There is lots of speculation going on now about whether or not this worldwide pandemic is going to have a lasting influence on our way of life, the way we work, our way of thinking. How will the world be different? How will our lives be different? Or will we just go back to the way it always was, each with our own Covid19 quarantine memories and “war” stories? “Back in 2020…” You know how that goes. The truth is, in spite of all the difficulties and danger we are now facing, every day we hear of incredible gifts of the heart, mind, and spirit that people are both giving and receiving. Slowing down like this, stopping the merry-go-round of “normal” life has provided some great insights and realizations about who and what we are, both individually and collectively. Though I would not wish this on anybody, I do hear of the true blessings people are feeling. I am sure you do as well. I have also mourned the loss of a longtime friend so I do not for a second minimize the suffering, the pain, the fears, the sorrow. They, too, are most real.
The other day (at the time of this writing) I saw a picture of a man protesting the shutdown. There was so much fury in his contorted face. He wasn’t the only one. Millions of Americans feel unheard, disrespected, and marginalized. They feel this country has been “taken over” by privileged elites (like myself) who are clueless as to their real life, every day struggles—their fears and dashed hopes. They feel that people of color and immigrants are getting all the breaks at their expense. Hillary may have referred to them as a “basket of deplorables” (and yes, there are some truly awful, hate-mongering folks among them out there) but I am certain for most of them their friends and loved ones see them as “really good people.” And somehow, ironically, Donald Trump (the millionaire power broker) became the voice for their anger and frustration. It was in the moment of staring at the photo that I realized there really is no political solution to the separate realities we face in our country, in our world. Of course I will vote for Joe Biden in an attempt to restore some honest dignity and decency to the highest office in the land; but unless and until we start to see and speak about this situation differently, we will never get out of this mess.
Someone asked me the other day if I hate the President. Truthfully, I don’t hate him. I hate what is happening to our nation under his leadership that looks to divide us through fear mongering and “other-ing”. But really, I just feel sorry for him and especially his family. He is a really messed up guy who just happens to be the President of our great nation. And, quite frankly, all the Trump bashing and jokes upon which I was fixated for the first years of his presidency no longer grab my attention or interest. I’m really over it.
We live in what often appears to be a binary world. Something is either this or it is that, right or wrong, me or you, us or them. I fully understand how attractive and comforting it can be to live in that world, especially in a time of great upheaval and change. I get to know who I am, where I belong, who are my people, and who are my enemies. I know what to do and when we do it. There is no confusion, no uncertainty, and no ambiguity. However, ALL binary, black and white thinking limits possibilities. And what we are learning from science, something the great mystical/spiritual traditions have always known, is that the world and everything in it including us, has much more in common than that which separates it. Even what we name as binary is really two sides of the same thing—yin/yang in the Far Eastern traditions, sitra d’atra in the Jewish kabbalah, the shadow side in Jungian analysis are just some of the ways we have recognized and understood it. I call myself male, but I know that much of my DNA is female. In fact, and maybe it took the Covid19 pandemic and physical isolation to remind us, the world is really one. There is no such thing as a fully autonomous separate individual. We are one interconnected reality and what I do and say and think affects EVERYONE and EVERYTHING else. When one person sneezes in New York, the whole world needs to say, “gesundheit!”
Who is right and who is wrong is a binary conversation which creates winners and losers. “When we take back the White House and the Senate we are going to correct everything and tear down that f*^#ing wall!” Sure. Until the pendulum swings and “they” take it back and so it goes. Such thinking may give us a temporary power high, but it is always temporary. The fact that we cannot stop watching our version of the “news”, posting condemnatory articles, proving we are right (opinion polls say…) and they are wrong IS THE PROBLEM. We are having two separate conversations and quite frankly, the who is right and who is wrong conversation just keeps us stuck. I have, quite literally, turned the TV off. It is getting us nowhere.
Jews often refer to people of other faiths as “non-Jews.” Have you ever heard of a person call themselves a “non-Jew?” I know my people mean no harm by this term but that, in and of itself, is part of the problem. We have so internalized a binary universe that we see no harm in it. I have a good friend whom I love who is an ardent Zionist as am I. Recently we went back and forth about the current awful situation in Israel. But when he wrote “Palestinians,” I totally lost it. Putting quotation marks around anyone’s aspirations no matter how foolish or ridiculous or wrong they might appear to us is a way to dismiss them as less, or inferior, or even worse, not worthy of existence. I can only imagine his reaction to them saying so-called “Israel”. But that’s what can happen when we live inside a binary worldview.
So on my planet, the one we call earth, the only one we have right now, I am staking my claim by declaring we will need to learn a different language called, “We are all in this together as ONE”. How would I speak and act if I truly saw that there is no them or us but only WE? It is a different conversation. NOT necessarily a better one. However, in my conversation I am only interested in how we can ALL win. We all win or no one wins. And that conversation begins with our hearts and our listening, really listening to one another.