I was looking for just the right word for “think over” and pulled out Webster’s Dictionary to check precise meanings. Here are some of the definitions I found:
- ponder, from the Latin pondare – to weigh, mentally; think deeply about; consider carefully; deliberate; meditate.
- The definition of mull points back to ponder: “to cogitate, to ponder.”
- ruminate, from Latin ruminatus, means 1 to chew (the cud) as a cow does and 2 to turn something over in the mind; meditate.
- The word I wanted was muse. It’s usage as a verb comes from the old French, muser, and carries these definitions: “to ponder, to loiter, (originally) to stand with muzzle in the air, to think deeply and at length; meditate.
So here I stand, with muzzle in the air, loitering and pondering 2012 as it turns into the home stretch.
Even without a calendar, the signs are everywhere. It’s almost dark at 8:00pm, and the mornings are chilly. Halloween decorations are on display at the supermarket, and the volume of Christmas catalogs has notched up from a drip to a steady trickle. Before you know it, they’ll be playing “Little Saint Nick” in the stores (kill me now!).
Things have been good in 2012 on the personal front – much to be grateful for. Good health, food, shelter, and the resources to do our thing(s). No catastrophic events like fires or floods in this area. Even our little dog, Holly, who seemed to be at the end of her life in June http://wp.me/pYql4-1TW is stable, hanging on for while, thanks to a good vet and our daily medical interventions on our behalf of her failing kidney.
It’s a blessing to have this extra time with her, to give her special attention even as we learn to let go.
I also posted about my good fortune this summer to be able to attend teachings by a senior Tibetan lama http://wp.me/pYql4-2jk, about his knee surgery and its successful outcome in August.
We also have an exciting trip planned for the fall, which will be the subject of more than one post later on.
If things are positive in the personal sphere, I know I’m not the only one who finds the public arena disturbing this election year. There’s something schizophrenic about the media messages we receive on one hand, and our day to day experience on the other.
As the election nears, we constantly hear how polarized we are as a nation, yet in my experience, in parks and public places, restaurants, and stores, people mostly treat each other with courtesy and respect. I haven’t seen kamikaze parking lot behavior since last year’s Christmas season.
Last week, as I glanced around our local waffle place, it struck me that at places like this across the country, you see “ordinary” people who, if given a chance, could do a better job of getting things done for the good of the nation than our elected representatives. Did anyone in that breakfast place, or ones like it across the nation, decide to vote for the candidates most likely to freeze up government like an engine without any oil?
And yet it happened, which means (a) it benefits some group of influential people or (b) our politicians are morons or (c) somehow our dysfunction has become systemic.
I lean toward the third choice. In it’s Labor Day editorial, The Sacramento Bee underscored a point I made several days ago http://wp.me/pYql4-2lV – that the fortunes of the middle class mirror the fortunes of labor unions:
“Draw one line on a graph charting the decline in union membership, then superimpose a second line charting the decline in middle-class income share and you will find that the two lines are nearly identical.” The middle class has shrunk significantly, from 61 percent of the adult population in 1971 to 51 percent in 2011, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Federal Reserve. http://www.sacbee.com/2012/09/03/4781267/editorial-to-rebound-labor-needs.html
A forty year decline indicates that the trend is truly systemic. It’s not the exclusive fault of Bush and/or Obama – rather it’s something built into our current political/economic system.
I know I’m thinking that way now because of Bill Moyer’s guest on Sunday, Mike Lofgren, author of The Party is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless, and the Middle Class Got Shafted.
In his interview with Moyers, Lofgren is not sanguine about our chances to reform the status quo. He advocates something like folding our hand and asking for a new deck:
BILL MOYERS: But what do we do about it? Nothing seems to tame the power of money in politics.
MIKE LOFGREN: The only thing that will achieve it is fundamental political reform. And the only way you’re going to get that is mass defection from the parties. Because the parties simply do not serve our interests anymore…there is a point where if there is mass public outrage at this, just as there was in the prairies in the 1880’s and 1890’s, eventually they’ll get the message.
When Moyers asks him to state greatest fear and hope, Lofgren says:
“My greatest fear is that this whole impasse simply carries on. And this country becomes more and more polarized and ungovernable. And we could be faced with a very bad situation, internationally and domestically….My greatest hope is that we can govern ourselves again in a spirit of bipartisanship.”
When Moyers asks if he thinks that’s realistic, Lofgren replies, “We must let our hopes be greater than our fears.”
If his answer doesn’t ring with confidence, it’s still good to remember that more than anything else, it is fear that drives us to act in mean spirited ways. Generosity follows finding the threads of faith and confidence within, and generosity of spirit is what we desperately need. Sometimes I imagine this through one of William Stafford’s last poems. It’s a simple but powerful answer to give to our fears.
The Way It Is
There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.