questing for equilibrium in a querulous age – a personal reflection

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On November 8, 2016, Donald Trump was elected President of the United States; this following a tediously contentious (or was it a contentiously tedious?) presidential campaign season. Through it all, myriad political pundits, social savants, mass media, and people spanning the spectrum of humankind seemed to be able, even willing to assent to one thing: the zeitgeist, the spirit of this age of America is tempestuous.

I agree. Wholeheartedly. Meaning completely, not enthusiastically. Two words I have begun to employ when describing my sense of the dis-ease affecting, afflicting America: calamitous and fractious.

On June 16, 1858, Abraham Lincoln, accepting the Illinois Republican Party’s nomination as United States senator (an election he lost), gave an address that has come to be known as The House Divided Speech. Casting an image of American disunion rooted in powerful antipathies regarding institutional slavery, Lincoln said, in part: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

It may be an overreach to aver that the current state of contention in our nation is comparable, whether in the depth of animus or the breadth of involvement of the populace, to Lincoln’s time. However, as I wasn’t around in the mid-19th century so to assess by experience the possible equivalence, I’d say it’s close enough.

And I seek equilibrium. Not peace necessarily, if by peace I desire and define it as a countrywide calming of the roiling waters of our national temperament. I don’t see that happening. Rather I long for balance, a personal equipoise in our querulous age. For, as one who, with soul-deep and heartfelt compassion, strives, at times struggles to understand and accept “the other”, all others who think and feel differently than I…

I am disturbed by the clamor of strident voices on all sides. Many (blessedly not all), as I listen, seem to belong to folk who seem to see the world through a monocular lens. Seemingly able to espouse one point of view or one set of points of view, they seem unable to acknowledge as valid or principled any other. For example, as I have friends and associates on each side of our national political divide (and, truth be told, they always have been on each side), I’ve heard it said or written: “To vote for Donald Trump is to vote for an isolated America.” and “To vote for Hillary Clinton is to vote for a perpetuation of politics as usual.” These are the kinder statements. For to paraphrase what I’ve also heard said and seen written: “To (how could you?!) vote for Trump is a sign of a mean-spirited, sexist, racist, nativist mentality.” “If you’re not outraged and taking to the streets in protest, you’re not paying attention (read: “You’re either blind and deaf or dumb!).” and “To (how could you?!) vote for Clinton is a sign of a capitalistic, godless immorality.” “If you’re in the streets protesting, you need to get over it and let us get on with it (read: “We won and you didn’t!).”

In this, I am distressed that many (again, blessedly not all) seem to have parted company with family and friends, associates and acquaintances – seeing and speaking with one another less or not at all, disengaging from long standing activities, traveling no longer in the same circles, unfriending one another on Facebook.

Now, it’s not that I don’t have deeply rooted opinions, strong beliefs, and durable political preferences. I do. And it’s not that I don’t think and feel, speak and act on them. I do. Still, at the proverbial end (and beginning and middle) of this day and age, praying we survive it, people and relationships are more important to me. Hence, by my faith in the Jesus I follow who, in the most unconditional expression of love, in the name of his and my God, forgave those who were killing him, I, at the least, choose to love and to listen to “the other”, all others. And in my loving and listening, I find my equilibrium.

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6 thoughts on “questing for equilibrium in a querulous age – a personal reflection

  1. Dear Paul,

    Blessed are the peacemakers; you are indeed children of God, and we need you so much in these times. It is so hard to hold fervently to your own beliefs and act on them without attacking and trying to wound or destroy others who do not share them. We have so few examples of the powerful and incredibly courageous love that Jesus taught and you stand for. Thank you for unquestionably making it the first principle in your life and in your ministry, for such love embodies and supports all other virtues. Nothing less will get us through these days.

    Love,

    Karen

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    • Thank you, Karen. Though it has been since fall 2005 that I’ve consciously claimed the call to be open to “the other”, it has been only very recently, since last summer, that I came to believe that, in league with the Jesus I follow, dying isn’t the worst thing that can happen to me. The worst thing would be denying and defying in word and deed the Lord I love. One measure of that denial and defiance would be to disparage those with whom I disagree simply, solely because of that variance in worldview. Do I fail at being and remaining open? Yes. Still, it is my calling and by Spirit’s strength daily I strive to live this way.

      Always, my love, Karen

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  2. Thank you Paul! I love the word Equilibrium. I had to spell it once in a spelling bee. When I learned the meaning of the word, I wanted it in my life. I still want that today. Listening and loving….its an incredibly great way to find your equilibrium. Thank you for sharing your balance with us. I’ll try it, and I’ll add lots of prayer too!

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  3. Thank you, Paul! For your determination to be open to folk of different ideas and values – all too often fearful, strident others who feel threatened at almost every turn………and there is much to worry about in this current President……..”I” suspect his bluff and bluster has it’s roots in childhood experiences which he’s never resolved, and therefore manifests in his unreasonable outbursts………..not to mention that he knows almost nothing about how to govern! I just saw an article stating the White House staff realize he’s “off the rails” and see disaster ahead unless somehow he can see reason (my take on it)………..this may turn out to be one President who won’t last more than a couple of years……….nevertheless, I am compelled to pray for him and for all of us………literally, God help us all!

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    • Yes, yes, Beryl, praying God’s help for all of us, we are called to pray for President Trump. These are calamitous, fractious, and perilous times. All the more need for our prayerful witness to our faith in God, come whate’er. Much love, my dear sister

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