Contemplative Reflections on the 2012 Election

Being a Contemplative in an Election Season by Martha Sherman

We must love them both, those with whom we agree, and those with whom we disagree. For both have labored in the search of truth, and both have helped in the finding of it. ~ Saint Thomas Aquinas

What does being a contemplative look and sound like in an election season? Here is my serious, un-­stressed-­‐out, non-­reactive answer to that question:

I am consciously holding space for a meaningful, illuminating consciousness-­‐raising exchange of ideas. I am holding space for the two men running for this high, hard, rather thankless task to listen with their hearts, to be changed, uplifted, informed, inspired, and guided by the experience.

And I am holding space for each of us to listen to each other, the analysts, and the candidates with our hearts, to speak from our hearts, to be changed, uplifted, informed, and ultimately inspired to do our individual parts, in every breath—to be the change we want to see in this world.

I also am aware that I have a very strong preference about who wins this election. The Other Guy is a Beloved Child of God, too—as are all of his staffers, his PR people, his family. Even the media people are beloved children of God. And My Guy is not without his growing edges, nor are his staffers, his family or his PR people.

Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. …[L]et us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. ~Abraham Lincoln (Second Inaugural Address)

It must really all depend on what I am praying for. And why. The motivation for my prayers. Do I pray for My Guy to win? Or do I pray for the highest good? And let go of my preference about the outcome right now?

Yet we are supposed to vote—to make a choice. Can I do both? Have a preference and also have no preference. Not cling to any thing—hold lightly all things. Trust Love. Stand in Love, opening my heart to every one, every voice, every fear, every belief, allowing space to expand around the fears, the beliefs, the voices of calm and the voices of discord. And fill that expanding space with Love.

What would happen if we all did that now? What would this election season be and become if all the contemplatives in the world simply held it all in expanding Love?

Seven billion of us—and counting—are all “activists,” because we’re actively shaping our world. The only question is: Are we conscious activists, or unconscious activists? We see the results of unconscious activism all around us. Virtually every problem is caused by unconscious choices being made over and over and over again…It’s impossible not to make a difference. Every choice we make leads either toward health or toward disease [dis-ease]; there’s no other direction. The question is not “How can I, one person, make a difference?” The question is “What kind of difference do I want to make?” ~Julia Butterfly Hill

Joining Together in Our Not Knowing by Carole Crumley

Among my siblings, two of us are Democrats, two Republicans. Each family member holds such strong opinions about politics, we have vowed never to discuss this topic when we are together. None of us are willing to change or even to listen. This does not help bridge the great polarized divide in our country. In a talk two years ago to our area clergy, Karen Armstrong, author and visionary leader, surprised me by saying that only apophatic silence can help us move forward in a world so dangerously polarized. We need to get back to the Cloud of Unknowing, she said. In other words, we need to get back to a sense of what we don’t know.

There are so many world concerns—the environmental catastrophe, global poverty and hunger, unimaginable cruelty and suffering, economic disasters—realities for which there are no easy answers. The urgencies of our time require great capacities of soul. One such capacity is realizing the limits of our knowing and joining together in our not knowing.

In that place of not knowing, we may listen to the inadequacy of our words and the insufficiency of what we think we know until all that is left is to fall into silence together.

Silence that is full of Divine Presence opens everything to its infinite possibilities. This silence lets what is most true, most real, most authentic show itself. Such silence transfigures us and how we live in the world.

Owning Our Country by Ruth Taylor

There is not just one individual running the country. We all own the space we occupy within these borders.

Giving a percentage every time we buy a cup of coffee, walking by a historical statue on our commute to work, checking a box beside citizenship on a form; we own this country in many ways every day. Election time is especially a time to feel that ownership.

During this time, I realize that not only do I have a vote that matters, but I feel a deep stewardship, every four years, towards making my citizenship a conscious act.

There is a pride gained in realizing what I own, but it’s a pride that expands awareness and doesn’t limit or isolate. A pride not fostering of party labels that need an “us” and a “them.” A pride that motivates us to sustain. A pride that motivates a genuine stewardship in every action.

From that pride and stewardship, we may form an opinion on election day—a genuine opinion that grows from inner knowing. Not an opinion formed from reaction against but that grows throughout the campaign from a grounded place of stewardship, pride and ownership of our piece and part in a country that belongs to all of us.

October 10, 2012 by Shalem Institute
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