Dear Barque members,
Given our sincere fondness for Tom's work, the importance of this Presidential election, and the differences between the candidates, I thought it might be an enriching and interesting exercise to begin a related discussion. Which candidate seems to most closely embody the ideas Tom talks about in his writing? How do they do that? How would the leadership of either candidate affect our lives in terms of soulfulness? Or wouldn't they?
I look forward to hearing the views of others on these questions and other related points.
Russ, It has to be without doubt that Thomas Moore is a supporter of Barack Obama. How does Obama relate to the "soulful" way as Thomas describes ?well, I would say his community activism. Something that Thomas stresses strongly is a sense of being connected, while Obama lived in many places in his life, he seems to have a strong ability to get involved, be it with the Harvard law review, or his work as community organizer in Chicago. I have no doubt as president he will continue this ability to organize and inspire his peers. Another soulful attribute is his love of writing, an ability to be introspective and self reflective, and his strong sense of his roots, both through his Kenyan father and his mother's midwest values.
As a Canadian, living in Montreal, we strongly observe American politics here, so this is where my perspective comes from, but i believe the McCain-Palin ticket would be a disaster for America. In many way could be worse than Bush. McCain seems to be provoking another cold war with Russia, and willing to attack Iran. While Obama wants a diplomatic approach of engagement, McCain is full of the bluster and macho preening, that as Thomas would say, is really a sign of weakness and has no power. This election is crucial, but I think Americans will make the right choice and give Obama a big win.
from where i sit, it is noteworthy how talks of politics seemingly (necessarily) always polarize between two parties... i might imagine moore breaking the chokehold of the popular two parties for which the rest of the country (we the herd) find necessary to categorically fall into.
but what about the other parties?
you know, i suppose for good reason maybe moore is a supporter of ohbama. . . but just maybe (like other things) he'd surprise us by turning our presuppositions on their heads...
for myself, i'd like to not be controlled by sensational polar opposites and search instead for a middle way in the spirit of a faith in not knowing (keat’s negative capability) i.e. being an agnostic in politics. I guess it’s obvious I’m a registered american independent. in any event, i'm not going to fall categorically into an us vs. them zero-sum game of winners & losers. i'm going to vote imaginatively... whoever wins will provide ample opportunity for growth in soul
We dance around in a ring and suppose.
But the secret sits in the middle and knows.
Penetrating so many secrets, we cease to believe in the unknowable.
But there it sits nevertheless, calmly licking its chops.
―H.L. Mencken (1880 - 1956)
As soon as man does not take his existence for granted,
but beholds is as something unfathomably mysterious,
―Albert Schweitzer (1875 - 1965)
The highest happiness of man …
is to have probed what is knowable
and quietly to revere what is unknowable.
―Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 - 1832)
The most important thing we can know about a man is what he takes for granted
and the most elemental and important facts about a society
are those that are seldom debated and generally regarded as settled.
―Louis Wirth (1897 - 1952)
There is a principle which is a bar against all information,
which is proof against all arguments
and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance.
That principle is contempt prior to investigation.
— Herbert Spencer (attributed)
i hope i didn't inundate or otherwise put a wet blanket on the topic...
over the weekend i had a somewhat embarrassing experience. i made a mistake in declaring my political party affiliation. like so many americans, i registered "independent" in a uninformed gesture of solidarity against the two-party system.
passing a democratic party voter’s registration stand on my town’s main street saturday, two young registration attendants asked me if i was registered to vote. i replied yes, i had been a registered american independent for decades (although i’d never voted for my party’s candidate in an election.) these two earnest activists politely suggested i look closely at my party’s historical platform.
with their help i did.
apparently the american independent party once had pro-segregation interests as part of its platform. although no longer a party objective, this has tainted my interest in this party. they pointed out that it is a common mistake many people like me make and further suggested i consider changing my affiliation to better represented my interests which i did.
well, i didn’t mean to take focus away from the spirit of the original topic…nevertheless, i do hope it continues along those lines…
With regards to soulfulness within an individual candidate, I would like to think that McCain had a phenomenal, deep and soulfully moving experience while being a prisoner of war. From my vantage point, he was forced to live in his mind, discover his internal voice and potentially connect the two. I would think his experience was marked by phases of both bliss (of looking deeply inward) and terror (of course based on the experience). And while I provide this conjecture, I will admit that I am not certain that McCain has conscious regard for the soul aspect of that experience. I wonder.....
Independents are not; they are another political party. Non-partisan voters are what many independents believe they are, I think. I think Kucinich was the soulful candidate. Has anyone besides Kucinich talked about turning the Department of Defense (formerly Dept. of War) into the Department of Peace?
