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Saturday, November 30, 2002

Holiday Advice

People like me who tend to lapse too easily into cynicism and despair, are well-advised to grab a dose of Rabbi Michael Lerner from time to time. He has some thought-provoking advice for those of us having a hard time breaking out of our post-election funk. In a wonderful piece in Tikkun, entitled “Post-Election Depression: Don't Let the Lights Go Out,” he points out that “this year Chanukah and Xmas will have a particular urgency for the many liberals and progressives who are wallowing in post-election depression.”

Rabbi Lerner counsels those on the left to borrow a page from the right and emulate their approach to reconstruction and revival after their debacle in the ’64 elections. He reminds us that, in order to emerge from their nadir, the conservatives took it upon themselves to:

“fashion a whole new ideological foundation, and then. . . the painstaking work of being in the minority and staying there while convincing people about the validity of their new way of thinking. They recognized that ideas matter, and they built think tanks, national organizations that advanced right wing ideals, fought for their ideas in professional associations and in media that they sometimes had to create for themselves, and went through the painful work of building caucuses in churches and on university campuses.”

Then Lerner turns his advice inward, and here, I think, is where it has real power:

”Stop what you are doing and start to develop an inner spiritual practice. Get in touch with your own mortality, the fragility of your own lives, and the absurdity of ego-tripping. Get in touch with your own heart. Ask yourself if you had not gotten into politics whether you think you’d really be moved by the kinds of things liberal or progressive politicians talk about, or whether you too might not want to just retreat into personal life. Dare to be honest with yourself. Listen to your own heart. Clear out the clutter of the voices telling you to accomplish something, and instead just listen to the deepest voices within you and ask them to tell you how close you are to the highest God energy within you, or what you need to do to get closer to that.” I know that Democrats and progressives don’t think this way—but I’m looking for some way to get them to stop thinking in the old way, and to start to recognize that when somebody says that an idea is “utopian,” that’s a high recommendation. The world that the practical politicians have given us isn’t working—it’s leading to war, inequality, ecological destructiveness. It’s time to go in a different direction. And that’s what a politics of meaning or what I call an Emancipatory Spirituality is about.”

Thanks to wood s lot for the link.


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