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Daily Connection: Rally To Restore Sanity and Muppets Tweet the Revolution

Are you going to the Rally to Restore Sanity? I don't think Jon Stewart is reading Chogyam Trungpa, but it does seem to be a big event. Relatedly, have you read Malcolm Gladwell's New Yorker article on the illusion that social media can actually create a movement to change the world? There have been a lot of arguments over that article, and the founders of Twitter took exception to the idea that they weren't helping the world as much as they thought.


It seems, for those of us who care about interdependence, we have a big election coming up on Tuesday, November 2. Do you agree? Maybe you don't. That's cool, I still love you. There also seems to be a general and irony-filled lack of enthusiasm about rolling up sleeves and getting involved, unless you hate Kenyan socialists with Hitler moustaches, in which case you are quite willing and ready to rock the vote. That's what happens when we get disillusioned by the insanity of our world. All or nothing, all the time.

Yet what are the consequences for interdependently minded people of this disillusionment and apathy? Some of the folks in the Tea Party, such as NY gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino, are espousing a level of hate-speech toward, well, pretty much everyone, that I have not seen in a long time in candidates for public office. These folks may win a good number of jobs in this election. It strikes me personally that voting for someone for a government position who openly despises government is sort of like voting for an arsonist for fire chief, but logic isn't really very present in these debates. Many of these folks (beyond the witchcraft, which is really not such a big deal to me, I'm a Tibetan Buddhist after all - we know how to do witchcraft!), they don't like gay people (openly), many of them the don't like Choice (not even if you get raped, ladies, tough luck), and many don't even think we should have public schools. This is not an exaggeration. This is something mindful people should worry about. Elected officials who openly hate other citizens, and hate the very institution they serve, put us on a slippery slope to a bad bad place.

Meanwhile, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are hosting the Rally to Restore Sanity in Washington the weekend before the election. I don't know how I feel about this. It strikes me as a parallel to Gladwell's basic point. It looks like a snarky, high-brow, yet well-intentioned event on the weekend before the election; an event which, from the looks of the PR materials, doesn't have anything to do with the election three days after it. There is no information about supporting candidates or organizating voters to support candidates who take a "saner" approach. There are no endorsements of who these "sane" leaders might be, from the hundreds of close races around the country. From the looks of it, instead of helping them get out the vote or working in their local communities for sane candidates, Jon Stewart is asking America to spend the last crucial weekend before the election, well, um, watching a live episode of the Daily Show, performed outside in DC. Hmmm.

A few weeks ago a student in a Buddhism class asked me for my personal opinion on Stewart and Colbert. I said I like them, but I'm not sure if they actually have a positive impact on discourse or interdependent activism. Maybe they are the best thing going in a degraded information age. They might just be the best of the Muppets in the Balcony. Malcolm Gladwell's critique of Twitter and social media seems to get at a similar view. We don't need more Muppets in the Balcony, more snark and irony. We need more Martin Luther Kings. I'm spending Saturday October 30 trying to get as many people to vote as possible for the candidates who most closely reflect mindfulness and interdependent values. Let me know how that rally goes.


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it's better than a rally to increase delusion

