Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Politics & Spirituality

I read something last week, and I have been pondering it ever since. A woman I know wrote online, “Life is politics.” She went on to make it clear this was not an offhand remark, but something she had contemplated for a long time. Several years ago another woman said to me, “Everything is political.”

A lot of people would agree with them. Many people are passionate about politics. Especially these days when politics has become so intense that it threatens to tear apart our national unity.

For me life is not politics, and neither is everything political. I would say, “Life is Spirit” and “Everything is spiritual.” I am interested in politics but not overly so. I hold to certain political views. My views tend not to follow party platforms. I belong to a political party, but it is an uncomfortable fit. I often vote across party lines when I prefer another candidate.

I have an interest in politics, but politics is not very important in my life.  Apparently a lot of people agree with me because only half of eligible Americans vote. Sixty percent in a good year – like 2020. I do not view the world through a political lens. In fact I think that politics can be dangerous to one’s mental health. It can distort one’s view of life. Political ideologies can be so intense and all-consuming that they take on the characteristics of religious cults.

The way I see it, politics is a mental exercise. It is all in the mind. Political views are ideas that we use to organize society. They have no reality outside the human mind. You cannot see politics or smell it or touch it or taste it. If humans ceased to exist (as they certainly will someday) politics would cease to exist. They are an imaginary world.

I can hear the rebuttal by political activists as I write these words. Don’t political positions have consequences in real life? Yes, they do. Acting on them can mean life or death for real people. They can mean freedom or bondage for people. For that reason politics needs to be taken seriously. That is why I keep informed and vote.  But politics is not real life. A hug is real life. An act of kindness is real life. Politics is not life.

When I am standing on a sidewalk protesting some injustice or listening to a candidate give a stump speech, I am aware that I am playing a political role. It is no more real than an actor playing a role on a stage or in a movie. I am an actor playing a part. “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players,” as Shakespeare so eloquently said.

I am not the parts I play. I am not the masks I wear. I am not the political role I play. Neither am I the religious role I play, or the family role, or the economic role. I am not even the human role that I play. I have been playing the role of human being for 71 years, but that is not who I am. When that role ends with the death of this human body, who I really am will remain. I am playing the roles, but I am not the roles.

I know what I am. I am that space within which all roles are played. That sacred space is my true identity. For that reason I am not too attached to political opinions. Hence I am free to listen and change. I have changed much over the years. Politics is interesting and elections are exciting, but so is a Patriots game. They are not part of my identity. Being a pastor for forty years was great, but it was a role. It is not who I am.

I am Spirit. Life is Spiritual. It is true that Spirit cannot be seen or smelled or touched or tasted or heard. For many people spirituality seems as imaginary as politics. Many people think that spirituality is all in the mind. From Freud to Dawkins, thinkers have believed that religion is a delusion or an illusion. They may be right. But in my experience Spirit is real. This physical world feels illusory compared to Spirit.

I will continue to express political views, just as I will continue to express opinions on a variety of matters, religious and secular. But I am not invested in them. I know from experience that they fluctuate. Opinions come and go. Reality is what does not come and go. I know what I am. As Moses learned as he knelt before the burning bush, immediately before he embarked on a campaign to free his people from bondage in Egypt: I am that I am. That is what I am. That is Spirit. That is Life.

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