You support Bernie. I support Hillary. An ancient quote attributed to Jalal al-Din Rumi goes, “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about.”
The deeper I travel into the chaotic and complex realm of American politics, the more I strive to practice simplicity. I suppose I am considered a progressive Democrat by most standards. My thoughts on most issues have evolved to adapt with an ever-changing world, both without and within myself. At one time I would have been called a liberal Democrat. Now, it is classified as progressive. This is just one reflection of the only constant in life that I can guarantee: impermanence.
Yet, while the mind strives to categorize and classify and quantify, the label by which I am identified is not of particular importance any more than a maple tree cares whether or not it is called a maple tree, or whether it is called shade from the sun, or a place from which to hang a child’s swing, or one part of the forest. To cling to a belief is to ignore so many other things that are right here, right now. Reference points matter. The roots of that same tree will experience the world in a very different way than the branches. The leaves, from buds to green to red to fallen, have a very different perspective than the trunk, growing only an inch or two with every passing of another year.
How, you are probably asking, does this have anything to do with politics? Politics, and political campaigns in particular, are often about filling people with the expectations of that in which they they believe can be delivered by a candidate, if he or she is elected, thereby altering the uncertainty and suffering of now and making tomorrow a better forever. They point to the past as proof of their qualifications and the lack thereof in their opponents. The truth, however, is that the past and the future are both escapes from this moment.
I get angry. I want to fight to be right. Yet, to be angry with another for his or her political beliefs, when so much of what connects our ideas outweighs their differences, blinds me with my own assumption that another’s beliefs come from a place of hate, whereas mine come from a place of love. Thus, it becomes so easy to delude myself into believing that my anger is righteous and another’s is petty. In a self-defeating manner, I react angrily, foolishly expecting my righteous anger will somehow reinforce my own beliefs by changing the hearts and minds of others. It never has. I have convinced myself to expect that my perceived adversary will die when I, myself, drink poison.
I expect. That, in itself is the root of much suffering. To feel pain is perfectly acceptable. Suffering, however, comes not from feeling pain, but expecting that right now should be any different than it is. If the candidate I support wins, then she wins. If the candidate you support wins, then he wins. But, all I can control are the ways in which I am this person, right here, right now. Regardless of the outcome of the election, it will do no good to reflect, with perfectly clear hindsight, the ways in which I was cheated, or what mistakes were made, or what I could have done differently. That is merely resentment or self-aggrandizement. I am still not going to have the power to change time. I still can only exist right here, and right now. To constantly be in the act of avoiding the moment by dwelling on what could be or what might have been, I would be, as master Joshu described, “like a ghost clinging to bushes and weeds.” Someone once told a master of zen, “I want happiness.” To which the master replied, “Remove ‘I’ and remove ‘want’ and all you are left with is happiness.”
I can breath. I can understand that my emotions are valid and true, but, impermanent. I feel this way now. I will not feel this way until I die. I do not have to act to disconnect myself from the rest of my fellow humans by acting in such a way as to sever the ties to those with whom I share the same air, and sun, and land, and compositional stardust.
Even if people possess everything they desire, people are still unsatisfied. To desire is to dwell in the fantasies of the future and to cling to the illusions and resentments of the past, never truly being present. I enjoy politics. I do. But, what I enjoy about politics are the steps along the path. Paths can lead in different directions. They can lead to dangerous places. They can lead to wonderful, unexplored terrains. And, many paths can take different routes to arrive at the same destination. I am choosing to walk with anyone who wishes to join me on the journey. I ask only that we practice as great a compassion as possible, doing our best to abandon expectation in favor of the simple experience of the steps themselves.
I choose to practice transmuting my passions that may otherwise tear us apart, into the right art of holding onto what connects us as progressives and as people; and not becoming a ghost, lost in resentments. I have not always been good at this. I am trying to do better. The world is flawed. Politics is flawed. Each and every one of us is flawed.
The Buddha said, (supposedly), “Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.”
You support Bernie. I support Hillary. Breath. Smile. We’re okay.