Politics of Spirit

13 01 2011

Saturday night I was at a party at The Chrome Horse Saloon.  I arrived looking forward to spending the evening with friends, then did something a little out of character for me. I introduced myself to a stranger who seemed interesting.  What followed was a lengthy conversation which ranged through some pretty cerebral territory: political ideologies, epistemology, scientific inquiry, and changing the world.  Granted, this wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I was both fascinated and energized by the discussion.

In fact, I was energized enough that the following morning I found the excerpt, below, from Parker Palmer’s Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation, which was tickling at the back of my brain during part of our discussion at The Chrome Horse.

“We capitalists have a long and crippling history of believing in the power of external realities much more deeply than we believe in the power of the inner life. How many times have you heard or said, “Those are inspiring notions, but the hard reality is…”?  How many times have you worked in systems based on the belief that the only changes that matter are the ones you can measure or count?  How many times have you watched people kill off creativity by treating traditional policies and practices as absolute constraints on what we can do?

…But the great insight of our spiritual traditions is that we — especially those of us who enjoy political freedom and relative affluence — are not victims of that society: we are its co-creators. We live in and through a complex interaction of spirit and matter, of the powers inside of us and the stuff “out there” in the world. External reality does not impinge upon us as an ultimate constraint:  if we who are privileged find ourselves confined, it is only because we have conspired in our own imprisonment…

If our institutions are rigid, it is because our hearts fear change; if they set us in mindless competition with each other, it is because we value victory over all else; if they are heedless of human well-being, it is because something in us is heartless as well…

Consciousness precedes being: consciousness, yours and mine, can form, deform, or reform our world.  Our complicity in world making is a source of awesome and sometimes painful responsibility — and a source of profound hope for change.”

“We the privileged have conspired in our own imprisonment.” Pretty powerful stuff.  I know this is true for me, on the level of my daily choices and interactions, especially when I choose out of fear.  But I have also experienced change/transformation at the personal level, and this has been a spiritual process brought to fruition by action.  If, as the women’s movement attested, the personal is political, what we can do in our own sphere can also be achieved on a larger scale.

Therefore, I can’t help but imagine the possibilities open to us at the societal level if we were to bring the transformative power of spirit and consciousness to our political and economic constructs!  What world might we co-create then?  In a week in which we are witnessing the politics of divisiveness and hate at the national level (the shootings in Tucson, the Westboro Baptist Church) and locally (the movement to impeach the remaining members of the Iowa State Supreme Court ) it seems important to remember that we can step outside our comfort zones to create something new in the world.

What that new world might look like would make for a another great conversation at The Chrome Horse Saloon.


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