“If you want to identify me, ask me not where I live, or what I like to eat, or how I comb my hair, but ask me what I am living for, in detail, ask me what I think is keeping me from living fully for the thing I want to live for.” Thomas Merton
Queensland goes to the polls next weekend. Leading up to the election we find out politicians behaving badly even when they know their job is to try and impress us. My thoughts concerning the responsibility to vote and a laundry list of what I want from our politicians is not just about Queensland or Australia. It is about every election, everywhere and I think it is time we started to wade through the maze of garbage that politics has become and be very clear about what we want.
1. I don’t want to listen to the politicians anymore. I would like them to shut up and start listening to me. I would like them to listen to you. I would like them to listen to the actual people they serve and the people that their policies are most going to impact. People can handle tough laws that are necessary if they know you have genuinely heard and considered all the arguments before making those decisions.
2. I don’t want to see pictures of you and your family on your Facebook page having fabulously holidays in once-in-a-lifetime destinations, 3 – 4 times a year, clearly sparing no expense. Even if you are independently wealthy and this is not being paid for on the tax payer’s dime, have some sensitivities. No-one voted for you because they want to see how awesome your life is compared to their meagre struggles. I want to see pictures of you doing your job. And sipping champagne at some $500 a plate dinner that you get to attend for free at some picture taking opportunity for some organization you drop in on once a year does not cut it. Try delivering some meals to the shut ins, get out and sand bag during a flood, take the nurses coffee and sit with them in their lunchroom and find out about their concerns.
3. I don’t want to hear that you can’t get along with the people you are supposed to be working with. Let’s take the personality out of this and talk about the business at hand. If your best shot is a personal attack on another member of government then you need to hand in your hall pass and let someone in there who is interested in the matters concerning the country. No-one said you had to like everyone, or invite them over for summer dinners. But you do have to be able to keep focused and find a way to work with everyone. That is what politicians do. Put the business of the country first and your personal insecurities in the back of your closet.
4. Stop suing people, stop demanding the media is not allowed to ask questions, or take pictures, or talk negatively about you. We count on them to point out things and ask questions. We aren’t there. If what you are doing cannot stand up to daylight it is probably not the right thing to be doing. If you are not accountable and not responsible for your actions then who is? You got elected because you said you would be accountable.
5. Own your mistakes. Stop trying to cover them up or blame others.
6. You cannot ask a people to do anything you yourself are not prepared to do. You cannot understand the struggle of poverty if you have never had to go without food or shelter. Don’t pretend you do but seek out the people who do know and listen carefully to what they tell you.
We want a leader who is one of us. We want someone who wants to work for us and with us. We don’t need a sheep herder or a drill sergeant. Include us. Involve us. Spend time with us. Hear us. You need a team in order to be successful and we, the people, are part of that team. If you want to heal the problems facing this nation then engage all of us in the process and ask for our help. Don’t exclude us because that is the biggest fatal flaw of all politicians around the world today, they have taken their votes to their privileged, secluded ivory towers and forgotten that they need the people much more than the people will ever need them.
“There can be immense benefit in seeking places of solitude and stillness, removing ourselves for periods of time from the bustle of the world. If we bring our aversion to the world with us to these sacred places, we also bring the bustle. If we learn to enter into sacred spaces with the intention to be awake and listen fully, they deepen and enrich us. We learn powerful lessons of letting go, of stillness and sensitivity. We learn the lessons of freedom that are offered in the meandering thought, the fleeting sensation, in the heart of sorrow and joy. We learn to live in harmony with what is, to discover the spaces between thoughts and the stillness between sounds. We explore the profound stillness that embraces the gaps between the events and the events themselves.
We discover how vast and encompassing our hearts can be, and that wisdom has no end. The freedom of not resting upon anything, not being defined by anything, not wanting or missing anything, not being captive anywhere. Stillness and awareness are the nature of the mind unobstructed by grasping. Compassion is born of the understanding of emptiness. Within this world of arising and passing forms of life in all its shapes and bodies, there is nothing separate from ourselves. In listening deeply to the world, understanding the causes of suffering and the way to its end, no other response is possible but compassion. Aware but still, we are awakened by the “ten thousand things.”
Discovering these sacred spaces of stillness, we are encouraged to approach life in a sacred way. Great moments of illumination do not only belong to the recluses of this world, but are found in the hearts of ordinary people, extraordinary in their capacity to be awakened by their life. A couple raising and nurturing a profoundly disabled child, speak of it as a spiritual journey. The sleepless nights, the constant care, the surrender of personal freedom teaches them new depth of kindness, patience and generosity. A young Tibetan nun thanks her torturer for awakening her to new depths of faith, compassion, and forgiveness. A teacher speaks of approaching her day as an opportunity to awaken just one child to new possibilities. A former athlete, debilitated by chronic fatigue, tells of the discovery of trust, humility, and kindness, amid his helplessness. The essence of all spiritual teaching encourages us to turn toward our life and discover a freedom that leans upon nothing and embraces everything.” Christina Feldman
My grandfather got really pissed at the Biffster once because he wasn’t being manly enough to please his old world sensibilities. Mostly he was terrified that the Biff might be “queer.” I mean there were so many clues to justify his concern, like the fact that Biff wasn’t hitching up his jeans, scratching himself or strutting while both horking and spitting. My grandfather was a keen observer of all things life. He didn’t just leap to his conclusions, he defied all gravity and flew across Grand Canyons of expanse to reach them. He was a gifted gifted athlete!
