After the long excruciating journey that has been the US presidential election over the last eighteen months, it is worth revisiting this morning the inspiring words of Michelle Obama who declared back in July at the Democratic National Convention that
When they go low, we go high.
While recognizing that the Democrats havenot always fully embodied the First Lady’s wisdom, it remains a noble goal.
It is a goal shared by most great spiritual teachers who understand that where we look is vital. We become in part those things we ponder.
At the end of his Letter to the Philippians Paul encouraged his readers saying,
Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8)
I wonder how much time over the past months of this endless election cycle I have spent thinking about whatever is:
- worthy of praise
They are noble virtues. But, I admit, they often seem less juicy and compelling than the gossip, scandal, intrigue, political machinations, and drama that have made the US presidential election of 2016 such a riveting car wreck. It has been hard to look away as this crazy clown car has gone careening down the road.
The truth is, the US presidential election has provided irresistible entertainment. And it has fulfilled one of the primary functions that much of the entertainment industry exists to serve. It has distracted us from realities we often seek to avoid.
A great deal of the power entertainment holds in my life lies in my desire to avoid sitting with the uncomfortable realities of life.
But too much distraction is a recipe for death.
In Deuteronomy 30:19 God is said to have set the agenda, encouraging the Hebrew people, with an early version of Michelle Obama’s, “go high”:
I call heaven and earth to witness against you today
that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses.
I have the power to choose.
There is a small switch in my head that I trip many times a day. It flips towards distraction, escape, resistance, and control, or towards that which is “true, honourable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise.” Only I can decide whether I will “go high” when so much around me seems determined to “go low.”
It is not insignificant that Paul’s list of virtues begins with that which is “true.” I will be able to direct my gaze towards that which is “high”, only when I am honest with myself.
As I acknowledge those painful realities of life I so often seek to ignore, deny, or control, a space opens inside me; I connect with my true and deep nature. I find truth, honour, justice, and purity. I discover that which is pleasing, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise.
I do not have to create these qualities. I do not have to force myself “to go high.” When I stop avoiding my life, my true nature rises to the surface and is manifest in the world. As I ponder these qualities, they grow and I perceive them in others. I become able to support their growth in the world around me.
The practices of honesty, self-awareness, and “going high when they go low,” may ultimately be vastly more powerful than all the ballots cast today.