I have in the past 24 hours had a myriad of thoughts running through my mind.
They do not on the surface seem to fit together, but in my warped way of thinking they do.
So bear with me while I explore some seemingly unrelated topics, beginning at home.
This afternoon Leaves on the Current begins chemo and resumes radiation. She has in the past few days had a positive mindset, as we allowed friends to come and visit - several who came were themselves survivors of medical situations which required chemo, and were able to give her support. Yesterday we drove around the countryside and then had a pleasant dinner in a country inn we love that has basically all-natural food, and she - normally a strict vegetarian - even ate a (humanely raised and antibiotic free) chicken. Except, perhaps by anticipation, she has been unable to sleep, because she is keyed up about today.
And then there is the political world.
Last night, like many here, I watched "Hubris." For anyone who paid attention there was little in the documentary that was not available in near real-time. The exception may have been how strong were the doubts of Colin Powell, yet even those were not enough to prevent him for offering his credibility to give the administration cover. It was however fascinating to watch on the one hand intelligence insiders like Paul Pillar devastate the administration arguments, and on the other to listen to Doug Feith, whom Tommy Franks once described as "the dumbest fucking guy on the planet" offering justifications for what the administration did. Leaves asked why this administration did not go after those who lied this country into war and about the only response I could offer is that there is no statute of limitations on war crimes, and an starting an aggressive war is a war crime.
This morning I read this column by Eugene Robinson in which he argues that the "leaking" of the President's immigration reform proposal was probably a deliberate political action that he views as very smart.
It was this last that in some strange way brought all this together.
I know this is primarily a political site, and like most who participate here I am often consumed by the intricacies of political strategy, tactics and intentions. And yet somehow Robinson's column brought to mind an earlier time, of Kremlinologists who would attempt to discern what was going on in the old USSR by who was standing by Lenin's Tomb at the important parades through Red Square, or who was airbrushed out of pictures of previous march reviews.
Yes, we seek at times to understand why people act and speak the way they do. Certainly in both political and military situations it is important to seek to understand one's opposition, to try to anticipate what they might do next, how they might react to certain hypotheticals.
But I wonder if we sometimes think too deeply, try to be too clever by far more than half in how we phrase things, in actions we take in order to try to influence others.
I wonder how different the world might be were we more open and honest about our own intentions?
That last sentence comes about from something else recent. After Meeting for Worship, our Ministry and Worship Committee led a "Second Hour" where attendees (not just members) at the Meeting were invited to stay and consider certain "Queries" (questions we ask ourselves) as we on the committee seek to discern so that we can report back on the Spiritual State of the Meeting. One part of the queries includes how we live our beliefs, how we give testimony/witness. I was note-taker for one of the three groups, and I remember one Friend noting that one reason there were so many Quaker Sea-Captains is the same reason there were so many successful Quaker small businessmen. You had to entrust the captain with a major investment, and because Quakers were acknowledged to live their beliefs fairly consistently, many non-Quakers were willing to trust them in business matters.
Because they lived their beliefs constantly - I reflect on thatand wonder how different our politics might be if more of our focus were on that rather than on attempting to discern and act in a way to obtain the maximum political benefit? Here I cannot help but note that one appeal of Ronald Reagan is that even many of those who might have disagreed with him on the substance of issues were willing to respect him because they believed he operated on the basis of some core beliefs.
Perhaps you see how this relates to the Robinson article and to "Hubris," but wonder how I connect this with my spouse. To me it is clear - unless we can acknowledge our fears they can distort how we live, even to the simple action of getting sufficient sleep before an important medical procedure. It is not that there is nothing to fear, rather that a named and acknowledged fear is far easier to address.
And a propos of my wife, in a sense letting friends visit over the extended weekend was a recognition of the risk to infection she will experience when she is undergoing chemo, as well as an acknowledgement that she does not know how she will feel while she is getting the chemicals. She realized she had to allow people to reach out and affirm while she is able to let go and receive the love and support, because she might not have the emotional strength as she wrestles with treatment. Certainly the drive in the country was a way of reconnecting with the natural world, with a window open, driving country road with farms, wooded areas, not much traffic. Going out for a good meal was an acknowledgement that she might not feel much like eating while undergoing chemo.
Life is pregnant with possibilities, not all of which can be sampled. Rather than wonder "what if" other choices had been made - as certainly each of us in a life relationship might wonder with the respect of our choice of life partner - is it not more beneficial to see what we can do with what is before us? Rather than lament a path that may now be closed to us, should not we be able to find delight in the paths now left that we might not otherwise have chosen or even perceived?
Yes, we have a responsibility to examine the past honestly, and it is not out of place to quietly assert that others should be honest about what they have done. All we ever need know about George W. Bush as a President and as a man was contained in one brief clip at the end of "Hubris" where when asked if he thought he should apologize pointed out that to apologize would be to agree that something wrong had been done and he did not think that going to war against Iraq was wrong.
We are so used to dissembling, not merely by political actors within and without the government but in so many areas of life as well, that sometimes we fail to recognize when we are being told what someone actually believes. We attempt to discern the motivation behind a particular set of words or a particular action that bothers us in some fashion, even if it conforms with our own beliefs.
How much healthier our lives would be if we started with ourselves, with what we actually believe?
I think one reason I was such an effective teacher is that I was willing to be honest and transparent with my students. For many of them it was an unusual experience, and one that empowered to be the same with themselves and with each other. The kind of learning that takes place in that kind of environment is very different than being in one where we measure our every deed and action in terms of the benefit it might bring us, or how it might incline others more favorably towards us. IF we act that way, then of course we will interpret the words and actions of others similarly.
I am not arguing that we should not examine the motivations of others - our very survival may depend on our ability to sucessfully do so. Neither am I arguing that we should be oblvious to how others perceive us. After all if they operate through the kinds of suspicion I think dominates much thinking on the personal level as much as on in the political arena, we need to understand how our words and actions MIGHT be interpreted.
I am saying something of a different nature - that we start from what we truly believe, and be willing to let that guide our lives in a way that begins to shape more completely how we speak and act. We begin to change the world in which we live by how we live. Or as Gandhi put it, we must ourselves be the change we wish to see in the world.
We may be afraid. It does not help for others to simply dismiss our fears. EVen if to the those fears are irrational, we will not fully hear what they have to offer until they acknowledge the reality of those fears to us.
It is similar with dreams and hopes, however unrealistic they may be. Others may feel they need to point out the difficulties or unlikelihoods, but we can hear that only in a frame that accepts their importance and reality to us.
I said this posting was a propos of nothing of importance. On some levels that is true of all that really matters. By itself it is not important. Its importance come about only as we take it into ourselves, that we make a part of our basic approach to living.
As I age, and as I encounter paths such as that flowing from my wife's cancer, I realize that at this point I have too little time left to waste on being someone I am not. There are things that are to me of paramount importance. I will not pretend otherwise. I am aware that may mean foregoing opportunities for some kinds of social contact, or of political influence, or of economic benefit. So be it. I would rather be comfortable in being in my own skin, living by my own standards, than in having adulation from others or receiving the ability to exercise power or authority or in accruing more money and possessions.
Like most simple truths, this is a propos of nothing of importance, even as its importance is beyond measure.
And that is what is on my mind this morning.
What about you?