Saturday, March 31, 2012

Of Kisses and Politics

As a young adult, I was quite politically active. Boycott, demonstration, or letter writing campaign~~I was your girl! As my spirituality deepened, though, I became less politically engaged. I continued to vote regularly, of course, and even got out on the streets at times to march or campaign for a candidate whose election seemed particularly crucial. But I didn’t like the rancor, the messiness of the whole thing. It just didn’t seem very spiritual, ya know? 
The truth is, politics had begun to scare me. To be involved in such divisiveness seemed to run counter to where my soul was leading me. Yet I didn’t quite buy the either/or split I was setting up there. If one purpose of a vibrant spirituality is to bring a fuller and deeper awareness to the entirety of one’s earthwalk, how could politics be off limits? It wasn’t, of course. I just needed to find a way to “do politics” differently. I also needed help not despairing as I watched us careen into an uncertain future.
Author and social activist Parker Palmer helped on both counts. On his facebook wall, he writes about individuals who commit to “big values like love and truth and justice.” He goes on to note that “at the end of the road, not a single one of them could say, “The goals to which I devoted my life have finally been secured, now and forever.”            

How do such folks find the fortitude to continue on when things often look so bleak? Palmer suspects it’s all in the perspective held. “Without ceasing to work for whatever results are possible,” he surmises, “they assess their lives by a standard that trumps effectiveness—the standard of faithfulness. They ask themselves three questions: “Have I been faithful to the gifts that I’ve been given? Have I been faithful to the needs I see around me? Have I been faithful to my opportunities to serve those needs with my gifts?”
Great questions, huh? With faithfulness as a measure, politics becomes just one more sphere in which to practice. If I remain loyal to my gifts, I will be less likely to add my own twist to the venom I encounter in the political realm, and less likely to become discouraged when things don’t progress in the way I think they should.
Palmer’s questions, though, are helpful in assessing any area of our lives. Have we been true to our gifts~~in our family, in our work, in our spiritual lives, in our world? If our answer is mostly yes, then we have been loyal to our purpose here. If not, perhaps it’s time to commit to faithfulness from now on.           
Politics and I remain uneasy playmates, and I’m still cautious about the ways I involve myself and how much I absorb of the daily news. But as this election year heats up, with simplistic bumper sticker talk replacing substantive discussion, and nastiness seemingly the name of the game, I am trying to do my part. I hope we all do, for if those who seek harmony and the greatest good remove themselves from the arena, who will be left to make the decisions that affect us all?
Being faithful to our gifts and to using them as best we can, reminds us that our job is not to force a particular outcome. Rather, we are asked merely to add our perspective to the mix, and to do so in a way that just might elevate the quality of the discussion.
I end with a quote from the mystic Rumi. “Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.”
Could politics be one of them? Yes, it could.

Wishing you each lots of kneeling and ground kissin'!

Loanne Marie

Here's a link to Parker Palmer's facebook and to his organization The Center for Courage & Renewal.

And here's Coleman Barks, one of the most popular of Rumi's translators, reading a few poems including Spring Giddiness, the one that includes the above quote. The performance is kinda beat and quite fun!

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Leia Marie