Obama will keep the status quo and the Establishment satisfied --- business as usual. Washington has two heads and one belly. I think what we yearn for won't come from an Administration but from people's individual and grassroots efforts to live with soul.
sorry, i can't make sense of what you are trying to say...
could you clarify te context for what you wrote?
"Independents are not; they are another political party. Non-partisan voters are what many independents believe they are, I think.
independents are not what? of course they are a party...who said they aren't?
Beginning this particular forum discussion was easier than preparing my response. I think I’d have done much better with a discussion over dinner. With that, I hope you will forgive as I struggle to assemble my thoughts in an understandable and cogent form.
When I reflect on what Tom’s writings mean to me, the fundamental teaching that seems to weave its way through his work is what I would call a receptivity to the things of life. To me, this means that, instead of rejecting, diminishing or being inattentive to my needs and feelings (and others’), the care and appearance of my home, possessions and surrounding greenery, the personality, value and quirks of my neighborhood, my hidden spiritual longings, and even the nature of life, I allow myself to find, and sometimes even marvel at, their significance. All of those “things” have a holiness about them, and being receptive means I withhold judgment and, instead, honor them by my related respectful thoughts, feelings and actions. Subsequent actions related to those things are then based in part on some degree of thoughtfulness. Granted, I do not live my life this every day. But my point was, this is what Tom’s writing means to me.
There is a harmonizing, of sorts, that seems to flow forth from the kind of receptivity and reflection that sees all things as holy (seeing all things as holy does not mean every behavior is acceptable; in that same light, customs and mores themselves can be necessary and acceptable). To me, the McCain/Palin ticket demonstrates the opposite of receptivity, and has a unbalanced view what is holy.
An example of this is when McCain says that a bellicose leader of a foreign country must meet certain preconditions before he will talk to them. His regular use of the word “fight” is the opposite of receptivity. The polarizing rhetoric used at Republican National Convention was saying to me, “we’re holy—you are not.” The warrior archetypes exhibited by both McCain and Palin say to me: “we’re holy but the world is not, and we’ll fight because we’re right.” In McCain/Palin I find no or little thoughtfulness and withholding of judgment. In fact, I see the opposite.
In Obama I find someone he seems to have an understanding of the principles about which Tom writes. Talk to a bellicose leader? Of course. His speech at the Democratic National Convention was the opposite of polarizing, he offered a message of hope and harmony. Nor do I see any evidence for a “we’re holy but you aren’t.” To me, Obama embodies receptivity, and subsequent actions, I expect, would be thoughtful actions.
I could go on, but I think I’ve taken up enough space for the time being.
Thanks for inviting me to add my two cents. Briefly, I strongly favor Barack Obama in this election and also advocate doing whatever possible to reduce the polarization of parties. During the last election, in 2004, I spoke to delegates about how to support your candidate and speak effectively to those who disagree with you. It takes patience and skill. Sometimes nothing comes of it, but often small breakthroughs are possible.
I would like to see many parties, because there are many points of view. To that end, I wish the Republican party could re-vision its vision, its values, and its attitudes. What would Republicanism with soul look like?
One of my pet peeves is the tendency among progressives to choose a purely secular state, giving religion and the spiritual over to outmoded forms of religion. Of course, I'm equally dismayed by conservatives who talk about religion and the spiritual as though there was no place for intelligence and depth of insight. Religion and spirituality as I see them are either midway between the Democrats
and Republicans or in some other place altogether.
I can't support a party whose primary concern is lowering taxes. Taxing is a way to community, if it's done intelligently. I can't support a party that favors the wealthy and doesn't give sincere and honest attention to the environment. But I do think there are values in Republican political vision that could be re-imagined, thus offering a possible alternative.
I always think about the words we use. Politics is from polis, the assembly or community of citizens. Politics begins in each of us finding a way through our narcissism to making real and frequent contributions to the community. Today that has to include the global community. I've never understood American politicians making "national interest" the bottom line. It would be like any of us making our own self-interest the final criterion of our behavior.
On the other hand, a community is not a collective or a club. It's a group of individuals who think for themselves and can express themselves freely to their colleagues. I'm impressed by Barack Obama's way of doing just this.
Finally (I see a book coming out of this), elections are about choosing leaders. They are not popularity contests. Not everyone can lead. Senator McCain's choice of Sarah Palin for vice-president is reason enough not to vote for him. He comes across as an angry, disgruntled man and we don't need that on the international scene today.
Elections say as much about the citizens as about the potential leaders. Our country has not done well in choosing leaders, and I think the main reason is that we do not truly educate our children. A democracy requires and educated citizenry that knows how to choose good leadership and is motivated by common cause. We are far from this ideal.
There is much more to say, much deeper things to explore. I just want to enter the conversation at a crucial moment in our common experience.
Please indulge me a rather lengthy post. I think it's worth reading to the end, but you be the judge.
