Even with tears in their eyes, the gods have been smiling for weeks at the Great Mess triggered by our choice of president. That’s what gods do when they recognize that we, in our sleep, have created for ourselves an opportunity bordering on demand to address the question: Who will I be or die trying?
Yes, we’re in for some gruesome times. Military occupation of Manhattan if that’s what it takes to get Saturday Night Live off the air? Who would bet the farm against it? Our problem isn’t that Trump is malevolent. He’s far more dangerous than that. He’s absent. The way a drug addict is absent. The way a sociopath is absent. The way “A stiff prick knows no conscience” is absent. And that absence, that absence of humility, sincerity, empathy, that absence of even a sense of humor, has become a void of integrity in which some of our culture’s nastiest instincts are flourishing.
Even we who know this may wonder why it might cause the gods to smile.
The Big Picture. Knowing that a nation lives, not by its material achievements, but in its masterpieces of men and women. Having witnessed since forever how threats of profound harm are reminders that commitments have virtually no value until they are aligned with action. Recognizing that Trump is Santa Claus for anyone whose answer to the “Who will I be…?” question is: “Bring my very best self to whatever life presents.” This is among the big enchiladas of human aspiration. And the fact that Trump (unbeknownst to him, of course) can help us achieve it––just tickles the gods no end.
Many of us find it difficult to rise above the pain Trump’s presence has instigated, and pain unmanaged becomes anger in any of its many faces. Resisting what Trump represents from a place of anger may be the best we can do at times, but as a long-term strategy, we know in our heart, it’s unrewarding. Anger eats us alive, like any narcotic used habitually. It’s a cheap thrill that turns us dry, brittle, tight, shrill––it turns us into Trump. Worse, we convince ourselves that we’re not responsible for our anger, our blame, our resentment, our hatred, our cynicism, that indeed we’re the victim here, for crying out loud. If it weren’t for that jerk, we’d be singin’ in the rain. Sadly, when we hold others, or outside circumstances, responsible for our happiness or lack of it, heartache is the only sure outcome. As they say in the addiction trade, victims never recover.
Our anger may help get Trump out of office (after all, anger got him elected), but it will never heal the nation, or, more importantly, nurture our very best self. Only love allows us to put our heart and soul in service of a noble ambition––living those qualities that include humility, sincerity, empathy and humor––without diminishing our efforts, and ourselves, with the drug of animosity. It’s heartening that yesterday’s worldwide protest of women against Trump was called by many “an uprising of love.”
In the stunningly beautiful book, “Walking With The Wind, A Memoir of the Movement,” by John Lewis, civil rights leader and Congressman from Georgia, Mr. Lewis writes: “If you want to create an open society, your means of doing so must be consistent with the society you want to create. Means and ends are absolutely inseparable. Violence begets violence. Hatred begets hatred. Anger begets anger, every minute of the day, in the smallest of moments as well as the largest.” This gives you a clue why Mr. Lewis declined to attend Trump’s inauguration.
There is so much we can learn about ourselves through our relationship with Trump, but if appreciating, and taking action to reduce, the abuse we inflict on ourselves and others by our anger, our unmanaged fear, were the only lesson we learned in this lifetime, we’d be well on our way to sainthood. We’d be growing a peaceful heart, the most powerful place from which to meet, and heal, the pain of the world.
This is why the gods are smiling.