“I want to tell you a little story, It makes me feel warm inside. It’s about some friends growing up and all the things they tried. I’m not talking about staple shit, they went for something more. I guess it was too much dreaming, too much to hope for. One day something funny happened, but it scared the shit out of me. Their heads went in different directions, and their friendship ceased to be.”
While this could be the opening story for any period of time it is in fact the opening lyrics from one of my favorite songs from an 80s punk band that goes by the name of “Minor Threat.”
The story could go like this, two friends growing up in the same neighborhood given the same opportunities. One becomes a democrat and the other a republican. As adults, there was a time in which they spoke to one another with regular monthly dinners, family gatherings and yearly vacations. Then within the last decade something happened–a malady known as politics inflicting itself upon their relationship. Over time no more calls, no more dinners, vacations or holidays gatherings. One chance meeting at the local hardware store sealed the deal. Rather than let bygones be bygones and apologize, they each held their ground and went in different directions.
I purposely made this story vague so you could fill in the blanks and think of all the people who are torn apart by politics. Personally, I am no longer interested in the process of politics. It has become a zero sum game with a portion of the population as losers.
Why is it that politics has moved to the front of American’s consciousness? The latest president has perpetuated the problem, but it has gotten worse over the last few decades. It is so front and center that even masks have become politicized.
My theory is that there is a spiritual void in the US which is now being filled by politics. Politics by nature is a heady game. The spirit is of the heart. While many profess to be people of faith following some sort of religion or spiritual practice, their actions do not match because politics takes precedence. Sadly, this spiritual crisis with politics filling the void is being perpetuated by the media on both sides. Who would have thought divisiveness could be commodified with everyone complicit, including myself.
Case and point, I started a text chat back and forth with a friend I hadn’t spoken with in a while. I simply wanted to check in in to see how he and his family were holding up with everything going on. Within three messages he interjected with politics. Not taking the bait I simply responded by saying I no longer discuss politics. He could not accept this fact, but responded in kind.
We ended up talking on the phone but only under the terms of no politics. This didn’t last long and before you know it he brought it up. Fortunately, we are on somewhat similar sides, although both sides have legitimate points of view. I simply interjected with what I am writing about now––politics is filling a spiritual void in America. It seemed he could not wrap his head around this statement. It dawned on me after hanging up that people who are ensconced in politics are void of a spiritual life. Of course he would gloss over it.
Are you glossing over this now?
I recently read an article in the NY Times titled, “Happiness Won’t Save You.” This quote that caught my attention, “How we cope with adversity; how we care for others; how we form commitments, subdue inner conflicts and wrench meaning …” and only then do we experience happiness from this brief life. The above quote describes the tenets of a spiritual life. Ironically, the focus of the NY Times article was on a pioneer in the field of happiness having come up with some forward thinking theories and studies. He rose to the top of his field only to later commit suicide in his 30s. Scholarships, money and prestige was not enough to make him happy.
Life is not happiness, life is a series of difficulties and challenges with respites of happiness, joy and peace along the way until the next round of challenges and difficulties. Living a spiritual life in whatever form that takes for you helps to prioritize what’s important.
And those two friends who parted ways, who knows, if they find that spirit forgiveness is also part of the deal.