Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Spiritual Democracy - Finding a Voice in Iran

Millions of people around the world wept when Susan Boyle sang I Dreamed a Dream on the TV show Britain’s Got Talent. The situation couldn’t have been choreographed to be any more inspiring. This was a rare moment of awakened humanity. The surprise on the faces of the judges was matched by the surprise of Susan Boyle who grew in confidence with every breath and note.

We wept because there was a part of every one of us, even those of us who are tone deaf, that WAS Susan Boyle that day. She was dreaming a universal dream, singing a song for all of us. She stood before the judges, composed herself and released a power that came from so deep within her that it appeared to be coming from beyond her.

The surprise factor was magnificent. She didn’t look talented. She didn’t even look like a singer. The sound of her voice resonated with the part in all of us that can scarcely believe our power and potential. We shrink from it, and suppress the vision out of fear.

Spiritual democracy affirms that every person has a beautiful and unique voice, and our spiritual responsibility is to coax it out of each other. It is the task of teacher, friend and colleague to call out, sometimes with surprise, the voice within. This inner voice taps into the One Voice, the Source of All Voices that has a surreal appearance but couldn’t be any more real. It is the voice we often stumble on during crises and dreams, meditation and trances; anytime when we get our ego out of the way and let the inner voice sing. It leads to reactions like, “I don’t know where that came from” and “I was channeling some other power.”

We get the ego out of the way when we drop our defense mechanisms such as cynicism and judgment. Once the world dropped its judgment on the appearance of Susan Boyle, we were liberated by her genius. My favorite moment in Susan Boyle’s performance was when Simon Cowell stopped being a judge for a moment and allowed himself to be surprised. His mouth formed the shape of the sound, “Awww”, which incidentally is universal language for “Divine Wonder.”

Hopefully, we look at each other differently because of Susan Boyle. Hopefully, we are a little more forgiving and supportive. Like Susan, you will have your off days, and some days you won’t have the inner gumption to face the public. Give yourself a break, compose yourself and then sing again.

There is a power and passion within every person. Sometimes it lays dormant, waiting to be awakened. Expect to find greatness in others. Expect brilliance. Be prepared to be surprised. Tone down the inner judge and allow yourself to be inspired.

Now apply this notion of spiritual democracy to the turbulent situation in Iran. Spiritual democracy asserts that everyone has a valid voice, including minorities and protesters.

Iran stands before its western judges like a shell shocked Susan Boyle. Many in the west seem to doubt that democracy is possible in Iran. Allow the unexpected to surprise you. It may not look like democracy in America, but an Iranian form of democracy is quite possible. Islam is just as diverse as Christianity. Muslim reformers and Sunnis, the majority expression of Islam in the world today, teaches that leaders should be elected and held accountable by the people. They assert that spiritual leaders are fallible and people should develop personal relationships with the God of their understanding rather than swallowing the teachings hook, line and sinker. Sufis and Bahai’is, mystical and non dogmatic branches of Islam, number in the millions in Iran.

Democracy in Iran certainly has some hurdles. The recent election was a reminder that it’s not voting that defines a democracy, but the counting of votes. The death of silent protester, Neda, was a reminder that that there is tremendous fear of spiritual democracy.

Spiritual democracy is the petulant belief that people and nations can rise above challenges and that diverse voices will eventually be heard. These diverse voices will eventually be seen for what they are; the fulfillment of a higher calling to serve the greater whole.

The challenge of democracy is ego; self serving voices. The task of spiritual democracy is to take infallibility away from the rulers, and offer each person a voice in the co-creative process. The ideal of spiritual democracy is each person coming to the table and speaking not for self interests, but for the highest good of all.

Bring on the day when the people of Iran, America, and every place can express their authentic voices. Bring on the structures of family, education and government that serve this greater whole. Susan Boyle represents every individual and every nation as we live out our true calling to boldly sing the songs of the self in community.

As Walt Whitman said,

“I celebrate myself, and sing myself,

And what I assume you shall assume,

For every atom belonging to me as good as belongs to you.”

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