Not much surprise (for me) in Thomas' reply, but his diction so often puts what the rest of us feel into words we can read and agree with. Thank you, Thomas, for your "two cents" --- apparently that used to be the price of placing an op-ed in the newspaper.
I particularly agree on the idea of representing various points of view. Practically speaking, this means proportional representation such as we find in countries like Germany, where even my favored Green party has it's say if it becomes a small percentage of the votes cast. Furthermore, small, newly formed parties can band together to stand against more established and more powerful political parties.
The downside of such a system is that it can lead to endless in-fighting, such as we see in Italy, where around 20 parties struggle to gain power. There have even been fist fights within the parliament --- not something we would want to emulate. But isn't such internal turmoil a result of the narcissism Thomas speaks of? It seems clear that community requires a step towards what philosophers like Hobbes, Locke, and Rosseau have called a social contract, whereby individuals make small sacrifices, a word used often in religion, for the benefit of a common good.
The absence of religion in progressive movements troubles me as well. The mere word "religion" is a turn off to many of my friends in a part of the country (Portland, Oregon) where progressivism has taken a strong hold. These friends often reject the abstractness of faith and mystery, in favor of "solid facts" and Science, perhaps the new religion of progressives, with the Trinity (arrows in a triangle) of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Not to diminish the values I share with these friends, but I wish they could think about religion without relegating it to Fundamentalist dogma or New Age idealism.
If I may expand this thread somewhat to touch on a subject that Russell mentions in his post; namely, that little things can mean a lot (ie, seemingly insignificant aspects of life can be holy), I would like to recount recent events in an attempt to give a concrete example of what Russell has written. You see I know how the progressive mind longs for concrete ideas. :-)
My mother in-law was diagnosed with cancer just after her return home to Europe, after visiting us here in the States for the first, and now last, time. During her visit, she collected stones to take home. She never did find one of the hand-sized, smooth beach stones shed been looking for. I knew I'd had one, being a Virgo (earth sign) and collector of rocks myself, but I couldn't find it. My wife reminded me later that she had the stone in her office. I had given it to her as a sort of healing stone. after her own struggle with illness So I asked if she would take it to her mom to help her recover from surgery.
Unfortunately, my mother in-law, a very fit and energetic woman, passed away in the hospital. When I flew over to attend the funeral and mourn with the family last week, I saw how she'd laid out the stones she'd collected during her visit to us, on the window sill in her living room. My wife returned the healing stone to me, which had sat next to her mother's bedside in the hospital.
My first impulse was to take it back to the beach and toss it into the magical Pacific Ocean, in a fit of rage at the injustice of life and the impotence of this token treasure. Let it wash back on shore when it was done, really ready to work as a healing stone! The stone tossing ritual even seemed therapeutic.
Beyond impulse, and upon reflection, a place where soul is often found, I wonder if it's not best to keep the healing stone; to clutch its cool black mass as a reminder that despite life's impermanence, its constant flux, it's just that which makes the human bonds we "collect" and keep with us forever so powerful, just as time has transformed the elements into the smooth black stone that warms in my hand. Perhaps the healing stone has done its work after all?
In closing, I note how my grandfather owned one of the largest and most successful gravel pits, or rock quarries, in my hometown. All that time, working for the family business, I had felt there was something special about the minerals we were excavating and crushing. But my very Republican family insisted that a rock was just a rock! I have re-visioned their vision. :-)
Thanks Fraser. This is funny but your country would have been at the top of my "move to" list had Barrack lost. The people I know do not see Barrack as Moses or Pharaoh. They truly see a leader who offers hope for real change. We've experienced 8 dismal years with a very short sighted, small minded administration. We have hope again. Here's a link to a short series of pictures of Barack on election night. I think it's reflective of our mood... http://flickr.com/photos/barackobamadotcom/sets/72157608716313371/s...
Ken, do you expect real change in military spending or Wall Street's influence? Wouldn't it be nice to hear alternative voices in government? Proportional representation instead of winner-take-all? But, seriously, the new administration is far more favorable than one of the worst we've seen, but can we say that systemic shifts in "government as usual" are on the horizon? I think Obama has a vested interest in pleasing the power brokers and other stakeholders who've helped fund his campaign.
Am I too skeptical? Too idealistic?
Sorry, Russ, I addressed you as Ken. Ken Russel? Who knows which names I got crossed. Anyway, I meant to pose the question to you, Russ, about the extent to which Obama will always represent the interests of the power structure that has come to dominate two-party politics. I think he's actually a brooding man, not the rock star that so many have come to idolize him as, and many will be disappointed by his demeanor if he doesn't play the part as they would like.
The Democratic party seems to be losing soul as they become more fiscally conservative. Will Thomas write a book about the Soul of Money?