Over the last month, I've been thinking a lot about our society and where we are headed. From the "position papers" that are frequently printed in the Letter to the Editor column, it appears that we have a whole bunch of evil folks running around telling us just how bad the other side is and why they are so much better and can bring our state and country back to what it used to be. But over the last several years, these same folks have really accomplished very little to improve our overall situation. Our roads are crumbling; our schools are losing their edge; our water quality is deteriorating; our small towns are looking more like ghost towns, and everybody who doesn't think like me is the enemy. Greed abounds while solutions are non-existent.
One group seems intent on eliminating the future generation and providing "equal" rights to just about everyone who comes along, no matter what their mental state, and the other group seems intent on eliminating the basis of funding for our collective enterprise and rewarding those who already are so well off that some of them could actually pay for the entire budgets of all of the departments of federal government except the Pentagon's war machine. The old adage from Mr. Einstein is a simple definition: "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." I surely seems to me that we have plenty of insanity going around right now!
I've lived in Iowa most of my life and I believed that those tried and true Iowa values that I was raised with really would serve us all very well if we just continued to live by them. You know what I mean: helping our neighbor, protecting our children, working hard, and just being generous with and caring for others. It seems that these life giving qualities have been left behind in the rush to "prove that I'm right and you are wrong and therefore evil."
I have been wondering just how much we could do together, no matter what our political philosophy, if we would think about those who are in the most need before launching our next crusade to prove that the other person is evil and therefore is a "non-;person" and not worthy of consideration. It seems that if we could set aside our particular agenda and listen with empathy to what the people are saying and then, without any (and I do mean any) preconceived notions about what to do, actually have a collaborative dialogue about how to resolve the problems, we could propose and implement real solutions to these issues. It surely would be worth trying, because the other method hasn't been working very well. Surely, we are smart enough to involve ourselves in this sort of process without some big national opinion poll or group of demagogues telling us how to think.
The impetus for these thoughts have been the themes of the last four Sundays during the season some of us call Advent, you know the time before Christmas when we consider how to prepare ourselves for the celebration of Christmas. Anyway those simple four words could remind us of our Iowa values and, perhaps, lead us to a more civil, thoughtful, and productive civil society: Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love.
· Hope - not the "all I want for Christmas is my two front teeth" kind - but rather, the enduring look at the future, knowing that we are better than this and, when we think of others first, we can actually find ways to resolve our issues and make all of our lives better - both now and for the future.
· Peace - not the 'absence of conflict" kind - but rather, the peace that brings a quietude to your soul knowing that everyone is benefiting from a just society that cares for all of its people, no matter what their condition or situation.
· Joy - not the "golly isn't this great" type - but rather the kind that emanates from the proper kind of Hope and Peace - an internal knowledge that with our focus on the other person instead of our own selfish needs, we really understand the kind of life that we were asked to live by "that guy" 2,000 years ago.
· Love - not the "selfish, feel good, just for me" kind - but rather the kind that says, "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."
I don't know, but it seems that we haven't really been trying to live this way, especially from the results of our political campaigns and how our state and country are moving forward (Are we really moving forward?) I just thought that it would be really interesting to try to live this way - to actually remember that the "Spirit of the Season," as some call it, actually has its basis on the true life we are called to live by Jesus - a life of service to others, care for others, justice for others - especially the most needy in our society. It seems to me that we haven't' really tried this for a long time. Perhaps we should give it a go. The other way isn't working and I don't think that we are really insane, so why not try something a little different: it isn't about who's right, it's about what's right. Maybe if we all tried this way of living, the true Spirit of Christmas would actually shine through and we would really see a difference in our own lives as well. If we raise the other person, won't we raise as well? Might be worth a try.