What’s Worth a Big Smooch?

Adverse conditions are our spiritual teacher, sages say.  That’s why we might consider kissing Trump’s ring.  You know, metaphorically speaking.  Few people have made our nation so dangerous and our government so mean-spirited.  Few people, therefore, have obliged us so strongly to engage in one of life’s most important activities––sharpening our sense of:

    • What’s essential, what we cannot live without.
    • The values we hold sacred.
    • Who we aspire to be or die trying, no matter what.
    • And, given our answers (for ourselves individually, and for the world), the healthiest action we can take now.

Trump may be over the moon nuts, a crackpot extraordinaire with no ethical center, as trustworthy as a brain surgeon with hiccups, but anybody who prompts us to pay attention to considerations that help define the well-being of every person on earth is useful, if not enjoyable.

The universe hands me a rattlesnake and says, “What’s it going to be, Steve, love or fear?”  Experiences in this spirit have been some of the most valuable to me.

Perhaps most terrifying was the moment when I knew in every fiber of my being that, if I didn’t take a different path, I was going to die.  That despair is one of this life’s great gifts.  I often revisit it so that I may reaffirm its motivation: to do whatever is necessary to grow a peaceful heart.

I wonder if it is possible to become a healthy person or institution without actively experiencing, and forgiving, the brutality we set in motion by the thoughtless choices we make.

Choices like Trump, which to me has the feel of sleeping with an alligator.  Removing the alligator from our bed, preferably with gentleness, is obviously a high priority.  But more important in the long run is understanding what the heck led us to let an alligator into our bed in the first place.  What can we learn about ourselves that will help us make more mindful choices in every area of our life?

What’s unique about Trump is not that, like the Grinch, his heart is two sizes too small.  That’s hardly an exclusive club.  What’s unique about Trump is that he’s president––and we, collectively, gave him the job.  The resulting peril offers us the gift of inspiration to address life’s two most important questions: What’s going on, and what’s the healthiest action I can take in this moment?

Among the lessons we can learn from Trump’s presence, none may be more relevant––and difficult––than this: Trump is not responsible for how we feel about him.  Nothing “makes” us angry or anything else.  We’re not puppets.  Well, that’s not true.  We are puppets.  But only as the result of how we’ve defined reality: our beliefs, preferences, habits, addictions.  These are the strings that determine so much of our response to life, strings we can identify and free ourselves from if we wish.

Trump may be an especially potent example of adverse conditions being our spiritual teacher, but if your life is anything like mine, he’s far from the only example.  His is just one of any number of rings on which we might consider planting a big smooch of gratitude.

You know, metaphorically speaking.


  1. Brad Nichols said:
    Brilliant essay Steve! So interesting that adversity is always just opportunity in disguise. Cheers mate, Brad

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"I honor that we are killing the earth for the same reason I consider being an alcoholic a privilege: it is a doorway to the profound self-understanding required to make truly healthy choices."

The Essay: Honoring the Killing of the Earth