Sacred America, Sacred World

Installment #12

Part Two
Evolving Our Consciousness

After we have laid the groundwork for understanding the foundations of a sacred worldview and how it applies to the evolution of America, our next task is to see the many ways that we are not yet living in a sacred way and to evolve toward greater wholeness.

This wholeness is especially important in the political arena since the images, media, and beliefs we inherit are invariably filled with polarization, misunderstandings, and disrespect. This is especially true when it comes to other political parties, races, genders, and classes. We learn to identify with one side of a polarity and lose our sense of oneness.

In this part of the book, we begin to bring alive the promise of a sacred worldview by discovering that we are more whole, balanced, and wise when we can fully experience our unity with the “other.”

Ultimately, living in a sacred way is about making oneness real. That also means seeing how we complete the unresolved histories of our ancestors. We will engage in some deep shadow work in this part, facing the darker side of American history and American power, which begins the process of releasing our history of genocide, oppression, racism, and classism until we emerge more whole.

Chapter 5: Radicals and Republicans

For some time now, we have all fallen into a pattern of describing our choice as left or right. It has become standard rhetoric in discussions of political philosophy. But is that really an accurate description of the choice before us? . . . Isn’t our choice really not one of left or right, but of up or down . . .
— Ronald Reagan

An essential part of activating a sacred vision for America is going beyond exclusive, polarized political identities, which we’ll be exploring more throughout this book. This happens not by erasing our natural differences but by understanding and appreciating those differences in a wider context. Seen deeply enough, the values carried by radical left-wingers and rock-ribbed Republicans are both required for America to step into greater maturity as a country. If we can compassionately hold the full spectrum, we can devise better solutions and create a more unified culture.

Our political process, though, tends to drive people toward increasingly fixed political beliefs that are reinforced by watching media and befriending people exclusively from the same party. As our left- and right-wing political cultures become more and more separate, we also start to favor more identity-driven political leaders. Our candidates evolve into ever more perfect expressions of each party’s values as they respond to the pressures of voters, the media, and their party. Social networks and clubs also then attract people of the same values and reinforce their beliefs.

Once we hold rigidly to one identity, our growth can be slowed or even arrested altogether. We stop valuing other perspectives and privilege our values over others. To navigate this critical crossroads in history, it is essential to expand our sense of identity, deeply listen to those with different opinions, and work toward collaboration and synergy. And that depends on each of us opening to the real value of political positions we may not like much at all. Seeing political identities from a higher level enhances our appreciation of the value each holds.

One way to think about the political spectrum that I have found helpful is to consider different groups as representing different kinds of relationships with our life force — the vital energy that powers our lives. This life force can express itself on many levels, from our physical activity to our sexuality to how we wear our hair and how we manage our money. It also applies to how we manage life force in the form of companies, organizations, and governments.

The more radical and experimental wing aims to let this life force express itself in novel, free-flowing ways. It often wants more freedom with less responsibility. Burning Man is a famously freewheeling example: the yearly sixty-thousand-person festival and experiment in communal living in the Nevada desert includes massive art installments, themed camps, all-night parties, and a money-free economy. During one of the two years that my wife and I attended, I was most struck by a man who memorized some two hundred poems, donned a jukebox costume, and wandered the desert whispering a randomized poem from his collection in the ear of whoever pushed the jukebox “button.” It was remarkably creative, artistic, intimate, and generous — radically experimental values at their best.

The conservative camp often prizes the opposite virtue: disciplined mastery over our life force. Military training offers the pinnacle of this perspective, with its intense physical training, loyalty to regulations, sacrifice for country, and a clear chain of command. It involves protecting what we cherish, including family and personal property, as well as disciplining our life force to move according to our will and the will of our commanders. When we think of men hitting the beaches of Normandy to face nearly certain death, we cannot help but be moved by the nobility in the sacrifice, which represents conservative values at their best.

This polarity shows up in many ways. Liberals are more likely to experiment with communal living, blending personal boundaries into shared spaces. Republicans are more likely to be members of the NRA to protect their personal property with force if necessary. Liberals tend to question or dismiss tradition. Conservatives revere it. Liberals often prefer the freedom-laden term “spirituality.” Conservatives tend toward religion, which literally comes from the root ligare, which means “to bind.” Liberal men are more likely to wear long hair than conservative men, who tend to prefer short hair. Liberals want more government generosity (symbolic of a free flow of energy); conservatives generally want less.

Even insults are illustrative: “Flaming liberal” evokes an image of someone with an uncontrolled flow of life force. “Button-down conservative” describes someone holding his or her body to control the flow of energy. Neither side tends to respect the other, but in the larger view these two approaches are important complements to each other in the design and evolution of a society. Too much liberal experimentation and the secure foundations of society are undermined. Too much conservative rigidity and society stagnates.

Opening to insights from both extremes can lead to an important integration. A more radical and experimental approach to life can be seen as a way to free up life force from old pathways. Such an approach allows creativity, fluidity, and an expanded sense of identity. It encourages the emergence of the new, which is naturally more in the foreground with youth, who are at the experimental leading edge of our culture and are often drawn to wild celebrations that free up an ecstatic flow of energy.

The conservative value system offers a profound training in disciplining life force, mastering it with our will and channeling it along specific lines, which leads to greater societal order and stable values as well as enduring, effective, and profitable organizations. It also leads us to protect and preserve what is valuable.

These “trainings” each initiate something different in us. Ideally, we take on both trainings at some point in our lives so that we are able to be as full-spectrum as possible. If we don’t embrace both ends of the spectrum, our highest potential may be compromised. For men, someone who remains attached to the unfettered flow of life force may fail to embrace traditional virtues of manhood. In California, we call them “flow boys.” They crave freedom and fear commitment. They tend not to marry, and they often don’t build much that endures, financially or organizationally. They retain a youthful delight in freedom without the adult commitments that build families, communities, and society. What they may lack in leadership they make up for in creativity, artistic ability, and innovativeness.

When we are young, with wide-open horizons, the more liberal perspective is typically at the foreground. Some level of rebellion against what we’ve inherited is a part of most people’s natural maturation. However, as we take on increasing responsibilities and commitments, from marriage to family to organizations, we often need to discipline ourselves and focus on the preservation of society’s structures through measured growth. We restrict our sexual expression to create a stable marriage; we dress appropriately to move in certain social circles; we build expertise in a more singular career; and we think more like an investor than a consumer. That’s when the training in conservative virtues can be very helpful.

To be continued in the next issue of Catalyst...

Read Previous Issues
Installment #1 | Installment #2 | Installment #3 | Installment #4 | Installment #5 | Installment #6 | Installment #7 | Installment #8 | Installment #9 | Installment #10 | Installment #11

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This article appears in: 2022 Catalyst, Issue 2: Breathwork Summit