Nothing is ever as good as it looks or as bad as it seems.
Yet we still squeeze out the last drop of drama by demonizing people and circumstances that have disappointed us. (see social media)
And, despite common sense, we go on to deify other people, allowing our expectations to soar out of the range of possible fulfillment.
The happiest people I know are people who look at the world without illusion, who know that all of us are terribly inconsistent and fallible, who treat good news and bad news the same without jumping to dramatic conclusions, and who build structures of happiness on the inside rather than the outside.
It’s taken me way too long to learn this but I am inching my way there.
“To be angry at people means that one considers their acts to be important. It is imperative to cease to feel that way. The acts of humans cannot be important enough to offset our unchangeable encounter with infinity.” – Carlos Castaneda
Okay, I know these are radical statements, especially for those who suffer unspeakable injustices. Yet, Castaneda’s point warrants consideration in this political climate of hatred and fear, and in our personal lives where certain people drive us mad.
Even if you don’t agree with Castaneda, no one in their right mind can deny…
- it is difficult to take ourselves so seriously when we consider how temporary it all is
- inevitable death puts everything in perspective
- arguing with what is is useless
Save your energy. Be a change agent not a victim.
Today, I inaugurate myself
As the commander in chief of my own future
I celebrate my promotion
To the role of the productive leader
Of my life, full of promise and hope
Out off yesterday’s role of
Chicken little, hopeless victim, or discouraged martyr
Today I will usher myself
With a flourish and a solemn promise
Into my new position of power
Supported by the noble and the brave
Who have gone before, and will come after
Those who chose, and will choose
Action over words
Mercy over malice
And resolve over fear
Anger won’t fix it.
Euphoria won’t last.
Even the best of humans will need forgiveness.
There are no deliverers and magic potions.
The only elixir for election hangover?
Courage to look square in the face of our humanity
In whatever form it threatens
And ask for help.
And be help
Without animosity for winners or losers.
With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in…
Abraham Lincoln, March 4, 1865
Before we bash the leaders of the election debacle for everything under the sun, we might consider getting off our high horse long enough to recall…
- times we have slung our own share of mud at family members, exes, bosses, coworkers, neighbors, teachers, and cable companies
- hyperbolic indictments we have made against rivals or merely those who disagreed with, or contradicted us
- grudges we have held
- bridges we have burned
- blame and shame we have passed around like a virus
- reputations we have tarnished with adolescent-like gossip
After all, the debacle would not be happening if we “noble Americans” and humanoids were not such practiced and gullible targets for pathetically embarrassing and immature tactics.
I detest the deafening static of the election as much as anyone, so I am not suggesting we should embrace it; only that we should look at the TV or computer screen carefully enough to see our own reflection staring back at us.
Politics don’t have to disappoint us.
I became a lot happier and nicer to people when I accepted these truths:
- No politician can save us.
- Whoever is elected will screw up and be mercilessly accused of screwing up.
- If I have to be mean to prove my point, I have already lost.
- We’ve been wrong before. (Lincoln was so unpopular that, after elected, he had to sneak into Washington in disguise.)
- There are good people with good motives in every political party.
- The pendulum will swing back.
- My passion for my country is a force for good only when it is combined with deep passion and honor for people of every group and every nation.
- I am a member of, and responsible to, the human race first; a citizen of the world (not just of my particular country or party).
During the mud bath of election year, this is especially useful. However, beware, politicians are not the only ones with ego issues. Much of our indignant ranting about those with whom we don’t agree is motivated by our desire to feel superior. As Matthew Pearl so wisely says in The Dante Club, “We hate the smell of our vices upon others.”
In the above quote, Eckhart Tolle alludes to the best anti-ego venom available: observe the ego doing the inferior-superior thing and quickly move away. (See Monday’s blog: we are valuable without having to measure ourselves against someone else’s value.)
Antidote to ego problems: love others as we love ourselves. (Doing one without the other always fails.)
We waste our opinions when we…
- Use them to build walls.
- See: Iron Curtain, death on barbed wire and electric fences, nonsensical and unproductive political opposition, civil war
- Let them become our identity.
- See: Fanatic, Dallas Violence, homicide, suicide bomber, intolerant, arrogant
- Get frustrated or angry when others do not share them.
- See: Dysfunctional families, mental illness, alienation, manipulation, Facebook ranting and unfriending
- Force them upon someone else (even when we think they will save their lives).
- See: Holy War, The Spanish Inquisition, burning at the stake, ISIS, arguing about religion and politics, discrimination
Our opinions are productive when we…
- Use them to connect and construct solutions.
- Use them to define our own boundaries.
- Get curious, listen, share, and appreciate differences.
- Remember the Good Samaritan.
You may be right. No one cares if you are not good.
Mercy triumphs over judgment.
I was never a Tony Blair groupie, but wish I would have read his political bio earlier. When I get discouraged about anything not working right in my life or feel a tad overwhelmed, I listen to a snippet of his outlandishly pressurized life and feel good again about mine!
His bio also reminded me of the critical characteristics of a high-level public servant:
- Humility: the ability to tell it like it is or was even when it isn’t or wasn’t complimentary (a lack of ego protection is a good indicator of a truth-teller)
- Depth and Insight: the ability to objectively use deductive and inductive reasoning (rather than to rely solely on others’ opinions)
- Healthy Detachment: the ability to step away from one’s own personal interests long enough to absorb and appreciate the other side
- Communication: the ability to judiciously explain complex truths in a way that moves others to action
- Resilience: the ability to shoulder immense rejection, accusations, betrayals, and defeats without going psycho
- Passion for Service: mastering the skill of working for others versus mastering “the machine of people working for me” (something that should be considered in the upcoming US election)
- Sense of Humor: it is certainly useful to be able to laugh at oneself and to not mind being laughed at, as well.
Funny. These are all skills I can use too.
Worth the read, even if you are not a fan.
While reading Tony Blair’s biography, A Journey, I realized I had most likely misjudged several politicians and formed unfavorable opinions about them by…
- Relying too heavily on spotty media reports and the opinions of others
- Not giving the benefit of the doubt (as I would have desired if I were in their position)
- Believing the worst without adequate validation
- Always labeling mistakes as moral violations
- Failing to do my own research before spouting off
The least I can do to show respect for people is to read other points of view thoroughly before I form my own opinion. I am ashamed that I have not done enough of that in the past. I owe apologies to people I’ll never get the chance to meet, but am making a new commitment to quit being a jerk.