By Mary Summerbell
Just before the recent mid-term elections I was watching the news on MSNBC. Rachel Maddow was eagerly ready, as ever, to delve right into breathless, up-to-the-very-last-second updates of the most high profile campaigns nationwide. But then, she didn’t. At least, not yet. Instead, in an almost exaggerated gesture, she set aside her news script. And paused. Looking up, very deliberately and very directly, into the camera, it was as if she intended to make eye contact, personally, with every single one of us in her viewing audience, and was waiting until all of us were connecting before she continued. Clearly a huge clue that something was up. But what? She had my attention.
What she said next went something like this….A huge amount of interest, and lots and lots of enthusiasm and excitement have been generated by the upcoming mid-term elections. Democrats and Republicans alike are revved up, equally active in the political process. Record numbers of people, with vastly differing political views and opinions, are running for office, supporting candidates and speaking up about issues that are important to them – some for the first time in their lives. They are not only voting, but encouraging and helping others to vote, and defending voting rights when and where they see unfair treatment. The closer we get to the elections, the more suspense and speculation are escalating. Many, many people have strong hopes and expectations about the outcomes of many closely-contested efforts.
Let’s all stop, for a few minutes, to consider what things are going to be like after the elections. Try to imagine how you’re going to feel the next day – if your candidates win. And if they don’t win? How will the outcomes of the elections affect you? On city, county, state and national levels? How will your daily life be different, either way? What will change if you get what you want? If not? Win or lose, will you choose to continue to support political and community leaders in positive programs and activities? Will you keep speaking out about vital issues and ideas that you believe in and care about, no matter who your elected officials are? Republican, Democrat, or Independent, do you have a plan for what you’re going to do next to stay engaged as a citizen?
I was surprised. And impressed. This wasn’t the charmingly acerbic Rachel Maddow that I’m used to. She had shifted into something, well – softer. More thoughtful. Caring, even. She had turned her dynamic style and skills of public influence to a very positive and unifying message. Still provocative, but in an introspective way.
I only half-listened to the rest of the newscast, as I was mostly focused on what she just said, pondering the impact of it on me, and the personal and spiritual implications of it. The idea of unity in diversity, of bridging differences for a greater good, is something I’ve believed in most of my life. Not new. Being in the moment, also, is an old and oft-repeated principle in spiritual circles, although I’ve always thought of it more as being about not getting stuck in the past than not getting sucked into the future, as she spoke of it. I hadn’t applied the concept specifically to a political context before. But that’s not a big shift. Why, then, did this hit me so differently now? Why was it such a breakthrough moment for me?
I don’t know. And analyzing the factors didn’t bring me any insight to the seemingly sudden change in me. But I could see, clearly, now, in a way I hadn’t seen before, that if you live your life with purpose, with virtue, with abiding principles, there is so much that just doesn’t matter anymore. It all falls away. If you live a life of peace, balance, harmony, joy – live to heal, to teach, to create – then you can do all that any time, all the time, regardless of who is president, or which political party is in power. Soul is not political, does not answer to human authority. If you live to be honest, patient, kind, if you live to serve others – family, friends, community – even strangers, you can do that always, no matter what.
Sitting there quietly, thinking, an image came to me, like in a movie or a dream. I was like a mummy, seeing from inside myself. A light inside me was pushing out in all directions. I felt it pushing, pushing, pushing against something hard and dark all around me. Little specks of light pushed and pushed until they poked tiny holes through layers and layers of caked on, dried up, mucky, crusty stuff all around me. The holes got bigger and bigger, with more light shining out, until the shell just cracked in half and crumpled to dust at my feet. I stepped out of what felt like a mold of old ideas and beliefs.
It was so liberating. Minutes before I’d been absorbed in the drama of the news, of current events – excited, tense, hopeful – focused on a particular future I wanted to see. I was eagerly waiting for something better – not seeing the gold of the moment. Now, I felt calm, relaxed, as if something controlling had just drained out of me, no longer holding me in the darkness of its sticky grip. I felt – and still feel- strangely free in a good, new way.
I haven’t lost interest in current events. I still watch the news. But not as often, and not delving into every teeny-tiny detail. I was pleased with mid-term results, but prepared for any turnout. I’m newly set to live my principles in any political environment, in any situation. I’m still a Rachel Maddow fan. She keeps me thinking. But I’m much happier than I used to be just doing what I can, (like writing this article), in the moment, to make the world a better place – without expectation of outcome.