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Monday, August 1, 2016

Election Noise and Desiderata

As the 2016 US presidential election cycle ramps up toward its culminating crescendo, this ordinary citizen is blessed to appreciate the value --- of silence.  Yes, silence.   Reflecting on Desiderata, posted previously, adds yet to the blessing.  Note how that noble poem begins:

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.

The din of the presidential nominating conventions is now safely behind us.  It occurs to this ordinary citizen that should the average voter not be able to distinguish between wheat and chaff in all of 5 minutes, then one could dedicate the next 10 hours explaining yet they’d still not get it.  Perhaps human nature is such that some may never get it.  We must be at peace with that.

Consider that in the 1932 election --- 3+ years into the depths of the ongoing Great Depression, the unemployment rate at an alarming 25% and the Republican candidate promising “to do nothing” as a platform for re-election --- nearly 40% of the electorate still voted the national Republican ticket.  Remarkable as that may now seem, we must be at peace with that, also.

Silence is often the time we can hear the best.  It is said that’s why God has given us one mouth but two ears.  To facilitate listening.  Why make our own contribution to the noise, when we are better served to listen?  In the silence are sure to be the answers we seek.    The poem continues: 

As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others,
even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexations to the spirit.

The ordinary citizen has more than enough balls in the air to juggle within the competitive economic landscape than to negotiate the din of who will be elected next.  What then?  If the system does not provide a fair shot for the many, as some suggest, the ordinary citizen might be well served to go to that place where material things give way to matters of the spirit.  Fear, doubt, hopelessness, despair: consider that none of these are real.  It may be easier to be at peace, were one to have this simple understanding.

We must look within for spiritual guidance:

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

We must be easier on ourselves, too.  Consider that the idea of forgiveness begins with forgiving ourselves first --- primarily for judging others.  Sometimes, we must be reminded that we --- all of us --- are children of the universe.  No one person is better than any other.  We are all the same --- connected to each other as children of the one God.  Doesn’t that make life seem a bit easier?

Finally, the poem concludes:

And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
keep peace in your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.  Strive to be happy.

Why may we not see ourselves giving Love as a means of livelihood for that is what we all do?  Love is the exchange for all.  Forgiveness, healing and love are truly the sine qua non of this evolving universe.

Peace and good will to all.

-Michael D'Angelo

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Progress in the Pursuit of Happiness?
Perhaps it is one of those rare moments in the recording of history when the stars are in near perfect alignment.  An expression of the American mind identifies certain self-evident truths, that all men are created equal and possess the inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  But an uncharted course in self-government requires the flexibility of experimentation.

A consensus of the educated, most respected citizenry concludes that individual pursuits are limited, doomed to failure, absent a social compact for collective, shared responsibility.  But while severing ties with the mother country, the citizenry agree to adopt its proven economic model, over objection that the system flows from principles adverse to liberty.  The greatest good for the greatest number under man’s creation produces enviable physical results.  Prosperity abounds in a land of plenty.

The individual’s happiness is indeed plentiful.  He celebrates success with a triumphant display of material conquest.  Not satisfied, he is further inspired to consolidate and advance his control over a larger portion of the bounty.  Neglecting the notion of a social conscience, he conspires to perpetuate his gains, assuring aristocratic privilege and hereditary status among those subsequent generations who will possess more than they earn.   He validates his actions by the blessings of a divine providence.  The anointment process is complete.

Since protecting the status quo is all that is required, why would the successful individual welcome a suggestion of meddling interference with the order of a wholly rational universe?  He deftly uses the mechanism of obstruction, seemingly mistaken for legitimate conservative values.  But his actions expose the popular myth that business success is a guarantee of civic virtue.  While his material position has not been harmed, his moral prestige is gone.

Some say the successful individual has manipulated the system for his own advantage.  Of course, this would serve to over-simplify the complicated dynamics of the historical process.  While the methods employed are sometimes questionable, unscrupulous and dishonest, they are not illegal.  But it is difficult to escape the conclusion that while it may be a simplification, it is not a falsification.  A man proves by his deeds according to the laws of human nature that the greatest number is typically the number one.

Meanwhile, the masses of the unknown, who comprise the vital base from whence the strength of the nation derives, complete this picture. The newcomer especially is no less energetic, industrious or talented. Attracted to the table by a promise of reward for an honest day’s work, he learns that a feast has been served previously and all that remain are crumbs. His opportunity effectively foreclosed, the newcomer is not likely to achieve a comparable level of success or prosperity by a reasonable measure.

At the crossroads the great crisis comes into view. The ordinary citizen reflects how the loudest yelps for liberty may have been heard among the drivers of the African slave --- amid a similar call today for less government from he who would monopolize economic opportunity. In reclaiming a fair shot at the American Dream for future generations of the unborn, the stakes could not be higher. This great crisis may only signal the next important step forward --- progress in the pursuit of happiness. Or perhaps the task of completing our great unfinished business is destined to be mankind’s final stand.

The successful individual marvels at the folly of an ordinary citizen to believe that a society is capable of change to reach new heights in both moral and material progress.  He deploys a campaign of fear to distort the message.  He rues an ordinary citizen’s determination, which is sustained by the search for truth as an imperative duty.  That search views the twin pillars of reason (science and materialism) and faith (spirituality and duty) as coefficients, working together, in the promotion of human welfare and the quest for progress.

The ordinary citizen has no army but is an apostle of enlightenment.  His path embraces the symbol of hope, and the principles of balance and harmony within nature’s law.  He respects property, but he understands that the creature of man’s making must be the servant and not the master of the man who made it.  And he knows that the ultimate reward of a richer, fuller existence contemplates the discharge of a duty of service which is faith in action.  It is marked by adherence to an incorruptible, disinterested ethical obligation that distinguishes the unselfish citizen from the mere hoarder of gold.

Nothing real can be owned.  Nothing gained, withheld. In the end, we take nothing home --- the place where forgiveness begins.  While it is not ours to judge, sharing and giving back hardly bring to the table any new ideas.

-Michael D'Angelo