Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Viva La Dream

Somebody pinch me. I can’t be awake? Come to think of it, if the last 24 hours was a dream, please don’t wake me up, because I have died and gone to a better place. In this crazy dream, an African American just became President of the United States. An openly gay Bishop gave a prayer, a woman gave the Inaugural Sermon, Rick Warren invoked the name of a Muslim prophet, and non-believers were listed alongside Christians, Jews, Muslims and Hindus, as worthy and valued citizens.

Crazy as it sounds, while all this happened, millions of people cheered and wept for joy. I searched high and low in the dream for a naysayer, and came up blank. The closest I found to a criticism is that someone should have given the Obamas a dance lesson or two, and that someone might have trimmed Reverend Lowery’s eyebrows. But you know dreams. Everything is exaggerated.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, where all things are hopeful and new, where wolves lay peacefully with lambs and people work together for the good of the whole. I saw children from different races and backgrounds playing together, surrounded by adults who seek neither harm nor destruction but peace and unity.

Muslims were mentioned for the first time in an Inaugural Speech, and the word terrorism was not heard. It was a massive reversal. In this new earth, value was measured by what is built rather than what is destroyed. The silencing of dissent was listed as a deadly sin alongside corruption and deceit, and the punishment for sins was a matter of natural cause and effect rather than retribution.

In this new earth, entrenched and outmoded ideological divisions were left behind. Government was not measured by its size, but its effectiveness. The market was not a force to be supported or condemned, but used wisely and with oversight. Americans were called to recognize their relationship with all the earth, called to be worthy world leaders.

In this new earth, science was restored to its rightful place, without defense or anxiety. Technology that can save and improve life was no longer feared, but supported. The American dream within my dream was revived, a dream begun with the founding fathers for a free and open American melting pot. Diversity was considered a strength, rather than a weakness. It was fantastic. I could feel a broad smile creasing the pillow of my subconscious mind. Could this really be happening?

Well, I just pinched myself, and this is no dream. The last 24 hours will be forever remembered as a mighty symbol of unity and new hope the way the Bible uses apocalyptic imagery to describe a better time that is only a quantum leap in perspective away.

It was real, and the challenges are also real. Racism has not yet been overcome. Reverend Lowery’s thick brows no doubt serve to shade his eyes from the many atrocities he has seen and experienced in his long and courageous life. Homophobia and fear of difference is still a reality. Bishop Robinson carries the scars of hatred like a spear shaped mitre.

Much work has still to be done to bring the dream into reality. We will each find our place in that effort. When we are discouraged, or feel that we have slipped or lost ground, the symbol that was the Inauguration of President Obama will feed our collective imagination and drive us on. Our work is in the words of Reverend Lowery to seek “that day when black will not be asked to get in back, when brown can stick around ... when yellow will be mellow ... when the red man can get ahead, man; and when white will embrace what is right.”

In the words of the French Mayor I saw on CNN this morning, “Viva La Barack Obama.”
Viva la dream. Viva la hope. Viva la unity.

All those who do justice and love mercy say “Amen.”

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Obama and Effortless Effort

What a momentous day. It’s the inauguration of President Obama. I can’t even comprehend the pressure and expectation that is piled on the man from all around the world. He seems to handle it all so effortlessly. I’m enormously grateful for him, for his family and I’m grateful for the incredible groundswell of new energy that is sweeping our weary world.

Obama seems to have mastered the art of wu wei, effortless effort, playful action. Its something I aspire to practice more often in my life. Action that is effective and makes a difference, but action that also increases the peace rather than adding to the drama. Imagine the state of our world if all the Obama energy could be chanelled into playful action.

Carlos Castaneda described effortless effort well- ”If a warrior is to succeed at anything, the success must come gently, with a great deal of effort but with no stress or obsession.” (the link takes you to my friend Brian's great site Philosophers Notes, where he has all sorts of inspirational quotes from Castaneda and many others- worth a look)

While I was thinking about effortless effort, I kept coming back to the Bible’s creation story. There’s something playful about the whole story that captures my imagination. The Creator warrior of Genesis seemed to have effortless effort down pat. Psalm 104 got it in one sentence, describing the Creator “stretching out the heavens like a tent.” You have to have a sense of fun to parallel the creation of the universe with pitching a tent. All I can say is that we’re all very lucky that I wasn’t the creator. If you could only have seen some of the tents I’ve pitched in my time. The universe would be collapsing back in on all of us in the middle of a rainy night.

Ricky Gervais is one of my favorite comedians. He gives a beautiful account of the Genesis creation story as effortless effort. Excuse the language, be prepared to weep with laughter and if you’re short for time, just watch the first few minutes

God created the heaven and earth in the dark, then created light….he said “that’s everything, lets have a look, brilliant.” I love it.

My sermon this past Sunday was on action as a universal spiritual value. It seems that most of the world religions try to hold a balance between thought and action, faith and works. Maybe the only way to hold the balance is through effortless action. I spoke about a dream I had where I met Obama and we shared a light, effortless, moment.

Read the sermon if you want to find out about the dream, as well as some thoughts on effortless effort, and the amazing “Sully” Sullenberger who brought down a plane last week on the Hudson with some of his own effortless action.
I want to live my life with that impact- great effort, but minimal stress and attachment.