I remember a conversation around one dinner table where “homosexuality” came up and then the word “lesbian.” I forked my cheek when I heard the words. Not that I didn’t know what they meant, just that we were learning about dangerous chemical reactions in school. Put two volatile ingredients together in a contained space and anything could happen. I was pretty sure sex and grandparents were both ingredients at the top of that list. The fact we were adding the unknown “alternative lifestyle” into that mixture probably meant we were all going to die.
Aardvark didn’t know what “lesbian” meant. Watching Humpydora try to explain it to him while she pushed her peas around her plate with her fork and dabbed a dainty hanky to her mouth was kind of like waiting in a park with a picnic lunch for the train wreck that was about to happen . . . there on the blanket . . . on your plate . . . right through the potato salad.
“You know Aardvark, it is two women . . .” she started and stopped mid sentence. She was glancing furtively around the table at us kids … her motherly gears kicking into overdrive, needing to protect our prepubescent innocence from the horrors of the world but at the same time giving us enough air in our water wings to keep us afloat. She looked at Aardy, and then at us kids and then back at Aardy . . . unspoken messages of “please Aardy not in front of the children…”
Aardy was not above just giving us both a kick off the edge of the pool with his boot, into the deep end, forget about water wings.
“TWO WOMEN WHAT????” Aardy asked, bellowing in his best frustrated obtuseness. He sounded a lot like the bull out in the field that bellowed and all the cows took cover. I am pretty sure there were cows ducking behind tractors and under piles of straw when he hollered that day. Humpydora however, had nowhere to hide.
(This is where I like to involve the reader in the story. As you read out Humpydora’s parts your voice needs to waiver a little and you will need to hold your housecoat up to your mouth to simulate a napkin being forced into your mouth hoping to muffle the sound of what you are about to speak. Muffled talk of lesbianism is much more palatable than outright understandable words. Make sure you look fondly off into the sky sort of cross-eyed because you are both frustrated with Aardy and feeling the pressure of all that religious upbringing to self flagellate or wash out your own mouth with soap.)
“Well, two women …. homosexual … you know … instead of two men… you know . . . two women …” Eyes straight down with the peas …. be one with the peas ….her voice trailed off in a whisper.
I started thinking to myself, “how the hell does the Humpster know these things? EWWWWW …. think of something else, think of something else!” Snorking was out of the question because old Aardy was not moving. He was frozen in his chair, eyes speeding back and forth – evidence his brain was in overload and he was about to explode as he considered what Humpydora had just said. We waited breathlessly, I already had my hand clenched into the appropriate position under the table, on my lap. If Aarvark blamed me for anything I was ready to point at Biff. It was every man for himself.
Then it happened. Aardvark sat straight up and moose-called across the prairies …. “Well I can understand what two men do (don’t go there Aria, DO NOT go there) but what the HELL do two women do???” I projectiled my peas across the table into Humpydora’s plate. In her mind Humpydora leapt across the table, one hand and one foot over my ears and the other two over Biff’s screaming “save the children save the children.” I think she may have suffered with Body Dysmorphic Disorder. In reality she simply escorted my errant peas across the plate to an isolated edge and pretended that she needed salt which she asked Biff to pass. Then she instructed us all on the benefits of protein and vitamin c in our diets with 3 words, “eat your peas.”
We all knew the drill to perfection – pretend nothing had happened.
We ate our peas. It was only a matter of time before Aardvark processed the information and made it into some type of evidence of the world going to hell in a hand basket and the leap from that to “not MY son, not on MY watch,” was inevitable. One day while I was busy knitting Aardvark’s Christmas present, a nice moosey sweater with the word “Homophobe” stenciled in around the antlers, Aardvark descended on the Biffster to slap him upside the head, rip the bedazzling gun out of his hand, and tell him to be a man. I had tried my best to teach Biffy – he just never really caught on to horking properly. Aardvark told him to “grow a set of balls” and I was like, “cool, I got this.” And right there and right then, because what good is a sister if she can’t share with her own brother, I pulled the golf balls outta my own pants … and handed them to the Biffster.
I thought it was really nice that my brother phoned my girlfriend and told her she should probably not try to drop by and see me for a few days.
It’s really dark in the root cellar you know …
“I have no right to call myself one who knows. I was one who seeks, and I still am, but I no longer seek in the stars or in books; I’m beginning to hear the teachings of my blood pulsing within me. My story isn’t pleasant, it’s not sweet and harmonious like the invented stories; it tastes of folly and bewilderment, of madness and dream, like the life of all people who no longer want to lie to themselves.” Hermann Hesse