Posts Tagged ‘Obama’

Two Opposites and a Harmonious Resolution

June 27, 2009

Kabbalah teaches that the universe is built on a tripod, consisting of two opposites and a harmonious resolution. This is the pattern for everything in life. Stability and confidence is impossible without the support of all three legs of the tripod. We cannot have “shalom” without all three. This tripod – and its attendant challenge of conflict resolution – is inherent inside each one of us, in all of nature, of mankind as a whole, and in the spiritual realm as well.  –Korach (Numbers 16-18) Conflict Resolution

For the scholars of scripture they have an advantage over the rest of us. They have the time to think through some issues, take a step back, and perceive patterns that are opaque to us while we are in the trenches of the war of life. This week’s Torah portion is such an insight and when you think about it we can gain perspective on our lives, our community our country and the world.

I am struck by the conclusions to be reached by this statement. You see, if we are talking about a tripod, then if you take away any one of the legs it will fall. You might, as I did at first, focus on the harmonious resolution leg as the “most important.” Take it away and the tripod falls. For true harmony to evolve there must be recognition of discordant views. No two people (or for that matter two countries) can have identical views. Our thoughts, brain process, perceptions and conclusions are like fingerprints — they define us as unique individuals. So even if you say “I agree” you might find out sooner or later that you agreed with something the other person did not say or mean.

What this means to me is that for me to strive to live in a harmonious world I need to seek out both people who see things in similar ways to me AND people who don’t. I must engage BOTH the people who seem to agree with my world perspective AND those who don’t. Standing in the shoes of both “camps” is the only way I can perceive where there is commonality, conflict or room to compromise. With the recognition that life is a process and not a series of events comes the foundation of the process of harmony. Harmonious relations do not represent a static place of equilibrium, but rather a dynamic place of interaction, catalytic relationships and evolving development of ourselves, our society and our world.

Harmony and the whole tripod fails when we deny the existence of other points of view. If we deny the validity of other points of view we deny their existence and we deny the speaker the right to hold such views and express them. We take away one leg of the stool and the tripod fails — because there is nothing left to process toward a harmonious resolution.



On Being Godly

April 12, 2008

I just finished reading an interpretation of this week’s Torah reading. We are going further into the idea of negative speech about another but more than that we are headed for the territory of deciding right and wrong. It is said that nobody is more Godly than anyone else. That is a useful sentiment. It is also said that we are Godly no matter what we do. That is more problematic. The conclusion is that the question is only whether we will act in a Godly fashion or not. The Jewish concept is that although a person may ‘do’ bad, his or her essence ‘is’ still good.

 

I find that self-serving, egocentric and permission to perform highly immoral and base acts, including statements about others. Nobody knows how to describe G-d, and nobody knows what G-d is or how G-d operates. We only know that there are forces and events of unimaginable scope going on all the time and that somehow we are part of the whole “thing.”

 

We are the product of these forces that some call G-d, evolution, or cosmic illusion or fact. The good the bad and the ugly. It is not useful to consider ourselves good no matter what we do. This will not enhance our quality of life, the survival of our species, or the advancement of morality.

 

It is useful to define ourselves as capable of doing good deeds. And it is a good and proper goal to define your day, and indeed your life by deciding on the morally correct choice rather than the convenient one. For most of us, it is not one or two major decisions that define who we are and how we appear in our society, it is the thousands of micro-decisions that occur within a conversation, while driving the car, while at work, while at home with your spouse or children, other family, or friends. 

 

In our society there are people who are following path of what we would describe as immorality. When confronted by people exuding evil intent or poor moral judgment, there is no one proper answer as to how to act. 

 

But it is a pretty good guess that killing them, enslaving them, or calling them names is not, in most cases, an act which should even be on the table. The fact that such extreme situations historically arise does not mean that most situations should be viewed from that perspective. In most situations, some common ground could be reached with a little effort, and a good deed could emerge, however small that might seem at the moment. 

 

I think this is what Obama is after and despite the charges of emptiness and moments of doubt that people may have, he is resonating with so many people because somewhere, deep inside, where they know right from wrong, they sense that he is on the right track. Whether you should vote for him to be president or insist that your preferred candidate follow in his footsteps of seeking harmony and common ground is up to you. Theoretically any candidate could do it if they really wanted to do it. 

 

Morality then confronts us with the sometimes difficult choice between easy answers, slogans or negative criticism on the one hand, and the more difficult and ephemeral pursuit of happiness and contentment. 

 

It is my observation that at least in this Country, the United States, we have chosen a path of easy ideology rather than morality. And we have become a nation governed by men rather than the laws we pass that reflect our sense of right and wrong. The laws state sometimes with great clarity what people should not do in government, business and social circumstances. Yet these prescribed acts happen anyway, with increasing regularity and with escalating consequences.

 

Ideology is never persuasive unless it presents the illusion of morality. People become comfortable with it and stop thinking about individual issues. They listen to leaders, neighbors or others who tell them who is to blame for the unhappiness in their lives. The preachers of their ideology — whether it is political, religious or philosophical — define the icons that their followers will follow. The will of the whole of society is ignored along with the chance to exercise any independent judgment about right and wrong in each thing that a person does. I call these “leaders” “ideological hounds.”

