“May you live in interesting times.” I was disappointed to learn that this quote, which pretends to be a “blessing” but is more meant as a subversive and particularly dark curse, does not have a mystical and ancient origin amongst Chinese lore as is so often attributed. Even so, the quote grabs us, doesn’t it? It refuses to be accepted at face value, and so our spirits waste no time delving into the darker implications of such a proclamation.
We certainly do live in interesting times, though few generations I suspect could truly claim to experience otherwise. Those of us who live in and near the US have been inundated for months now with the hellish landscape that is the Presidential election.
Hey…this guy won the US Presidential election:
Weird to see George Washington as a younger man, eh? He lived in interesting times, too, so going bald and white-haired later in life might just be an acceptable by-product for his level of heroism. Did you know the very first Presidential election was unanimous within the Electoral College, by the way?
Oh, hey – *this* guy won the US Presidential election, too…:
Depictions of Washington and Lincoln, both when they were about my age – which is why I have chosen these particular likenesses. It’s good to have role models that we can relate to, those that have achieved humble greatness to which we may aspire.
It’s certainly ideal when our political leaders carry themselves with the poise, tenacity, and deep-rooted character to inspire and carry forth a group of people towards greatness, but certainly this hasn’t always been the case, won’t always be the case, and isn’t the case at the moment.
So I choose instead to be inspired not by the political leaders of the present, but by those whom I am surrounded by daily.
-Friends who have come to champion the plight of refugees or those without daily access to clean water by fund-raising and personal involvement in the lives of those attempting to rebuild.
-Religious leaders and scholars who have refused to accept the “Evangelical” or “Catholic” or “_____” status quo, instead plowing brave theological territory to offer freedom to those of my generation who have been spiritually crippled by oppressive teachings and abusive teachers. Incidentally, this ground has been plowed at times despite significant personal and professional cost.
-Those who choose to volunteer their time and talents, often invisibly, towards the betterment of their communities. True service is the genuine antidote to the spirit of this unfortunate Presidential election.
And there are so many, many others I could list.
The other day, I heard a pastor relay an important thought on the radio as I drove to work. His belief is that a spirit (or, if you wish, a demon) of racism, belligerence, and selfish ambition, rooted in fear, has found a home in many “civilized” parts of our world. This election cycle, he stated, is just one reflection of this wider spirit. I think he’s right.
Whether you have a direct involvement in the US electoral process or not, we all share in the awareness of such a spirit attempting to turn us away from the Light that is God’s true design for us. This realization in recent days has made me more repentant, more aware of the times I act with selfish self-interest above common human civility. It has made me aware when my own spirit is isolated and in deep poverty. The many, so many times, I fail to look a fellow human in the eyes just because they’re asking for money.
Even if we harbour a distaste for the candidates’ perceived character and actions, we cannot avoid looking in their faces and finding, to our own horror, a mirror. To avoid such is to lose a teachable moment for ourselves.
So, true service. Spiritual awareness of our own poverty in spirit. Pushing one another towards love and good deeds, because I read that somewhere reliable. Amen, and amen.