What can we do? What can we do? Looking at the mess around us, and I mean all around us, from the morass of US politics to the quagmire of our international scene, I realized that we can do something--if we are willing to bypass the government and its representatives and communicate person to person, citizen to citizen. Why take directions from someone who is lost if all you want are directions home?
This idea became underscored as I listened to author Mark Gerzon (The Reunited States of America) the other day on the radio. In his book he describes his method of direct communication and his attempt to create a way to bridge the gap between people and ideas without resorting to actual or even conceptual violence.
After years of rancor and grievance, right against the left, left against the right, all of us are in mortal danger of losing sight of the American instinct that brought our various peoples together. this instinct has been plowed under, drowned, almost beaten to death, fired upon and almost worse, forgotten. In an unsafe world the pressure to retreat to group-think, easy answers, programmatic thinking and narrow-mindedness--whether from the left or right--threatens to reduce our vast vision of inclusive light to a pin-point surrounded by fear of others--fear of otherness.
Let's remember that before it could be called a Christian or Jewish nation, before immigrants increased the numbers of Irish or English or Arabs, Hindus or Sikhs, before secular and religious both came to be dirty words to someone else's ears, America was always a nation that expressed its best spiritual ideals by its profound belief in fairness and the radical acceptance of difference. During a time when homogenous groups ruled the European continent, with their entrenched state religions and intolerance toward change, America welcomed people for whom freedom was a vital fluid and originality a foundational instinct. Every candidate now running, whatever their perspective, mentions this spirit and, while they often use these words from a self-serving point of view, their instinct is trying to hone into something that is real and will not die.
Within its many problems and intolerances, this country is also built on respect for difference even as it suffers from a competing desire for homogeneity. Instead, our great experiment in democracy is to have a nation that prizes only one characteristic above all others: Fairness. Giving someone a chance to make good. These days--and perhaps since the beginning--much of this was lip service. There was always some group or persons who were not given this chance or were actively dissuaded--often by violence--from seeking their personal expression and salvation. Nonetheless, this idea has remained intact though often unexpressed or used because it is part of our national DNA. It refuses to go away.
Fairness means we live with people who are different than ourselves and see that as an enriching thing. America's political, ethical and spiritual soil is enriched by the humus of difference. It is our greatest resource and potentially our greatest export to the world as well. It once was and perhaps can be so again.
We need to reclaim the highest truth that all religions, spiritual paths and secular ethical approaches to life lead to, which is love. After all, at the end of all the teachings of Jesus it is love that is revealed. Likewise, the prayers of Abraham and Moses, the surrender to God transmitted by Muhammad also leads to love. Buddha's mindfulness leads to love. We might even say that our Constitution leads to love. And here I don't mean "love of country" or "American exceptionalism," or any sort of romantic or mushy-eyed love that secretly excludes someone from its embrace in the name of some personal or group revelation that seems more valid or important than someone else's. I mean the lack of fear, the public and mutual understanding that that is what we stand for even as we fail and fail again. We need to be a nation of people who fall down only to rise up again. Falling and rising means being human. That's ok with me. Why do we have a Constitution? Because we wanted to enshrine in law the love of others as ourselves and thus raise ourselves to the greatest ability and treasure of our humanity. Yes, we've failed time and again. So what? Onward is the name of the game. Try again and try again.
America is a country built on faith. For some, it is the faith in a higher power. For others, faith in the rule of law or faith in our great experiment in democracy or faith in our humanity itself. It is not religious so much as found within the fiber of our being, impossible to ignore completely. This faith is vast, complex and inclusive. It is sometimes difficult, sometimes messy, but always alive and changing. When we become afraid of this American passion, we run the risk of trying to make others over in our own image and fairness and love of difference is lost.
So, as a musician as well as spiritual teacher, I envision a one-night concert called the Caravan of Light Road Show. I picture spiritual leaders and secular leaders coming together to insist upon the love of difference as a core American value. Since this concert is about the faith that surpasses differences, the faith at the core of faith, everyone is invited. It doesn't raise money. It doesn't ask for anything. It doesn't exist to promote any particular point of view. Instead it gives. It says Come celebrate what we as a people were always about. It is about love as a political virtue. Let's not wait for the next act of terror or the next war to find that mutually that fills our lives when there is some clear and present danger.
I see America's best musicians singing and playing the universal language of music, rising beyond fearful doctrinaire thinking. I hear them singing their hearts out loud to an American hungry for a return to the spiritual values of acceptance and love. This concert is a simple thing really: all religious and ethical systems end up scaling the difficult mountains of human life to the to the pinnacle of a kind heart. People do it all the time. Now its time to televise it.
So let's do this: Don't call your Congressman or Senator. Don't write the President. Instead, write Kanye West (Come on Kanye: We understand your darkness. It's brilliant. Now bring us some light!) Write to Maroon Five, to Blake Sheldon and Selena Gomez, to Adele and Lucas Graham, to Kendrick and Thomas Rhett, to Taylor Swift (bring your posse!) and Beyonce and Jay-Z and the masters of jazz and classical music and banjo pickers and guitar pluckers. Tonight for one night only there will be no right or left, no Democrat or Republican, only people who are committed to our founding virtue, the virtue that once invited the world to this continent and thereby prospered by it. I'll by a ticket. Hell, I buy tickets for my whole family, the ones in New York and California and Georgia. I'll buy one for my neighbor too.