Pathways to Spiritual Politics
Updated: May 12, 2018
Even as we advance spiritually, we are riding an undercurrent of human and environmental degradation that is pulling us farther and farther out to sea. There are many voices in our world telling us to swim diagonally with the shoreline to get out of the under current, so we don’t drown. The answers are here, either waiting to be discovered or right in front of our faces. Grace is at work everywhere. My forthcoming book is intended to help us change the direction we’re swimming through this political and spiritual abyss and create our world where the two are explicitly connected. This book is about entering into a new dialog about how the world can be more congruent with our values and how society can be more caring and just.
My book is about spirituality rather than religion, but religion is part and parcel of the discussion. All religions have a Divine thread that run through them and with this Divine thread, we can reweave the snarled threads in the web of life. This book is about politics, but it’s not about running for or holding a political office. It is about choosing to be civically engaged You don’t have to be a full-time activist to change the world, but you do need to get involved in your community. Our democracy depends on an informed and engaged citizenry, one that acquires the knowledge and skills needed to become actively involved.
There is a growing recognition that ecologically, sociologically, and spiritually, we must actually become conscious participants in the unfolding and direction of the evolutionary process of our world. We need to find ways we can better and more fully serve our communities. Even when faced with the difficulties of life, it is time to truly live up to our potential and joyfully participate by giving of ourselves and our resources. When we work for the greater good, there is a great future for us and a higher likelihood of humanity not just surviving but thriving.
If we are to save our nation, we must be able to understand our culture and all its diversity. We must also be able to understand ourselves. If we don’t understand ourselves, others, and our society, we will diminish our ability to live healthy productive lives.
This book will inspire you to draw in diverse people and to investigate your differences in opinions. When we see how another comes to their conclusions about life, we start to have true understanding of their positions. As we come to understand one another, we begin to value other’s perspectives. When we feel heard and seen we start to feel connected to something bigger than ourselves. Connection brings forth healing and growth that ripples out to the community. Soon the tapestry woven together will multiply the good works and
bring better things in creative teamwork in the family, in the community, and in the nation.
Our political systems appear to be failing, so like it or not, we’ve been handed a spiritual lesson and when we have a lesson, there is nothing to do but go through it. Our government’s seemingly disproportionate misuse of power and its inability to respond to not only our physical needs but also our cultural needs, has given us a lesson to gain a new level of tolerance, patience, and understanding and further develop our capacity for compassion, equanimity and altruism. Additionally, as political beings, our lesson is to live our values and help others live in a way that is congruent with their values.
It’s time to roll up our sleeves, wipe off the cobwebs, and dust off the years of accumulated feelings of disempowerment. Some of us have been involved in politics for years at national, regional and local levels, and as of late, we’ve been hiding out. Preparing for what, we aren’t sure. We just had a deep sense that things were shaking out on all levels before the final quake. Perhaps we needed to go through a sort of metamorphosis before we could help this world that we hold dear, this world that holds us dear. The time of being in the rich fluid inside the chrysalis is over; our imaginal cells have turned from the caterpillar into the butterfly. Still, it took time to grasp that we were indeed in an upward spiral, so we had to go back around until we embodied the inevitable –– we have our wings, we have to fly.
The earth needs us. We all need us to give something and give up something to save the world. What we give will be something we already have even if we don’t know we have it yet. To give something we don’t have is quite exhausting and quite frankly, we don’t have to be tired. Fatigue is, after all, due to the disequilibrium between the spirit and the physical. What we have to give up are our fears, our remorse, our bitterness, our victimization, our anger, our stories that keep us imprisoned in the way things were.
In 2000, I lived in Kathmandu, Nepal and taught Communication courses at Malpi International College to Nepali students. They had three questions for a person from the United States of America. “Are you divorced?” “Have you ever been sued, or have you ever sued someone?” And the last question was deeply disturbing and the most difficult to answer. “You live in the richest country in the world, so why do you have homeless people?”
