Reflections on 2013

DSC01281The most important event this year was Pope Francis. Our time is a moment for cultural shifts, an evolution in values away from self-centeredness to compassion. With his pronouncements on economic injustice, the Pope, supported by some 80% of American Catholics, has contributed to this cause.

Another significant event was the break in the Tea Party’s vise-like grip on the Republican Party, which opens up some possibility for some progress in Congress on some issues. How lasting this development will be remains to be seen. But those Republicans who want to win back the White House saw the writing on the wall. Especially with ongoing demographic changes, the Tea Party was leading them over the cliff. So I suspect the Tea Party is history.

Elizabeth Warren qualifies for third place. Her remarkable rise to prominence, conducted with such grace and poise, is profoundly heartening. Economic populism is percolating throughout the country. Even if she doesn’t enter the Democratic Party primaries, and I hope she does, she will likely continue to have an impact, for she is giving voice to a largely unrepresented sentiment that needs to be empowered.

In March, three academics, funded by the estimable Russell Sage Foundation, released “Democracy and the Policy Preferences of Wealthy Americans,” in which they reported that two-thirds of the general public in the United States believe “the government in Washington ought to see to it that everyone who wants to work can find a job” and 78% believe the minimum wage should be “high enough so that no family with a full-time worker falls below [the] official poverty line.”

Those numbers were not new to me. I knew that a majority hold this conviction. But its timing, and their use of the frame “see to it,” prompted me to undertake the Guarantee Living-Wage Jobs Campaign. With valuable assistance from the economist Dean Baker and the Internet strategist Michael Stein, I plan to launch that campaign early next year to encourage activist organizations to take on the issue.

I hope that this time I won’t get too excited by prospects for “success” and disappointed by apparent “failure.” I feel that I may have broken through to a new level of self-confidence, grounded in the awareness that I don’t need to prove anything to anyone (including myself). I can simply do the best that I can and let the chips fall where they may.

Writing my autobiography has helped in this regard. Reviewing my life in its entirety has helped me to regard my past efforts with greater respect.

Reading The Politics of Authenticity by Marshall Berman also helped. I now see more clearly that I am less alone than I sometimes feel, with my concerns about how the modern world fosters alienation and self-alienation, the divided self. These concerns go back to the onset of the modern age, and were beautifully expressed by Pascal and (the early) Rousseau, for example.

This book prompted me to shift my “holistic growth” focus toward enabling people to more fully “be real” and “true to themselves.” This shift will be reflected in the upcoming “The Personal, the Social, and the Political” survey.

Being so alone for so long here on the north coast of the Dominican Republic and really enjoying it has also helped. Dick Price, Esalen Institute co-founder, affirmed “moving toward increasing self-sufficiency, while drawing on support as needed.” I’m still on that path, and it feels good.

I still would prefer a deeper sense of community, remain open to that possibility, and will continue to try to find, experience, and/or nurture it. But in the meantime, I accept life.

The life force that drives evolution, or God, will prevail, even if humanity wipes humanity off the face of the Earth. And considering that there are at least one septillion (that’s 24 zeros) stars in the universe, most likely self-consciousness is alive elsewhere. So we humans are probably not as special as we think we are.

Paradoxically, being aware of this reality makes us very special. So, as Kathy Kelly’s Iraqi friend advised her, “Don’t forget to love the Universe.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.