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"They Say"
By Judith Gayle | Political Waves

WE'RE A sound bite nation, or so they say. I've always wondered who "they" are, the ones who approve something and pass it around until it's on everyone's lips. I read a snarky bit a few decades ago indicating that they were an elderly couple in Iowa; that was when nothing kids did got approval from the elders. Now, I think "they" are younger and hipper, but no less critical. I wish they'd get more political. It's their elders who should be the object of disapproval now.

In this era of YouTube and instant communication, the youngsters have more power than they think they do. Pop Diva Paris Hilton did get political the other day, when she was dragged into the Obama/McCain donnybrook by Mr. McCain's campaign. She gave us a slick, polished YouTube response to an ad showing Britney Spears and Paris along with Barack Obama, implying that the three of them were of one cultural phenomenon -- faddish, shallow and, essentially, temporary.

The sound bite that came out of that response was wickedly youthful and stinging: she called McCain a "wrinkly white-haired dude." Ouch. Obama got off lightly -- she called him "the other guy."

There is a difference between sound bites and full quotes. Sound bites, which are a few words skimmed off the top of actual statements, drive the narrative in the political world. It's the "quick take" that disallows deep thought, and is often skewed in meaning. Actual quotes are more often deep and memorable; although not so far, in the 21st century. We've been stuck with Bushisms and easy rhetoric. The press has been cowed, the public has been censored and we are struggling to come back to our national heritage of debate and dissent.

We should ditch the sound bites -- sometimes called catch phrases -- and get back to the quotes. They had staying power. We have centuries of wisdom available to us, illustrations of the best of humankind's thought process to draw upon when times get tough. Obama is a man capable of compelling quotes; complete thoughts. I trust we'll be hearing more of them in the coming weeks. I think the majority of the country is hungry for nuance and intelligence. Lord knows I'm tired of cowboy-isms like "Bring 'em on," and "I'm the decider."

Long-dead president Calvin Coolidge told us those kinds of attitudes wouldn't fill the bill when he said, "Little progress can be made by merely attempting to repress what is evil, our great hope lies in developing what is good." And it's the very concept of evil that keeps us in fear, drives a stake through the heart of intelligent discourse and reduces us to panic. The Fundamentalists kept that concept alive; we heard it this week in the interviews with McCain and Obama in Rick Warren's California mega-church.

"Evil" isn't a sound bite -- it's a buzz word. It makes our heads explode. The War on Terror is a product of our knee-jerking over unnamed fears and the seldom-spoken notion that the Middle Eastern God is at war with ours. What should have been an international police action turned into two wars, loss of freedom in this nation, the sacking of the treasury and acts of terrorism disguised as public policy.

Carl Jung gave us a lesson in polar opposites, the essential duality of life on planet Terra, when he said, "If evil were to be utterly destroyed, everything daemonic, including God himself, would suffer a grievous loss; it would be like performing an amputation on the body of the Deity."
That gives us a template in which to consider George Bush's use of the term Axis of Evil; in truth, the evil humankind does is essentially borderless. I'm sure there are many in the world today that consider America the Evil Empire. The balance of duality is a more realistic goal than the eradication of evil. Without evil, why would we need God? Blink! There goes the universe!

While quotes are often instructive, they are also like prayer beads for those who need inspiration; something to hang our hopes on, something to help us focus our intention. I punctuate these weekly pieces with quotes because they're often wise and distill a thought down to its essence. Today I'm going to give you some quotes that reveal our human condition and help us decode the journey.

Marianne Williamson, minister and A Course in Miracles teacher, gave us a good one, instructive for those whining about life in general: "Your greatest growth does not occur on your best days."

Planet Waves
Rabindranath Tagore.
Ahhhh -- that means there's some purpose to all this challenge. We're facing ourselves at every turn and polishing up our souls. Challenge turns into blessing when we think of it that way. "What doesn't kill us makes us stronger," is a time-honored saying, mostly used by those facing some kind of sorrow. That it becomes part of our conversation only in times of trouble doesn't change the fact that it's true.

