Politics of the Brokenhearted

May 14, 2011

I am looking forward to Parker J. Palmer’s forthcoming book, Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit. I have just read the essay from which this book springs, “The Politics of the Brokenhearted: On Holding the Tensions of Democracy.” You can read it here.

Palmer speaks of breaking the heart open, not “into a thousand shards,” but into “largeness of life, into greater capacity to hold one’s own and the world’s pain and joy.” He speaks of the essential violence in majority-rule decision making, and urges us to consider the Taoist concept of wu-wei–“literally purposeless wandering, or creative nonaction, making space within and around ourselves so that conflict and confusion can settle and a deeper wisdom emerge.”

We are an impatient culture, desiring quick action to settle differences. Palmer offers that “only in contemplative states are we able to touch the truth.” He makes the case in this essay for holding the tension between reality and possibility in ways that open our hearts, that honor the soul rather than succumbing to cynicism or dreamy idealism.

Palmer asserts, “When the heart dares to be vulnerable in the presence of power, it can become a source of countervailing power, keeping our best hopes alive in the hardest of places and times.”

Advertisements

Let Others Be Who They Are

July 30, 2010

This “Daily OM” speaks for itself. In our enthusiasm of discovery for ourselves, may we always remember that we cannot know what others need!


Engagement

June 10, 2010

Living in a vacuum sucks. ~Adrienne E. Gusoff

Today this quote on my Google home page made me laugh. But it also made me think about the seduction of withdrawal. It is a great luxury this month to have no particular place I have to go, no particular people I have to see, and no particular work I have to do. I can wander around the yard, take time to sit in the sun and pet the cat, read novels, take naps, write, draw, and generally do what I please. Dangerous stuff for an introvert who lives in the country!

So I want to fully enjoy this retreat from society, but also plan for my reentry, because I believe that engagement is a responsibility we have to the world. Thich Nhat Hanh teaches us about the interdependence of all things, which he calls interbeing. “I am, therefore you are. You are, therefore I am,” he says.

So during this time of rest and reflection, I will consider how to best be of use. What is it that I have to offer the world? And where and how can it be shared wholeheartedly?


Aging and Community

May 23, 2010

How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these. ~George Washington Carver

Today, my mother-in-law Edna is in the hospital having tests to confirm a suspected stroke. End-of-life issues are so difficult. How do we determine when to intervene medically and when to let the aged die peacefully? Just because we can prolong life, should we always, despite the suffering it may bring?

What about more community-oriented solutions? As do so many in her generation, Edna tried to stay in her own home and had to move to an institution when she could no longer do so. Moran and Rollins predict that the baby boomers will “transform traditional models of independent living” in this article. And the University of Indianapolis Center for Aging and Community has this as a philosophy: “The University of Indianapolis Center for Aging & Community is guided by the belief that it must move beyond the medical model in its approach to aging issues, viewing older adults holistically and acknowledging that they are community assets.” Amen.


Why and Where is War?

January 19, 2010

Every war is against the world, and every war against the world is lost. ~Alice Walker

Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him. ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

At the root of all war is fear. ~Thomas Merton

In a battle, the winners and the losers both lose. ~The Buddha

Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding. ~Albert Einstein

There is no way to peace; peace is the way.~A. J. Muste

If we could read the secret history of our enemies we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility. ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Don’t throw anyone out of your heart. ~Neem Karoli Baba

We used to wonder where war lived, what it was that made it so vile. And now we realize that we know where it lives, that it is inside ourselves. ~Albert Camus

I have ordered a subscription to The Friend, the magazine of the Quakers. I am not a Quaker, but I deeply admire many of their beliefs and practices, not the least of which is their pacifism. I know that human conflict is complex, and that many have fought and even died for good causes. But I also know that it is important to speak out against war, to teach children how to be in community in spite of differences, to raise our voices against militarism. So today I offer the wisdom of those who have spoken much more eloquently than I ever could on this subject. Peace be with you.


More Love, Less Fear

December 6, 2009


On the deepest level, problems such as war and starvation are not solved by economics and politics alone. Their source is the prejudice and fear in the human heart—and their solution also lies in the human heart. What the world needs most is people who are less bound by prejudice. It needs more love, more generosity, more mercy, more openness. The root of human problems is not a lack of resources but comes from the misunderstanding, fear, and separateness that can be found in the hearts of people. ~Jack Kornfield, from Seeking the Heart of Wisdom: The Path of Insight Meditation

My friend Carol gets the credit for the title of today’s post. She once shared her aspiration for this succinctly-expressed way of relating to the world. While it may sound naive to some, I believe that this practice of loving will create a better world, as Kornfield suggests. I am only one, but still I am one! (This idea from Edward Everett Hale: “because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”)

I want to relentlessly love more and fear less in everything I do, trusting that it will make a difference in my own heart and soul and ultimately in the world, but knowing also that some will misunderstand, suspect, discount, or reject that love. Won’t you join me in this intention?


Competition

September 19, 2009

When we seek to discover the best in others, we somehow bring out the best in ourselves. ~William A. Ward

Why then, are we so inclined to compete with one another? I believe competition with ourselves can spur us on to be our best, but competition with others I find fairly baffling. I’m sure I’m in the minority in this country, but I have actually struggled against feeling too competitive throughout my life. I see so much better results when people are cooperative and collaborative that I can’t imagine anyone choosing to be otherwise.

I think competition is related to a scarcity mentality, to fear. We seem to think that if someone else gets a share of the pie, it means less for us. We somehow believe that if we’re not on top, in front, most loved, we lose. I believe this attitude itself makes us lose–our human connections, our empathy, our ability to love ourselves and others unconditionally. Competition is at the root of envy.

In what situations do you feel most competitive with others? In traffic? With siblings? In your work life? How do you express it? Often, it’s not what we say and do but what we don’t say or do that indicates we are envious. What would happen if you focused on our shared abundance, on love rather than fear, on looking for and acknowledging the best in others?