For the last three years, in almost every group I am in and in most events that Henrieta and I attend, it is stated or understood that we avoid talking politics. Politics is a “hot topic.” One that is filled with lots of emotions; fear, frustration, anger, excitement, anxiety... the list goes on and on. I have to admit, I am one who avoids political conversation with people outside of the ones that I consider “safe.” Safe means, those that I feel agree or mostly agree with me.
The world can seem a wonderful place if all we do is keep in the company of those who are just like us. Is this the world that we are designed to live in? Isolation and loneliness are at an all-time high. Could fear and the avoidance of honest and genuine conversations be contributing to this?
I receive, via email, a daily meditation from Franciscan Richard Rohr. One week the theme was Politics Old and New. My first thought was to pass on the week’s meditations, instead, I made the choice to read them. I am so glad I did.One meditation was titled Willing to Be Changed. I read it, and thought, am I? Am I willing to be changed? I know that I am always right, so why do I need to change?
Willing to Be Changed included the following quote from Peter Armstrong, a seminarian at Yale Divinity School, that really made me stop and think. “I need to seek out voices that are different from my own. In a multicultural, multiethnic, pluralistic society, choosing to live comfortably in a bubble of people who share almost everything in common with me—as I have done for most of my life thus far—is a rejection of God’s work of Creation, for God didn’t create us all the same. We are not meant to live isolationist lives, because God created diversity and it was good.” Peter shares that by entering into relationships and listening to the stories of the people along his path, he found that he wanted to learn more and that he was more open to transformation. Here is the link to read the entire meditation: https://cac.org/willing-to-be-changed-2019-11-22/
I have recently been spending some time in the company of a really special person. He is strong in his faith and in his political beliefs. They are the cornerstone of how he lives. I enjoy our conversations; I seek out his views and opinions, and want to learn more from him. He has sparked in me an openness to engage in all sorts of different discussions. An openness to be changed. He brings to mind the words of Eleanor Roosevelt.
A heroin of mine, Eleanor Roosevelt, wrote the book: Tomorrow is Now: It is Today That We Must Create the World of the Future. In the introduction, Ms. Roosevelt shares this thought, “Once more we are in a period of uncertainty, of danger, in which not only our own safety but that of all mankind is threatened. Once more we need the qualities that inspired the development of the democratic way of life. We need imagination and integrity, courage and a high heart. We need to fan the spark of conviction, which may again inspire the world as we did with our new idea of the dignity and worth of free men. But first we must learn to cast out fear. People who `view with alarm' never build anything.” I find it comforting to be reminded that this is not the first time that we have been in a period of uncertainty. I also need to be reminded that fear is the spark of so much anger and negativity.
I love Eleanor’s book You Learn by Living, I highly recommend it! I enjoy her intelligent, genuine and direct style of writing. She ends the chapter entitled Fear – the Great Enemy, with these words; “Courage is more exhilarating than fear and in the long run it is easier. We do not have to become heroes overnight, just a step at a time, meeting each thing that comes up, seeing it is not as dreadful as it appeared, discovering we have the strength to stare it down.”
This is what I believe. It shouldn’t matter whether we are Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, or Independent. What truly matters is that we are able to find a way to come together with integrity, courage and heart and enter into relationships, listen to the stories, meeting each negativity with courage, and be open to transformation. This is a huge challenge, but I know that it can be done.
With today being Martian Luther King Jr. day, we are reminded of a person who was courageous, open to conversations and willing to “span the spark of conviction and inspire the world.” An inspiration for all of us.
My question for you is, how are you willing to be changed, seek out voices other than your own and open yourself up to transformation?