Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Connection Between the Process of Knowing One's Self and Knowing the American Political Process

Lao-tzu said, “Knowing yourself is true wisdom; mastering yourself is true power.”
This is a never ending process - one is never done learning and mastering one’s self, and based on my experience, there are more disappointments and set-backs, especially at the beginning. However, the sense of wonder at the loosening of limits and opening vistas of potential; the sense of accomplishment from knowing and mastering oneself even just a bit more, is worth the effort. Gradually, one comes to appreciate that she is not only her thoughts, goals or physical condition, but pure potential and the sky’s the limit.

For me, this joy of self mastery and cosmic unfoldment, comes from focusing on process, more than product; on how, more than what, on being, just being, more than on doing or accomplishing. It’s a minute-to-minute thing, never done once and there you are, but an ongoing practice and discipline based on compassion, mindfulness and the intention to awaken from the ego’s nightmare, experience the happy dream of my reality as spirit and make a contribution to a world that works for everyone and everything.

From this comes my focus on the use of language and metaphor and upon how we are operating our democracy. It is not enough to have elections – Hamas was elected, Chavez was elected, even Hitler was elected. The beating heart of democracy is the intention of citizens to honor and support its ideals of compassion, justice and equal rights for all – ALL. It’s that, not the legal technicalities or PC that matter. Are citizen’s intentions about compassion, justice and equal rights for all, for a world that works for everyone and everything, not only for the ‘right’ people, or ‘deserving’ people? Are the intent and process inclusive or exclusive?

As I toss and turn in the ego nightmare, I see problems because the American democratic process and ideals, the beating heart of our culture, are becoming exclusive, rather than inclusive and corrupted by fear and hatred. Right now, the fear and hatred that would deny fundamental rights to all Americans is not only alive, but thriving. In the town of Murfreesboro, TN, 17 people went to court to deny a group of Muslims the right to build a mosque on their own land, a group of Muslims that had been living and praying in Murfreesboro for 30 years! While denying their motion, the judge who heard the case explained to the 17 that Islam is a religion and as such guaranteed freedom of worship under the US Constitution.

You might say you knew that and would never want to deny Muslims or any other group the right to worship, but if we don’t know that this sort of blindness to American democratic culture is occurring with greater and greater frequency, we are in danger of becoming the kind of bystanders who watched the Nazis take the Jews away, or the US Army take American Japanese to ‘detainee’ centers, or the Hutus watching their fellow Hutus massacre nearly a million Tutsis in Rwanda.

As Pitts said yesterday, “the psychological architecture of what happened then is identical to the psychological architecture of Murfreesboro now. Once again, we see people goaded by their own night terrors, hatreds, need for scapegoats, the repetitive booming of demagogues [and their misunderstanding of what American democratic ideals are all about] until they go to a place beyond reason.

“And in that place inevitably lies a dark night of malice, destruction and awful deeds that seem like good ideas at the time. When it passes, like a fever, we – the doers and those who simply observe – are left shivering in a gold dawn as reason reasserts itself, wondering how barbarism overtook us, vowing that it will never happen again. Never again.

“Me, I don’t fear Muslims. I fear Muslim extremists. I fear extremists, period. And that group in Murfreesboro, make no mistake, is extremist. Against their extremism, I find bitter succor in the inevitability of that cold dawn. Yes, there will come a morning after. But first we must learn how dark this night will be,” and to what extent the American democratic process is broken. Because the Murfreesboro 17 did have enough understanding and respect for the system to go to court instead of firebombing someone’s home, I, for one, do not think it broken beyond repair…yet.

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