21 October 2008

Nuance

Dear Drummers,

I am looking forward to drumming with you this Friday. I feel like I have been “away” for a long time because of recuperating from surgery to repair a detached retina. All seems to be well with my eye although as any of you know who have had to be patient while healing, it takes far longer than you wish.

So with one good eye and one terribly blurry eye, I have watched the presidential campaign sink into the expected malodorousness, and have wondered why we all – left to right, anarchist to wing nut –claim distaste at swimming in the sewer yet we all so happily jump in every election. I wonder how the mobs of wingnuts can love the eliminator of sin while hyukking it up at Limbaugh’s racist quips, and I wonder how the lefties can decry hate mongers while stretching truth as weirdly as possible to paint political opponents as wholly demonic.

Don’t get me wrong—I live firmly on the angry left; I believe the current administration is full of actual criminals and I believe the GOP was taken over 30 years ago by cynical strategists who understood that because so few people vote in America, all you need to do to snatch the presidency is to turn out everybody in a subset of the populace. They targeted radical evangelicals, people with only a passing understanding of Christianity, and it worked. Their tactic was to create division and righteous anger at “the other” and it worked as it has throughout history. In the world of Celtic shamanism, this strategy would be called an incredibly powerful glamoury- a spell that covers the ugly truth with a dazzling sheen. George Bush, compassionate Christian hero, is a triumphant glam.

I saw Bill Maher’s new movie Religulous yesterday – his rant against religion as dumb people believing in dumb fairy tales. I admired the movie but like all political strategists, Hollywood writers and pyromaniacs his goal is merely to set a fire, not explore the nuanced human condition. Nuance is virtually dead in our public sphere and this is the root of such vast soul loss. Nuance is the place of subtlety, of shade, or as the Celts would say, the “between places.” It is in the between places that, in religions’ dumb myths, we meet God. And this is what unites both Maher’s movie and those he ridicules, and what oddly aligns Maher with the Karl Roves of the political world: all stay away from the between places in order to “win.”

The “economic crisis” is yet another subject that begs for nuance and will not receive it. We revel in the failure because it offers us the glee of casting blame on greedy Wall Street gamblers and the corrupt Bushies who gave them the keys to our treasury. Or we snidely blame the democrats for changing laws that forced honest bankers to make risky loans. Or as our beloved Rep. Bachman appears to, we just directly blame the poor for audaciously wanting to own a house, to participate in the “real” America. Or we blame predatory lenders for tricking people into buying a $600,000 house in the suburbs. The most nuanced description of the economic crisis I have come across is in last Sunday’s New York Times. Click here for it.

In the world of nuance, there is not a war between the light and dark, truth and error, a war between reason and fairy tale, a war between religion and atheism. In the world of nuance there is a path between the hard mountain of literalism and the surging ocean of metaphor, between law and experience, between certainty and doubt. I believe if we are to call ourselves religious or spiritual, or conscious, or smart we devote ourselves to walking the whole path back and forth, to learn how to believe in something that beautifies our lives and to learn how to unbelieve when it is time to do so, so that we may learn how to believe the next deeper thing that we are capable of grasping, that brings deeper beauty.

The drum helps me walk this long path from ocean to mountain, back and forth, again and again. All of you help each other walk it when you choose to gather together around the drum rather than do something else. And that is why I miss the drum so much right now and why I miss all of you.

This Friday I look forward to exploring this path between ocean and mountain and back with you.

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