Globally and nationally, we're all in a time of trouble; everything around us seems to be in a process of destabilization and we will need courage to face it. For those of us who don't think we have much, George Patton gave us a definition: "Courage is fear holding on a minute longer." And an old Irish proverb tells us how to handle it: "Fear knocked at the door, faith answered and no one was there."

Fear is being used as a motivator in this election year; the world is restless and hungry for change and the more it changes, the more afraid we become. Silly, I think, to fear that thing that is both driving us forward and inevitable, but humankind seems happier in dull routine and safety than in growth and change. but it's no accident that the world is in turmoil when you accept the premise that this is our time to grow into the people we came here to be. Bengali poet, Rabindranath Tagore gives us a look at the inner workings of growing consciousness here:
Let me not pray to be sheltered from dangers
but to be fearless in facing them.
Let me not beg for the stilling of my pain
but for the heart to conquer it.
Let me not look to allies in life's battlefield
but to my own strength.
Let me not crave in anxious fear to be saved
but hope for patience to win my freedom.
"Life's battlefield" is something of a sound bite. We hear that from time to time; militaristic language is part of our current paradigm. Competition and warring is at the heart of our lower consciousness, and moving beyond it will be our salvation. It will require us to silence the voice of egoism and embrace our connection to one another, and everything there is. A scientist said it best:
A human being is a part of a whole, called by us 'universe,' a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest ... a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.
~ Albert Einstein
Planet Waves
The calm and fearless Yoda.
Einstein would have been pleased with the Muppet-cum-Master known as Yoda for making his scientific phrasing into poetry when he said, in Star Wars, Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back:
"For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow.
Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.  You must feel the Force around you: here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere..."
Although I'm aware of the militaristic language in this statement, for years I used a personal quote as a mantra. "Doubt is the enemy." We play smaller, every time, when doubt assails us. We tuck in, we re-think, we retreat. Franklin D. Roosevelt understood that human frailty as he sought to rally the nation during tough times. This is what he told us: "The only limits to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today. Let us move forward with a strong and active faith."

And Tagore gave us a definition for faith, a lovely one, when he said, "Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark."

In decoding our journey through the use of quotes, we haven't mentioned the Primary Injunction of life yet. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart got right to the heart of it when he said, "Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination nor both together go to the making of genius. Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius."

Love is, as are all attitudes, a choice. It is within our reach to change our morphic field when we choose love. Ken Keyes Jr. makes the result of our choices clear, here: "A loving person lives in a loving world. A hostile person lives in a hostile world. Everyone you meet is a mirror." And when we realize that we need to choose differently, we're given hope from spiritual teacher, Emmet Fox: "It makes no difference how deeply seated may be the trouble, how hopeless the outlook, how muddled the tangle, how great the mistake. A sufficient realization of love will dissolve it all."

Planet Waves
A heart carved by time and water, Grandmother Land, New York. Photo by Dani Voirin.
Love is alchemical -- it holds possibility that nothing else does. Our lives are messy, complex and often painful but we have within us the golden elixir. Tagore knew our answers were within us, when he said, "The most important lesson that man can learn from his life is not that there is pain in this world, but that it depends upon him to turn it into good account, that it is possible for him to transmute it into joy."

Strength, courage, faith, hope, joy, love  -- prayer beads of becoming. The sound bites we hear don't mention any of these; too bad. That's what we need to hear. That's what we aspire toward, what we yearn for. It doesn't matter much what "they say," the chattering class. Our Higher Angels are asking us for complete thoughts, for the truth we hold within us; we do well to review those pearls of wisdom given through history that drove us forward into this rarified air of change and paradigm-shift.

I'll leave you with a favorite from T. Golas; I think of it as the final prayer bead.
"Go beyond reason to love. It is safe. It is the only safety."

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