The Pursuit of Happiness in Discourse
During next week’s Republican National Convention, I will be on a beach vacation living with people who have a variety of political views. Let’s just say some are completely at odds. I plan to enjoy the heck out of my time off.
I know what you’re thinking – she is off her rocker. She has left the stratosphere of what is actually possible. Is she living in a little bubble that shields her from ugly polarization and inane pettiness this presidential election season?
Perhaps, but I must thank the late Gore Vidal for this enlightened perspective. Or at least my ability to tap into a reasoned place that’s been lying dormant of late. You see, this month I saw his play The Best Man on Broadway about men vying for their party’s nomination for president in 1960. Candidates with dirt on each other do battle behind the scenes before the convention begins in Philadelphia. Performances by James Earl Jones and John Larroquette helped the absurdity float to the surface while Kristin Davis delighted in her role – quite a deviation from Charlotte -- as hussy, gold-digging political wife.
I left the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre thinking, “Holy cow, nothing has changed in politics. And it never will.”
Truth to power.
In his book A New Earth, author Eckhart Tolle speaks of a consciousness that goes beyond the “incessant stream of thinking” we experience and recognizes there is space prior to thought.
“What a liberation to realize that the ‘voice in my head’ is not who I am,” Tolle writes. “Who am I then? The one who sees that.”
Call it taking a deep breath before speaking. Call it reconsidering a knee-jerk comment before uttering it. I like to think of it as an awareness that allows us to put reason and calm over the urge to fight or be gratuitously unkind. We ‘see’ where our mind is taking us and ‘direct’ it elsewhere.
Stay with me here. Something tells me almost everyone in the country could use a lesson or refresher, as the case may be, in civility as we head into the election homestretch.
Here’s the thing. I already know who I am voting for. Everyone else at my beach house knows who they’re voting for. So what’s the point of fighting between now and November? There is no point whatsoever.
The machinations of political operatives are happening as we speak, whether we like it or not, whether we agree or not. Much will be discussed this fall regarding laws that significantly impact all of our lives. It is our duty to keep up. I don’t advocate apathy. We can back our cause or candidate by volunteering or writing checks or simply showing up at the voting booth. That’s what we can do.
But more importantly, we can live our lives and recognize what is really meaningful in our interactions. I’ve heard so many stories of rifts caused by politics. I have a new admittedly selfish element to add into the equation – I’m trying to stay off blood pressure medication. Frankly, no election is worth me jeopardizing my health debating nonsense spewed and rehashed by pundits.
We can inform ourselves and watch the pundits for sport. We can make a confident decision without labeling the other party racist, unpatriotic, ignorant or hate-filled. We could take responsibility for our own vote and cast it with pride in a country that allows us to do so. We can choose not to be a part of ‘us vs. them.’ That, above all, makes my stomach turn.
We can be as dismayed as we want about the discourse, but know it is our choice to engage, pass negativity along, to generalize. If we see an opening for real discussion, by all means we should enjoy that opportunity to expand our thinking and broaden someone else’s.
I recently chatted with a young man who is an atheist; I believe in a higher being. We were sitting next to each other at Starbucks and wound up in thoughtful conversation about how the brain works, the existence (or not) of God, and what is divine. The key, I find, is not to take a different viewpoint personally and to realize the aforementioned Eckhart Tolle awareness can take you to a deeper discussion place. If you can take a step back and see your own view as just that, a view, then opening to others’ ideas just adds to your own overall view. It doesn’t have to change your mind to enrich you.
It brings to mind part of the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi – “O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek … to be understood as to understand.”
I’m going to the beach next week, fulfilling my duty as an American to pursue some darned happiness.
Won’t you join me? Pursuing happiness, that is. My beach house is already full.
Nancy Colasurdo is a practicing life coach and freelance writer. Her Web site is www.nancola.com and you can follow her on Twitter @nancola. Please direct all questions/comments to FOXGamePlan@gmail.com.