It couldn’t be a finer autumn day in north-central California. Going to vote this morning, in the golden-tinged sunlight, it was easy to bask in the hope of new beginnings, in the hope that difficult times will call forth a renewed vision and strength of purpose in those we elect. Perhaps “ordinary” men and women will prove to be extra-ordinary in our times as they have done in the past.
Yet this week I’ve been thinking of Citizen Kane, for I fear that many who run for political office share the motivation of Charles Foster Kane, in what some have called the greatest American movie ever made. Kane had a hole in his heart that no amount of money, or women, or power, or things could fill.
After his death, one of his friends told a reporter, “All he ever wanted in life was love. That’s Charlie’s story, how he lost it. You see, he never had any to give.”
How could he? When he was a boy, his mother essentially sold him into public life for a comfortable yearly stipend. The last word on Kane’s dying lips was “Rosebud,” the name of his boyhood sled, which represented the dream of freedom and warmth he could never force the world to yield up.
I think we have to know something about our own Rosebud, the hole in our own hearts, to keep our lives from careening out of control. If we haven’t gone a few rounds with our private angels and demons, we might even enter politics for all the wrong reasons!
Joseph Campbell phrased it in terms of the Grail Quest. In youth we may gain a vision or intimation of a Great Good, beyond the power of youth to bear. We spend our lives on the trail of this Boon which we have seen and lost. Something like that appears to happen to nations when the youthful vision gets lost, for the old stories make clear that when the Grail is hidden, the land becomes barren.
It’s a good day to pray for our new leaders, whoever they turn out to be, for “us and them” is just a destructive illusion; no matter what we may wish, we are all in this together.