I woke up this morning with thoughts of the DNC dancing in my head. What was it about it? What was the word I was searching for to describe what I was trying to put my finger on about how it "felt" ... how the democrats roll, as it were? It came to me right away: happy. They say words like "folks" when they talk, they smile, genuinely, but they also take a pause and sigh, as they risk saying something that is a bit more vulnerable and real about the state of things and how hard it's been. And then the deeper sense I had about the whole thing found another word: authentic. Politics aside, there's no doubt I still would have had a better time at the DNC than the RNC. Just the music alone. So much more up my alley. Motown soul and Springsteen. Authentic lyrics, not just overtly patriotic -- but many of the songs I could hear in the background or that were intentionally played as the key speakers came out or finished, were theme songs I loved from very vivid parts of my actual life. I could have danced at the DNC, what a concept.
I've tried to tell my young adult daughter, who is about to graduate from college, that when the dust settles, and as the sun sets on each day, one of the most important things we could have chosen to be in our life, is authentic. Real. Comfortable in our own skin. Taking responsibility, sharing who we really are, bravely baring the truth of what lies within us. And that to live any other way wastes so much time -- something at my age I am beginning to be very well aware of the value of. We bandy around words like "character" and "role models" especially in a time of political fervor, and yet, to quote a spiritual teacher I admire, I don't trust anyone without a limp. Who can't admit that to lead this country (or any country) is challenging and tiring and, as President Obama said so honestly Thursday night, drives a person to their knees? It's not only about slick, snake oil "Elmer Gantry" answers to everything, for everything. Michelle Obama alluded to what it means to see what the man you have loved most of your life is made of -- when the heat is on, when you find him on his knees in his loneliest of moments, when no one can really tell you what to do. And you carry the weight of this precious country of ours squarely on your shoulders. I found it comforting to see even a tiny glimpse into the reality of that. That is real to me. I find it disconcerting to never talk about how hard it is, how answers don't come easy -- for any of us as we navigate our lives, much less if we are, or aspiring to be, the president of the United States of America.
Bob Dylan sang about "The Times They Are a-Changin" and warned us that 'we better start swimmin'/or we'll sink like a stone' and then three decades later sang, "Things Have Changed" where he observes, 'People are crazy and times are strange' (boy ain't that the truth, just saying), but the point is, I don't think it's possible to trust any politician or religious or spiritual teacher or poet, thinker, or artist of our times, who doesn't acknowledge that things have changed. Maybe that's why I found it so authentic when Obama said, "Times have changed, and so have I." There's a new rhythm on the wind driving most of us to our knees. The pressure to reinvent and re-imagine is palpable. I read something mentioned in a book I am reading called, "tiny beautiful things" by Cheryl Strayed, it's the last two lines from a poem she loves called "Splittings" by Adrienne Rich: "I choose to live this time for once / with all my intelligence." For all the political rhetoric and posturing, truth is, I'm looking for someone to live into those words.
Nelson Mandela said, and in my opinion has lived, one of my favorite quotes, "A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination." While none of us mere mortals can see into the heart of anyone, we can look for signs. Actions that speak louder than words. A willingness to admit mistakes, learn from them, and get back up off our knees, again and again, and move onward. And it seems to me, all of it takes a tremendous amount of courage. Maya Angelou said, "Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can't practice any other virtue consistently." So what I wish for all of these 'folks' that are espousing so many words about what can and should be done to help dig us out of this mess of our own human making... is a good head and heart that has the intelligence and courage to take the steps necessary to get us there. For real. Oh, and let's not forget some really great soulful music to inspire us along the way.