On this election day, those who study such things tell us that we as a nation are more divided than at any time in our history since the U.S. Civil War that was fought during 1861-1865. In many ways that war did not settle certain viewpoints of what kind of country America is or could become.
Unfortunately, as a result of unfettered greed and bias and fear, we have attained perhaps the lowest point in our history as a country. At this moment we lead the world in many things we should be working together to change. We are number one in people incarcerated in prison, gun violence, drug addiction and drug overdoses, divorce rates, obesity, murders, rapes, police officers, deaths from lack of insurance, health care cost, medical debt, going to work sick, Covid-19 cases, student debt, military spending, killing people with drones, share of income going to 1% of citizens, billionaires, people on antidepressants, worst negative trade balance, self-rated opinion of ourselves (“America is #1!”), wasting time on the internet, watching tv, and we are second only to China in the amount of carbon emissions that drive climate change. I’m sure there are others.
Yes, America is good in some areas, and I love the ideals this country is founded upon, but we are adrift with big cracks in our boat that we are all riding on. We are clearly sinking, yet we seem to eternally argue about the if, why, and how. Can we work together to not only bail out our sinking ship, but heal the fractures too – even though it means it will help all of us? Isn’t that what the heart of a true democracy is? We ARE the longest running democracy on the planet – but that won’t last much longer if we don’t collectively come together in ways that honor the human spirit.
On this election day, my prayer is that I let go of all that is false and embrace what is true, to live into my True Self such that I can open to the divine in myself, and that I can recognize the divinity in others. I pray too for the insight and courage to stand in non-violent protest and resistance against fear, hate, and actions that encourage evil behaviors. Help me to understand and embody deep compassion that is full of justice and peace. Help me to embody the ability to hold the tension of all these things in balance as one reality, to avoid being divided and separated, but instead to think and be at one with the divine mystery of things. I pray that I and all people receive the courage to enter into a wisdom of love that sees the divine in each other and in all of life, and that we as a country can come to cherish diversity and honor one another’s divinity in the way we live our lives and the policies that we support.
This morning in reading excerpts from Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit, written by one of my book elders, Quaker writer and activist Parker Palmer, gave me a sense of the need to work toward a politics that fully fosters the human spirit.
Richard Rohr, Franciscan spiritual elder, shared these excerpts from Palmer this morning:
“For those of us who want to see democracy survive and thrive—and we are legion—the heart is where everything begins: that grounded place in each of us where we can overcome fear, rediscover that we are members of one another, and embrace the conflicts that threaten democracy as openings to new life for us and for our nation. . . .
Of all the tensions we must hold in personal and political life, perhaps the most fundamental and most challenging is standing and acting with hope in the “tragic gap.” On one side of that gap, we see the hard realities of the world, realities that can crush our spirits and defeat our hopes. On the other side of that gap, we see real-world possibilities, life as we know it could be because we have seen it that way. . . .
“If we are to stand and act with hope in the tragic gap and do it for the long haul, we cannot settle for mere “effectiveness” as the ultimate measure of our failure or success. Yes, we want to be effective in pursuit of important goals. . . . [But] we must judge ourselves by a higher standard than effectiveness, the standard called faithfulness. Are we faithful to the community on which we depend, to doing what we can in response to its pressing needs? Are we faithful to the better angels of our nature and to what they call forth from us? Are we faithful to the eternal conversation of the human race, to speaking and listening in a way that takes us closer to truth? Are we faithful to the call of courage that summons us to witness to the common good, even against great odds? When faithfulness is our standard, we are more likely to sustain our engagement with tasks that will never end: doing justice, loving mercy, and calling the beloved community into being.”
~Parker Palmer, Healing the Heart of Democracy
Rohr recognizes that Palmer’s teaching about the “tragic gap” between what is and what we wish could be is an essential reality that no matter what we try to accomplish, we can never one hundred percent solve the problem. That there is always going to be work left undone, always an imperfection, and incompleteness.
That doesn’t mean we don’t try. It means we work on the heart of the matter. That, as Wendell Berry says, “Expect the end of the world. Laugh. Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful though you’ve considered all the facts”. It reminds me of what both Rohr and Brene´Brown repeat often to recognize the illusion and trap of trying to be perfect will keep you from “the good”, will keep you from showing up, from sharing your work, your love, your truth. “Good is better than perfect” every single time.
I don’t have a top ten list of things to do to make all this happen. It seems that going through a dark night of the soul by entering a stage of unlearning, and letting go of all that is false, and embracing all that is sacred, being open to the possibility that love and compassion that brings peace and justice to our collective lives is worth trying.
In our house right now, we have posted two quotes on our refrigerator. One is a benediction that our local chaplain, Hilary Cooke, gives at the end of each gathering that is attributed to poet Henri Amiel, and the second is from poet Rainer Rilke about the mystery of solving hard questions.
“We do not have much time to gladden the hearts of those who travel with us. So, be swift to love, make haste to be kind, and the blessing of God who loves you be upon you this day and always.” ~ Henri Amiel
“Be patient toward all that is unresolved in your heart…try to love the questions themselves…do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given because you would not be able to live them – and the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answers.” ~Rainer Marie Rilke