In another marathon voting season, lasting at least two years, we may wonder who we ought to vote for, who will “save” our country from more of its evils and flaws. We also might wonder if we could have a shorter season, like the Canadians, or the Brits, with just a few weeks. And a lot less money.
When I find myself tense over possible outcomes with various candidates, I try to remember to take a deep breath and relax. No one is going to “fix it.” Fixes for myriads of social ills have been applied since time began and humanity began walking on earth. Most reforms come from philosophical and religious viewpoints. Some changes seem outrageous and evil, its leaders portrayed as evil, wicked, and deserving of death. How then can we decide?
As one who has tried to live and teach “spirituality,” I often have asked how one’s choice or viewpoint can make a difference? Throughout my career, I grew to accept certain candidates as more “Christian” according to my brand at the time. Thus choices changed as I moved from fundamentalist, evangelical, and liberal Christianity into what I consider to be a more “spiritual viewpoint.”
In July, 1986, I met Fr. Anthony de Mello during a conference in Syracuse. A Jesuit teacher from India, he was teaching “spirituality.” In his mid-50’s with a sharp wit and gifted speaking ability, he said, “If you are detached and free, you will become ‘social action!’” His words stunned me, as I tried to understand what he meant. It was like seeing a new flower beginning to bloom and wanting to learn more about it.
When I was around 12 years old, I considered myself “born again” because I accepted Jesus as my savior. In a few years, I was taught to associate this born again experience with voting for certain candidates. I eventually campaigned for some with bumper stickers and phone calls. What occurred over the years, however, was that my understanding of “born again” expanded and my views evolved to an expanded realization.
Today, I try to see others from more than a “human point of view.” I tend to see them at a deeper level, beyond the outside identities and views they might have been taught. I am more likely to see human bodies as temporary as I do the whole world: indeed, the whole universe. For what we see outside ourselves as bodies and earth and universe, are all temporal. They change and pass with time.
The Bible has a verse which goes, “…we regard no one from a human point of view.” Further, “If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see everything has become new!” These are words from an early church writer named “Paul” in a letter he wrote called 2nd Corinthians, chapter 5, verses 16 and 17. Over the years, this idea has evolved and blossomed in me to see everything differently. I have grown to see my body as only a temporary housing, with all its identities and actions. The body, however, is not who I really am. Paul wrote in the same chapter, “…we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heaven.” It is one of my favorite Bible passages which I have read at many funeral services conducted over the years.
In “awakening,” we see our bodies not as who we are. Contrary, we see our essence as spirit or Christ, or whatever name people have called it over the many centuries in different cultures. There have always been teachers or “enlightened” people who discovered this, either through other teachers or in simple “awakenings.” In this new awareness, or birth, we grow to see everything differently. Earlier beliefs and teachings often are transformed or even discarded. We can grow old seeing more deeply our bodies as temporary houses, used hopefully for some kindnesses to others before we move back into our “Eternal Oneness.”
How then, does this understanding affect my voting perspectives? First, as spiritual teachers have often said, the outside world of form and matter is only temporary. It comes and goes. Beyond using this world to discover our deepest Selves, it can be seen as quite a crazy place! Fr. de Mello taught, “Unless you see the outside world as mostly purposelessness and crazy, you will never be free!” Or, as the Bible says, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world; for all that is in the world—the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride of riches—comes not from the Father but from the world. And the world and its desires are passing away, but those who do the will of God live forever.” (1 John 2:15-17, NRSV)
Sri Ramana Maharishi, whose ashram I visited in southern India, once said,
“Discontent is due to the wrong identity of the Eternal Self with the perishable body. The body is a necessary adjunt of the ego. If the ego is killed, the eternal Self is revealed in all its glory. The body is the cross, Jesus, the Son of Man, is the ego or ‘I-am-the-body’ idea. When he is crucified, he is resurrected, a Glorious Self, Jesus, the Son of God. Give up this life if you wouldst live.” (Talk 396 in “Conscious Immortality” by Paul Brunton)
How can I best vote and make an impact of positive help in a very angry and insane world? By not taking it so seriously. By staying detached with a healthy and detached distance. Be not like the bee who came to the honey and got stuck! Vote for the one who seems in your mind the most detached and loving, those who appear to love and reach out to those most discouraged, hungry, and in need of basic humanitarian help. Yes, these are loaded words. There will always be plenty of such need as long as this world exists. Thus we remember the purpose of the world, a “classroom” to awaken to our Higher Christ Selves and then share the vision with others.
What if my favored candidate loses and all seems more scarier than before? Remember, such is the cycle of the physical, time-bound world. It is a scary place, but it will pass. In reality, there is no death, only a moving on or back to our Source. The Bible and “Holy books” are filled with such references. People have learned to die with complete surrender and peace.
Thus, be detached from the things of this world, and you WILL be social action and change! And being kind and forgiving to your neighbors who might vote differently, is a good place to start.