating and realize we are STILL one tribe only, that if we are to live in harmony that we need to realize that as much as we know Republicans demonized the Democrats, we did the same.
I shouldn’t have to say that I am glad misogyny got trounced, that bigotry might be demonstrably obsolete. But not because we beat them, but because we loved us. Union DID prevail and grow. I cannot imagine the pain and bewilderment the party-line Republican is feeling now.
I guess what I would like to hear is a conversation like this:
Yeah, we've all gotten it wrong before. Seems to be part of the learning curve. This is the essence of our shared humanity. Come, live in an evolving world with us. The water is fine.