 

We become vulnerable to being led down blind alleys pursuing goals that serve only the leaders of the ideology whose agenda is by definition, domination over as many people as possible who can “contribute” to the “cause.” Any contrary voice is eliminated through any one or more of choices that everyone knows are immoral. 

 

We allow it because we are afraid of challenging those more powerful than us. We allow it because we are too busy trying to make ends meet. And we allow it because it is just plain easier to let somebody else do the thinking, even if the thinking is wrong. And of course we should not leave the subject without including the attractiveness of the entertainment aspect of these ideologies, who always put on a great show. 

 

The current criticism of Obama is an opportunity to test some of these thoughts. His “small town” remark, cleansed of context seems condescending, elitist, out of touch. His opponents wrap their spin around portions of his commentary and hold it up as meaning something he did not say. If he did not say it, it is a knowing falsehood to portray him as having meant anything like what his critics have portrayed. 

 

Read in context, Obama was reaching for a deeper meaning of right and wrong, and a deeper connection with some of the people who are resistant to his candidacy. Rather than castigating them , he was musing about their lives, the loss of employment, the loss of hope, standard of living and opportunity for children to do better than their parents. 

 

He described the bitterness and disappointment of people who were lied to about what the government and big business was doing. It has been a 25 year journey into darkness, of quiet desperation, for many people, while a few have taken an exciting ride into the high spheres of public and private finance. And he was describing the impact of ideological hounds that are described above in this essay. What he said was entirely truthful and correct. What Clinton and McCain reported he said is completely not truthful and incorrect and intentionally so. 

 

So now we are left with the uneasy feeling of excusing (forgiving) Clinton and McCain for committing immoral acts of deceit in the heat of battle or holding them accountable for their acts. And perhaps more importantly, we are faced with the bare naked truth of Obama’s musings about “small town” America, how vulnerable they are to ideology because all else and everyone else has deserted them. 

 

Maybe, the right thing to do, like the issue of race and racism, is to open the discussion up to Obama’s brave statements, rather than closing them down through compounded acts of negative criticism (i.e., shouting him down). He might be right or he might be wrong; but how will ever know unless we really examine the issues he presented?

Genesis and Evolution and Human Progression and Regression: Obama Possibilities

March 15, 2008
  • The current argument, rearing its ugly head periodically throughout history is about science versus religion. Evolution vs. creationism. That they are the same thing is easy to see for even the most unsophisticated of readers. That they are used as weapons to divide us is obvious.
  • Genesis shows a progression of the earth and the creation of various flora and fauna and eventually humans that is completely congruent with Darwin’s narrative. There is no conflict. 
  • Genesis goes on to show that the earth was just fine until humans entered the picture, with the first act of knowledge (also congruent with evolution), notions of good and evil, and the whole process of reproduction and the variations of human character that emerged.
  • Religion is not about belief. It is about power. Faith is about morality, not religion. Those who rely on religion to bludgeon “non-believers” are egocentric monsters whose agenda is solely about themselves. Those who practice faith create good deeds that spread the concepts of good and evil that will enable humans to survive the inevitable march of evolution and experimentation initiated by forces greater than ourselves, our understanding and the current status of our robust and intricate bodies.
  • Faith is a resource for people to make moral choices. Character is about the willingness or unwillingness to care about faith and morality. And the one element of morality that is our key to survival is tolerance.
  • Faith and religion should have nothing whatever to do with the creation and maintenance of government. Faith may affect our own sense of right and wrong and therefore where and in whom to place our trust in society.
  • To evaluate another’s faith or character is to assert your own arrogance, and demonstrates a lapse of character, faith and morality of the proposed “evaluator” or questioner.
  • The closest thing we see to a man of faith and morality in politics seems to be Barack Obama. We don’t know of course who he really he is or what he really will do. But we can track his movements and his demeanor and his actions and spoken word for consistency and reality. That he is a threat to those whose agendas are egocentric is obvious and an unintended endorsement of a man who might just be a man of G-d as we wish to see him. 
  • The inconsistency of his opponents who attack his character, first and falsely for being Muslim, then arrogantly for being the wrong kind of Christian, demonstrates their own intolerance and their objective to divide us. For me it excludes them from my own consideration of them as potential leaders.
  • The oppression of his opponents who attack his associations with those who primarily speak a truth that is contrary to American myth (check the facts before you condemn a person for speaking the truth), demonstrates their ambition to dominate rather than to serve. For me it excludes them from consideration as persons in whom I would place my trust.
  • The secular ideology of his opponents bent on war, coercion and toughness — rather than consensus, agreement and friendship is a betrayal of their own professed faith in Jesus, his teachings, and in the teachings and stories of the Old testament. 
  • I don’t know if Obama is best and I would not succumb to press my support for him on others. I merely express it. But I do know that neither of his opponents fit anything close to my ideal for faith and fairness, nor my goal of peace and prosperity. I believe in him and I hope others do too. 
  • In the end I hope for whatever is best for our society, and by that I mean all of the Earth created in genesis by powers and potentially intelligence far beyond the scribes from ancient millenia and readers of our time.