Why, indeed? My answer was, “I don’t know.” That was my answer, “I don’t know.” It wasn’t curative for my students or for myself. In Nepal, a developing country, there are many that live in abject poverty and many that live in the streets. One dark night in Thamal, as I walked down the streets with my friend, a Zen Buddhist monk, I saw a mother sitting under a dim street lamp with two children: a little girl, perhaps three-years-old and a baby clutched to her chest. I gave her what rupees I had on me, not much, not enough. She didn’t look at me and I didn’t look back. What my friend and I talked about that night, I can’t remember. All I could think of were the faces of those three sitting on a cold slab of concrete, undoubtedly risking their lives for a few rupees, mostly because the Nepal government can’t take care of them; there simply isn’t enough. But in the United States, the leader of the free world, with a Gross Domestic Product almost a thousand time greater than that of Nepal––why do we have homelessness?
In March 2017, Forbes announced a record 169 billionaires, each with a net worth of at least $2 billion in the US. According to the December, 2017 U.S. Housing and Development (HUD) Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, there are an estimated 554,000 homeless. One third of those are families. The count may be higher as many are discounted. The National Alliance to End Homelessness suggests that there may be as many as three million that are homeless. The Bread for the World Institute says six million children die each year mostly from hunger related causes and in the U.S., 16.7 million children live in homes where people have to skip meals or eat less to make ends meet and in developing countries over 800 million people go to bed hungry every night.
Something is not right.
Dr. John Gastil, professor at the University of Washington, Seattle, writes, “There are two problems in American politics. The first problem is that the public doesn't believe that the government represents its interests. The second problem is that they are right.” We have a class war between the wealthy capitalists and struggling workers.
I wanted to make sure my Nepali students (and myself) knew that United States citizens were sensitive to the homeless in our country. That as a Christian based nation whose religion teaches “Love they neighbor as thyself,” surely, surely we take care of others. That if we could we’d make sure that everyone was housed and fed. So why can’t we? Why don’t we? And how does this seemingly apathetic movement of the soul affect our spiritual growth?
There is a lacuna between our spiritual life and our political life. Comparatively, in our culture it’s easy being a political being, it’s difficult being a spiritual being and building the bridge between the two is often daunting. As Gandhi said, “Men say I am a saint losing myself in politics. The fact is I am a politician trying my hardest to be a saint.”
There is dissonance in our ethical beliefs and values and the way we live our lives and this dissonance is like an itchy wool sweater––we can’t wait to get it off. Our society is such that we eat foods that aren’t good for our own or the earth’s health. We drive autos that pollute the air, the land, and the water.
We use energy that comes from nuclear power plants. We are willing citizens of a country that perpetuates injustice wars, causing unbelievable pain and sorrow to not just us, but to hundreds of thousands of others. Our country also creates unfair debt in poor, developing countries that results in hunger, homeless and a feeling of hopelessness. Our itchy sweater clings to our backs.
I have great faith in humankind, and I hope you do too, that given a clear alternative, people will respond from their hearts not their fears. That a clear alternative will arise out of a compassionate revolution, as Jean Bolin said, “out of love for, rather than outrage against,” and that a compassionate revolution will heal the homeland of humanity.
I love the U.S.A., this land, these people. I know their goodness. I have traveled across the U.S. and talked with people from all walks of life, from all sides of issues, from all levels of complexity, and it boils down to this: United States citizens are caring, kind people who, when given the truth and the tools, will act out of compassion. They are hungry for peace. They are trying to put into practice deep human values, daring to become the best they can be. They are extraordinary people and a tremendous strength to this country. But they need a radical revolution, a Gandhi-isk, compassionate revolution to fulfill their human potential.
The time is right for a barn-raising of a new world where all can take refuge. As has been said many times before, "If not you, who? If not now, when?" I answer the call of my soul to action, so that in the nights to come there will be no need for any mothers and fathers to prepare their children to die.
We're standing on the precipice of something great. We can feel it. If we thread our understanding of what is with what is beyond our understanding we can weave a tapestry of awakening. Mythologist and storyteller Michael Meade informs us, “There’s no room for you to stand on the sidelines watching. If you can talk you can sing, if you can walk you can dance, if you can move you can drum. And then after all that singing and dancing and drumming, you can say, I showed up for my life.” We have been charged with the earth’s destiny. A shiver of truth runs through my bones. I trust through yours too.
 Civically engaged means working in communities, local, national, international for a better life.
 Gastil, John, By Popular Demand: Revitalizing Representative Democracy Through Deliberative Elections, 2000, U of California Press, Berkeley, CA.
 Nagler, Michael N., Hope Or Terror? Gandhi and the Other 9/11.
 The root meaning of radical is “from the roots”.