I’ve explained before how I’ve decided to not engage in “battle” and “fight” metaphors with regard to my brain tumor, and instead choose “healing” and “wholeness” as themes in my unexpected journey dealing with brain cancer.
I can’t afford to spend time and energy fighting a part of myself that needs to be healed. The very definition of wholeness means that nothing can be excluded or marginalized. Nothing is to be rejected or dismissed. Everything must be included, accepted and loved for what it is – brokenness, sickness, warts, and all. As one of my favorite spiritual writers, Richard Rohr, says, “everything belongs.”
This is true inside my brain. I am learning to love all that is injured and hurting and cancerous inside of myself. I am learning compassion for this part of me. In short, I am learning about mercy. My tendency toward anger and bravado as an initial response to many situations is giving way to an increasing desire to understand and to listen and to tend to and to love. For anyone who has come into contact with the fiery, overbearing, angry side of my personality (and you know who you are), you will recognize this as a big change in attitude for me.
My dear old college friend, Ted, send me a link to this song last night. It’s called “Love and Mercy” by Brian Wilson. It’s my new theme song for my journey.
It strikes me that all this love and mercy going on inside of my brain could do some good on the outside of my brain as well, particularly now that we are in an election year.
What if we could use the time we have before the November election as a time of healing and of moving towards wholeness in American politics? What if our country could collectively decide to stop using the metaphors of “fight” and “campaign” and “battle” as we choose our President?
What might healing and wholeness look like if it were truly lived in American politics during the next nine months? My brain tumor and I, together, are trying to imagine this tonight.
I think candidates would worry less about being (or appearing) “right,” and would concentrate more on being inclusive and kind. They would be more concerned about the process of listening, than the business of winning.
There are many possible answers to the many political issues we face as a country. Most of these answers have at least some grain of truth and rationality to them – there is something that makes them appealing in some way to at least some people. But no one idea is completely whole in and of itself. It is just one way of approaching the whole; it is a single sliver of light shed on a still partially shadowed and unclear larger whole. Every potential “solution” put forth by any candidate is merely one possibility for dealing with the problem.
If candidates could let go of their way as being the only right way of accomplishing something, they would better be able to see and appreciate not only the nuances of the questions at hand, but also the differing and divergent needs of the people these questions affect. If candidates could just remember that their answer is only partial, perhaps they could stop fighting so hard, and begin to listen to all the needs that are out there trying to be heard.
We all have different ways of looking at a given issue. This should be seen as a good thing, but somehow instead we have begun viewing each other as villains precisely for having differing viewpoints. This doesn’t even make sense – yet it has become the “normal” terrain of politics in the U.S.
The reality is that different visions are where our real strengths lie. Differing viewpoints are where real, comprehensive, thoughtful answers can grow from – but only if we listen to each other and work together to create real, deeper understandings of larger truths. When different viewpoints join together creatively – as opposed to dig in oppositionally – new solutions arise. We can meld and shape and combine and recombine differing ideas into something more wonderful than one single mind could ever dream up. This is how ultra-creative companies work – they put their people in a room and let them play around with ideas, concepts, and approaches. Nothing is off limits or off the table. Everything is in the realm of possibility. This is the kind of process that can lead to something new. Something that works.
Our political system has not been engaging in this kind of creative process at all. One side has one idea that they won’t budge from. The other side has another idea that they won’t budge from. They both dig in their heels, refuse to talk or “compromise” (a loaded and altogether unhelpful word that merely serves to uphold some kind of orthodoxy or perceived moral superiority), and they just glare at each other across the table and swear never to back down. He or she who has the biggest tantrum is perceived to be the strongest. Hello? We are not puffer fish. This is silly, and more importantly, ineffective, behavior.
I have a brain tumor. I am not willing to waste my time this election year pretending that this approach has ever worked or has a chance of working now. Forgive me if I seem impatient. But it has to stop.
In the limited context of my brain, my brain tumor and I have to learn to work together in order to heal. I have to learn to listen to its needs, which are not necessarily intuitive or easy for me to understand. It has to trust me to listen to it, and to believe that I really do want it to be healed and made whole, as opposed to just “gotten rid of” or made to “go away” so I can get on with my life. Nope. This is about both of us. We have to do this together, or it’s not going to work. The Fran Universe has to include both of us. If one is excluded, both will cease to exist.
Do you see where I am going with this? The wholeness I am seeking in my brain, with my brain tumor, is what our country needs in this election year. We need to listen to each other. We need to actually want what is good for the “other” as well as for “us.” In fact, we need to realize that there is no “other” – it is all “us.” We can’t be whole, we can’t heal, without each other. The point this election year cannot be merely to win. The point this election year is to creatively, collectively find a path to unity, wholeness, healing, and health. For all.
Digging in our heels and claiming moral or intellectual superiority will never get us there. We need to establish a new political environment in the United States, a milieu, where we can work together, creatively. A place of dialogue and listening to real needs. A place of openness to new approaches – willingness to try totally new combinations of ideas and dreams and hopes that include everyone. Where nothing is excluded. Where everything belongs.
Being “right” isn’t what we need our candidates to be this year. Instead, we need them to be engaged in an inclusive, creative, listening, and kind process.
Candidates: HOW you do things – how you treat others, the violent or nonviolent language you use, whether or not you can be open to ideas and feelings and needs and fears and hopes that are not your own or your support base’s, whether you speak in terms of “them vs. us” or whether you include everyone as your consistency – shows us not only who you are, but what type of world you are capable of helping us create.
My brain tumor and I do not choose a world view of battle and fighting. We choose unity. We choose listening. We choose wholeness, health, and healing. We choose building bridges. We choose love and mercy. In short, we choose to learn how to change and grow and stretch and become a better, more complete person as a result of the challenges we are faced with because of brain cancer.
The people of the United States need healing and unity as much – or more – than my brain does. Let’s collectively choose a new metaphor – beyond fighting – that will actually help us get there.