November 5th, 2008
The promise of tomorrow may look brighter today – this historic day – for many reasons. The strife endured by African Americans, in varying degrees over hundreds of years, has hit an impressive milestone on its way to extinction. And proof has been given to the youngest adult generation that they in fact have power and can and should participate in our planet’s future. Faith in government might have been restored and a renewed call to service may be underway. With the election of Barack Obama, these things have been shown – not just told.
But still we wonder what the world will be like when our children grow up.
How can we overcome the multitude of perils facing the human race while half the world is impoverished, when there is so much disagreement over how to live in peace, teach our young, practice religion, govern our countries, power our world and protect the earth? Is there any way to evolve and move beyond this, to begin speaking of a planet that is flourishing?
Will it matter to future generations if we soothe the world’s current economic turmoil and stamp out today’s threats of terror only to fail in building a successful path to the future?
While speaking bravely and honestly in the wake of controversy over his former pastor, we witnessed Barack Obama’s ability to navigate dangerous waters with wisdom – not by avoidance, dismissal or repudiation – but by attempting to transcend yet include:
‘I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother – a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe. These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.’
Transcend and include, in the words of Ken Wilber.
In Wilber’s philosophy, he describes how the universe has a telos. Everything in it moves from simple states to complex ones that are capable of so much more: From atoms to molecules; gasses to stars; plants to animals; unconscious states to sentience; from clans to societies and countries. Even our inner life, our developmental states do this – move from the simple to the wondrously complex. The inner-life of our societies develop much the same way. And all these things evolve – not by discarding the old and becoming something new, nor by reverting to an older possibly fondly remembered version – but by including the previous state on the road to transcending it.
Hearing Obama speak often shows how he innately understands this telos of the universe. During his campaign for the presidency over the past two years his message, style and substance have changed little. This, it seems is the man. Even in the heat of debate, his temperament remained constant, beyond the needs of ego. His ability to lead and inspire comes not by brute force but through an almost serene depth and eloquence. There’s strength in his wisdom and compassionate understanding in his eyes. Time and again he’s talked of uniting parties, peoples and countries in order to accomplish the daunting tasks at hand. Transcend and include.
Despite our current dire troubles, we can find hope in many things today. But something that may yet carry us to even further shores might have appeared as well: a bodhisattva President, someone who may be wise enough to help us begin that journey we’ll eventually have to make if we hope to survive – one that will one day transform all of humanity into a flourishing world society. And that’s a future worth dreaming of for our children.