Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Kurt Barstow - Mindfulness and the Inauguration as a World Event

A nice post from Kurt on today's Inauguration and its world impact. He makes some nice observations about the hopes so many of us have for this new administration, and the realities that threats that face us all, both externally and internally.

Mindfulness and the inauguration as a world event

by Kurt Barstow, LA Religion & Spirituality Examiner

Shephard-Fairey, Barack Obama
It is an awfully big moment. In a certain respect, race has the least to do with it, since, although one is keenly aware of the historical and cultural importance of having Barack Obama take the oath of office as our first black president, race can also be seen as the most superficial division between people. It was Martin Luther King's wish, after all, that there would be a day when people were judged "not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." What makes the moment even bigger than an important first in American politics is not only that we will now have a president that, in the current ethnocentric division of race in this country to whites on the one hand and people of color on the other, we will have a president that for the first time resembles the majority of the world more than any other. That would not be so important in and of itself if we didn't also sense this changing of the guard as a change from an administration that has in many though not all respects been informed by a kind of small-minded provincialism, arrogance in world affairs, and greed. I saw a t-shirt in the window the other day that had a picture of Barack Obama with a list of goals that included something like: 1) win democratic nomination, 2) Jan. 20th-take the oath of office, and 3) Jan. 21-world domination. In the context of the rest of the t-shirts, domination taken literally was not what was meant but rather expressed something hopeful about the new president's ability to actually address the pressing problems of the world, to reposition America as a part of rather than a unilateral actor in the world, to be seen again as a benevolent force in the world. As a representative of the administration, Hillary Clinton's opening statement in her confirmation hearing as Secretary of State was certainly heartening. She mentioned interdependence several times, emphasized peace and diplomacy, the importance of the threat of climate change, and made it clear that we had a role in the world to reduce conflict, disease, and global poverty. We may be, almost surely are, moving into a new era of global concern and cooperation that is sorely needed.

In my last article I wrote about mindfulness as an important capacity to have in the conflict stage of relationships and cited two long quotes from Jon Kabat-Zinn's book Coming to Our Senses: Healing Ourselves and the World through Mindfulness (Hyperion, 2005). By chance I began reading the section on healing the world and the body politic as I was thinking of what to write for this occasion. What he has to say on the subject seems to me to be especially appropriate as a reflection for this moment of change and our possibilities for the future. I will again quote from it at length below and let the words speak for themselves.

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