~ from cats, dogs and nature to the flowering of body, mind and spirit ~

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Politics, History, and Soul Recovery

What does soul recovery have to do with politics and history? A tremendous amount during our current election year when all of us are concerned about not only the candidates and the process, but also about citizen reactions and over-reactions to what is before us. Where is our dignity, integrity, and compassion? Where is our intelligence? Where is the shadow? Our hearts and minds need to work in tandem toward good for everyone, that’s part of what nourishes and lifts up our souls. But we cannot force the soul to be as we wish. Thomas Moore in Care of the Soul says: 
“Soul is the font of who we are, and yet it is far beyond our capacity to devise and to control. We can cultivate, tend, enjoy, and participate in the things of the soul, but we can’t outwit it or manage it or shape it to the designs of a willful ego.”
Our ego generally drives our political views, unless we consciously invite soul to participate in the continued development of our country. We live in a democratic republic, not in a “pure” or “direct” democracy (or it’s not intended to be one), because originally safeguards were established by the Founding Fathers so that we wouldn’t become either a “mobocracy” or be taken over by tyranny. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t evolve our country and government; everything changes, that’s the nature of living. Plus, those who set up our original government could not foresee how the world has changed, and they were limited to their past and to their own cultural context. However, we need to be as consciously aware as possible to not let ourselves venture into the extremes, which is where we seem to be headed.
That said, when we look at our two-hundred-plus governmental history, we can see the pendulum swing back and forth between conservative and liberal control, indicating that, frustrating as it can be at times, dire as it can appear during certain periods, our system does appear to be working so that no single entity completely takes over our country. But we still have to remain cautious and alert and participate in the process; we need to engage in civil conversation and the process using our hearts and our minds, passion and pragmatism.
One thing I’ve been trying hard to do these past six months is read across the spectrum of liberal and conservative publications; I can’t expand my heart, mind, and, yes, my soul without a greater understanding about views different than mine. I asked conservative friends and family for recommendations on writers who share their views, but few responded. Left on my own, Google has been helpful in pointing me toward publications; for instance, universities often share lists on this topic. The Wall Street Journal is usually listed as a conservative publication, especially in its editorial section, so I read that one daily. However, in a recent New York magazine (not on a list, but probably liberal) article by Andrew Sullivan titled “Democracies end when they are too democratic”, the author provides an interesting summary of perspectives on democracy influenced by Plato’s Republic and reflections upon the establishment of American government. Within this framework, Sullivan provides his interpretation of the perfect national storm that has led to the rise of Trump. It’s a fascinating piece and one I highly recommend (the complete article can be read online).
The soul traverses both worldly and spiritual realms, allowing us to journey toward wholeness. Thomas Moore, in Care of the Soul, says: 
“To some extent, care of the soul asks us to open our hearts wider than they have ever been before, softening the judging and moralism that may have characterized our attitudes and behavior for years. Moralism is one of the most effective shields against the soul, protecting [deflecting] us from its intricacy. There is nothing more revealing, and maybe nothing more healing, than to reconsider our moralistic attitudes and find how much soul has been hidden behind its doors. People seem to be afraid that if they reflect on their moral principles they might lose their ethical sensitivity altogether. But that is a defensive approach to morality. As we deal with the soul’s complexity, morality can deepen and drop its simplicity, becoming at the same time both more demanding and more flexible.”

Tuesday, May 3, 2016


Looking for an emotional antidote to a recent book I read, the perfect palliative publication was waiting for me. I love synchronicity!
The book needing mitigation was Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill by Jessica Stern. Don’t get me wrong, this is an excellent book. It was definitely a worthwhile pursuit toward understanding its topic, and I highly recommend it. There is a lengthy cogent review of the book at the New York Times, but what I appreciated the most was how Stern didn’t focus exclusively upon religion per se. Rather, she delved into the psychology as well; she wanted to understand “how people who claim to be motivated by religious principles come to kill innocent people in the service of ideas.” For instance, she looked at the aspects of alienation, humiliation, demographics, history, and territory. Stern addressed how these particularities contribute to transforming people into religious militants (Christian, Jewish, and Muslim). Nevertheless, when I finished reading, I felt compelled to find a pick-me-up. I needed to wash off the despair and angst provoked by the book.
One of the many books on my end table was Rebecca Solnit’s Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities. I had discovered this one via the blog Brain Pickings, but had not yet started reading. HOPE. It’s easy to see why my hand reached for this one, and I wasn’t disappointed. Solnit writes that: 
“Hope doesn’t mean denying these realities [terrorism, war, inequality, rampant capitalism, climate change, etc.]. It means facing them and addressing them by remembering what else the twenty-first century has brought, including the movements, heroes, and shifts in consciousness that address these things now.” 
Solnit provides an exceptional long view of movements in history, many we might have overlooked or forgotten if we keep our eyes locked into tunnel vision. She’s an activist and hope, for her, holds a different perspective than it might for you or me. Solnit states: 
“Hope is an embrace of the unknown and the unknowable, an alternative to the certainty of both optimists and pessimists. … It’s the belief that what we do matters even though how and when it may matter, who and what it may impact, are not things we can know beforehand.” 
Yes, her book was exactly what I needed. It is a slim volume that reminds and refreshes and returns me to calm, but with an added spark of, yes, hope.
Maria Popova provides a beautiful essay about Hope in the Dark utilizing more inspirational quotes; I encourage you to explore her offerings. She has been a wonderful resource for me to dive into a wide variety of works!
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