Monday, September 18, 2017

Changing the Direction of President Trump

Until two weeks ago, the political reality of the Trump administration had been defined by rabid feelings for it on the part of its core base of support, and rabid feelings against it on the part of the Democrat’s base.  This reality, and its reflection in Congress, left Trump feeling that his only hope for success was to do everything possible to please his core supporters, the only people he could depend on.

Trump has never been an ideologue.   He certainly has very little in common with his core supporters.  But he used what he knew would work to get himself elected.  I do not even believe that Trump is a racist, a homophobe, or a white supremacist/anti-semite, at least no more so than the average person.  But he is an opportunist and amoral, so he will do anything that he sees working to his benefit.

And therein lies the opportunity.  I have previously advised that the only hope of changing the direction of this administration, or at least ameliorating its harmful impact, is by convincing Trump that it is to his advantage to tone down if not shift his more damaging directives.  

How?  By showing him that his only hope for major legislative successes is by working with Democrats in Congress, not his Republican colleagues.  This has now begun to happen, thanks to the smart work of Senator Schumer.

He wants these successes badly.  Whether it’s on infrastructure, tax reform, or health care reform, Democrats can give him the successes he wants while at the same time forwarding their own agenda and helping the average person.  

It's a win-win situation, except for the most rabid elements of the Democratic left.  But those elements should not be the drivers of policy.  Their support will not determine the outcome of the 2018 mid-term elections.  It is the turnout by average working-class people and the poor that will make the difference.  

They must see that the Democratic party is working in very positive, direct ways to make their lives better.  Hillary lost in large part because of her loss of their strong support.  The Party must regain their trust and support.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Ever Wonder Why the World Is the Way It Is?

We live in a dysfunctional world.  Violence and conflict are all around us … within ourselves, within families, within societies, between nations.  How often do I hear people asking, “Why?”

The typical answer is some version of, “That’s just life,” or “It’s human nature.”  But that’s too easy and facile an answer.  The truth is more complicated and enlightening.  While it’s true that it is the way it is, it is not human nature; it’s human development.  That means it’s not inevitable; people can change.  We have a choice.

All religions depict life as a constant struggle between light and darkness.  In former times, that fight was often spoken of as being between God and the Devil. 

These days one hears little about the Devil for the same reason that most people don’t talk much about God.  The existence of these deities as external forces that control our lives, to whom we can on the one hand pray for deliverance or on the other bargain with for what we desire, just flies in the face of both our life experience and scientific knowledge.  Many have thus lost their belief in the God of our forefathers, if not declaring God dead.

But another concept of God is very much alive for those who walk the path of spirituality/mysticism … whether it’s Buddhism, Hinduism, Jewish Kabbalah, Islamic Sufism, or Christian Gnosticism.  Their truth is that the Buddha/God essence is within each of us from the moment of our birth and remains there throughout our life.  

But that divine essence becomes hidden from us over the years, buried by successive layers of our ego-mind’s reaction to life’s experiences.  We become wounded by those experiences.  We become lost to our true selves.  And so we walk the path to reconnect, to rediscover our true selves.  Our salvation comes from within us, not from some outside force.  And so the eternal struggle is seen as being between our heart/soul and our ego-mind.

While we learn that the Buddha was tempted by Mara, the Buddhist equivalent of the Devil, I have never, I believe, heard the Devil mentioned when speaking of the challenge of healing ourselves, of ending our suffering. The reference is rather to freeing ourselves from the control of our ego-mind, it being the true source of our suffering, not the events we experience.  As the Buddha said, to free ourselves of the conceit “I am” is the ultimate freedom.

Recently, however, I felt the presence of the Devil.  I was having dinner with a friend who knows he has to limit his consumption of alcohol.  But he said he wanted a second glass of wine that night.  And that after dinner he wanted to go to some bars and have a beer like he does when he travels with other friends of his.  Knowing I would disapprove and say “no,” the expression on his face when he talked was a mocking one, sly.  I was aware of the strangeness of it at the moment, but I didn’t recognize it.  Only when I meditated the next morning, did I realize that I had been in the presence of the Devil.

I now understand that just as in some religions the Devil is thought to be a fallen angel,  in Buddhism, as well as the mystic traditions, the Devil can be equated with our ego-mind, which is our internal fallen angel/Buddha/God nature.  We have become so wounded repeatedly over the years that the ego-mind has no trust, no faith, and is consumed by fear; it has become cynical about the world around us.  It has overpowered our true self to “protect” us; we are in its control.  And so the Devil, our own Devil, is inside each of us; it is the nature of our ego-mind.

Ernestine, the Flip Wilson drag character, used to say, “The Devil made me do it!” In comic strips, a person was sometimes portrayed with an angel sitting on one shoulder whispering in his ear and the Devil sitting on the other doing the same, being confused by the competing advice; a graphic depiction of our internal Devil as well as our internal God-essence.   We have all experienced that.  So the concept is not foreign to our culture or experience.

I have written in previous posts how all the conflict and violence in the world, whether in the home, workplace, society or between nations is a result of the insecurity that man acquires from his life experiences.  (See my posts, “The Root of All Abuse and Violence - Insecurity” and “Insecurity as the Cause of Social Conflict and International War.”)  

That the ego-mind is not only filled with the fear, anxiety and self-centeredness (and often aggression) caused by insecurity but through continued wounding has acquired the lack of faith, trust, and cynicism of the Devil makes the dysfunction we observe all that more intractable.  And it explains the specter of evil that we see in all corners of the world.

This is why the world is the way it is.  It’s not because people are bad … there is no such thing as a bad person, just people who do bad things … or that humans are flawed.  It’s because our life experience has made us insecure and our ego-minds have reacted in a way which makes us a threat to our own well-being and the well-being of those around us.  The greater our insecurity, the more of a threat we become.  At some point we become the Devil incarnate.

If one wants to save the world from itself, this insight offers a possible agent of change.  It may not only be very helpful in a practical way for those already struggling to free themselves from the control of their ego-mind, the control of their emotions and perceptions, it may encourage more people, both leaders and followers, to enter upon that path.

How?  We very much identify with our ego-mind.  Its feelings and perceptions are all we’ve known our entire life.  Even for those who walk the path of the spiritual/mystic traditions, while we come to learn that our feelings and perceptions are the cause of our suffering and are not a reflection of our true selves, the power of these feelings are often barely diminished because we find it hard to deeply disown them.  So powerful is the ego-mind.  

When push comes to shove, we always return to the perspective of our wounded self, our ego-mind.  We have not purged ourselves from its grip.  The roots in our self-perception go too deep.

Identifying the ego-mind with the Devil may be very helpful because that image does not conjure up “I.”  It conjures up instead trickery, deceit, doing something against one’s best interest, evil … which is in truth how the ego-mind operates and controls us.  

Most people, regardless their status in life, regardless their lack of spirituality, would not I believe want to self-identify with the Devil.  It thus may well open the door at least a crack to the light of their heart.  And encourage people to at least ponder walking the path in order to find the way to disown their ego-mind and say “no” to its guidance, thereby freeing themselves from its control and finding inner peace and happiness.

Each soul saved makes for a better world.  Religions have always taught that.  But now salvation rests with the individual, what he chooses to do with his life.  Whether he chooses light or darkness, peace or suffering, not with his belief in a God external to himself.  This spirituality is of the present moment.   Its reward is here and now in a life of peace and happiness, not a Heaven to be experienced after death.