Each of us woke up this morning.
I’ve got to say that the election of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States of America caught me by surprise. So much so, that I’m very much in the midst of making meaning out of the experience of seeing this begin to unfold around me. Here are some of my thoughts in this early moment of political and cultural transformation.
First, whether I experience this development as a dream or a nightmare doesn’t really matter. What matters is whether I am able to identify the work that I need to do in relation to it. Each of us has work to do in the days and months ahead. Of course that would be true regardless of any presidential election or other world event. To be human is to have work to do, to identify it, and to do it. The 2016 election is simply an occasion for each of us to consider the important question of “what now?” If I am elated, what now? If I am devastated, what now? If I am terrified? If I am confused? If I am outraged? Today, tomorrow, next week, next month, “what now?” will remain a question that each of us will live with as we identify our work, do our work, and live out our humanity.
My “what now?” in this moment seems to involve summoning and reflecting on certain core beliefs that I hold about human beings in the world. One such core belief is that humanity and the world more generally, are in a perpetual and undeniable move toward The Good. Whether on the level of individual choices or world events, whether we like it or not, whether we realize it or not, the vast majority of us are part of this gradual movement towards The Good. Jarring events like presidential elections are, in my opinion, simply phenomena that propel us forward. They may be unwanted, or unnecessary, but, like all phenomena, they “are.” In response to the phenomenon of the 2016 election outcome, I can already see and feel, within and around me, a deep movement toward The Good.
Another core belief I hold might best be summarized by the prophet Zechariah, who said, “Not by might, not by power, but through spirit alone.” Politics is basically the discourse of might and power. Spirit is something else entirely. Spirit is about the movement from fear to love. Spirit is about the movement from selfishness to compassion. It’s about the movement from isolation to interconnection. Any feeling of despair that I might have in this moment comes from my sense that the might and power of politics is deeply misinformed and dysfunctional as evidenced by the rotten way we’ve spoken to one another for the last year. I prefer to focus on spirit because when I do, I am filled with overwhelming optimism. That’s because I don’t see any scenario where love reverts back to fear, compassion back to selfishness, or interconnection back to isolation. Once you’ve embodied these spiritual postures there’s no full regression back into fear, hate, selfishness, and isolation. If you know love, then the anxious dread of fear can’t fully own you, the viciousness of hate can’t fully animate you. If you know empathy and compassion, then bouts of selfishness will be, at most, sporadic. If you feel interconnection, then you know you’re never truly alone even if it feels that way at times. You might forget about spirit, stumble and slip, or try to cast it away, but eventually spirit will reassert its sway over you because it unlocks our happiness and human potential. I look forward to working in ways that make sure that the discourse of the spirit flourishes not only for individuals, but also permeates the discourse of might and power.
One final core belief for now– the potential for radical awakening. Sometimes understanding comes gradually (or not at all). Sometimes it comes like a bucket of cold water being dumped on your head. I’ve experienced moments of instant awareness and awakening in my own life and belief that most of us have. When I think about my fellow Americans, whether in the ballot box or on the ballot, I know that all of us either already understand, have the potential to gradually deepen our understanding, or may, at some unanticipated and unsought moment be doused with a cold bucket of understanding and awakening. And once the spirit has awakened, it’s hard to go back to sleep.
So I derive great comfort, hope, and inspiration from the fact that each of us woke up this morning.