A Third Way in the Partisan Fray: Focused Meditation

Years ago I picked up a little Christian meditation guidebook with a focusing message for a few minutes of sitting for every day of a monthly cycle. Much of it involved imagining a “Christ Center” that lived inside your forehead, that you would simultaneously lift with a straight back and look at with straight-forward eyes. Each page had opposite a beautiful landscape photo, to replace the environment in which you were sitting with something more conducive.

That model of spiritual practice has given me a completely different path through the current electoral season. My Facebook friends, my partner, and yes, even my own lesser self on many occasions, have  jumped enthusiastically into the partisan fray. Name-calling about name-calling. Fundraising to combat big money. The cacophony appeals to all our basest instincts. We are bullies. We are brutish. Most of all, we’re acting stupid in order to impress stupid people.

This Christian meditation technique works perfectly with the analytic models I learned from my economist father and foreign policy grandfathers, and then took into my own brief stint in military and political analysis. Generals know there is shooting, they know how to answer it — but in the three-level world of tactics, strategy and goals, they stay focused on larger goals won by wider strategy. Tactics are for field commanders.

The only way to recover this nation’s political soul is for religious leaders to act less like field commanders and more like generals. The right has generals sending out well-planned ranks, and the left gets spooked by the shooting every time.

This focused meditation skill seems to be my method of responding to hours and hours of nightly news. No matter what the battle report says that day, I ask myself one of these two questions:

“How can this be used to advance single payer universal access health care?”

or

“How can this be used to restore the notion that sustained middle class family life is a universal human right?”

In this fight, I have no enemies, I have no allies. There are only people who get us closer to these goals, and events that result each night in a status evaluation. Each morning brings a new obligation to use this information to meet my goals. Lots of folks feel this as cruelty or disloyalty, because their goal is “a community of like-minded people supporting each other.” That’s fine for one or two hours a week to revive our spirits, but it’s not patriotism — love of the WHOLE country — and it’s certainly no way to use an election cycle to move the electorate toward fuller implementation of what the United Nations once defined as our human rights.

 

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