I'm not going, but I know people who are and I'm glad it's happening.
the political discourse this season has been more delusional than I've ever seen -- and I remember Richard Nixon. He at least kept his delusions and paranoia secret. This year, the inmates are running the asylum. and they are controlling the narrative. if they don't like the facts, they simply deny them. the level of unreasonableness is scary.
I think it's important that rational/sane people be heard. loud people dominate. numbers count. if people don't stand up for sanity, then the climate moves farther toward toward the nasty end of the spectrum because sanity has no weight.
if you have to use two highly intelligent and funny men to get people who hang back because they don't want to debate politics with screaming paranoids, then I'm for it.
maybe the timing is bad. maybe that's an important weekend to be out campaigning. for professional reasons, I can't be doing that. I think the rally has the potential to empower sane people, to make them feel less alone and alienated, to give them the push to make a difference,
I think it's important that they DON'T support particular candidates because that cheapens it and makes it all about endorsements. (and I'd like it if you kept your endorsements off the IDP website and tweeted them to your friends -- including me.) I respect what you think and your reasoning -- and therefore who you support (altho I live in connecticut and can't give you any help there) -- but I think the IDP should be more about a PROCESS -- mindfully evaluating a situation -- than particular individuals. I don't really know why you think Sen. Schneiderman is so mindful or how that translates more broadly. what's your criteria for evaluating a candidate's mindfulness? how do we know who's mindful? maybe it's self evident -- I know what I'd look for -- but it might not be to people who are new to this. share your process, and we can apply it on our own.
Stewart and Colbert are offering a clear definition of what makes a sane politician -- in the negative by saying what a sane politician IS NOT. and you can go home from the rally and feel like your vote has a point because there are XX thousand other people who showed up, and you can look at the literature and watch the ads and see who's sane.
I leave you with a poem -- your moment of zen, as stewart would say:
A Ritual to Read to each other by William Stafford
If you don't know the kind of person I am
and I don't know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dyke.

And as elephants parade holding each elephant's tail,
but if one wanders the circus won't find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.

And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider--
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.

For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give--yes or no, or maybe--
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.


Yes it is better than nothing!

then again

not that there's anything wrong with nothing, absolutely speaking. reminds me of my favorite newspaper slogan (from the defunct dot): nothing happens. and we report it.


Up to now nobody has told me what this rally is about. That seems a little insane to me.  Probably it's not, but I'm sure I must have something more important to do than support someone who doesn't know what he is doing or doesn't care to explain it. I have to wonder if they think they would lose audience, were they to reveal their goals.

Ethan, I am so grateful for


I am so grateful for your commitment to get-out-the-vote and work in a meaningful way heading into theis election. Your posts along these lines have been a real motivation for me not to sink into mid-term inertia, and to do what I can to help the effort.

But as "snarky and high-brow" as Stewart and Colbert may seem, I think they are tapping into something that does get people's attention - and often people who might otherwise be hard to reach. Having been a teacher for a long time, i'm pretty sure our brains are hard-wired to remember things and hear them best if they come in anecdotal form - storytelling - especially if it is either terrifying or funny. It's so ancient and universal for human beings as a means of communication, and all i can say (with a sigh) is that it works. My students immediately look at the ceiling and out the window when I am telling them what seems to me mind-blowingly interesting information, but they are riveted if I tell the stories of artists crazy lives... and they remember every detail of the night we had 8 raccoons in my son's bedroom.

I think Steart and Colbert are using a workable form - storytelling around the fire (around the tv for us) - to try to get people to hear things that they otherwise tune out.

And I'm so grateful that you are keeping the conversation focused on the real work of getting out the vote as we near the election! thank you.


Ethan, your work, and IDP's mission, to extend mindfulness principles beyond the cushion are exactly what our communities need. And in that regard, I agree with your post completely. How can a 'sanity' rally be taken seriously if it's not engaging with citizens to take action to cultivate a saner world? While we all must accept what is in each moment, we also have to actively participate in life. The rally seems like such a missed opportunity in many ways. I too plan to spend hours the weekend of 10/30 volunteering for campaigns and asking people to vote on November 2.

At the same time, I think that it's important to appreciate in this instance that, for some, this is all the engagement that they are ready for. Perhaps a live Daily Show experience inspires those who watch every night to show up somewhere in person - for the first time. And then maybe that can have a profound ripple effect on the choices they make in their own lives, and the choices made by others around them. Maybe it means that in the next election cycle they decide to get involved in a campaign. From that perspective, the rally seems like a significant piece of our political/cultural interdependence. Sometimes it doesn't seem like enough, but in the spirit of the middle path I remind myself that every person's choices are relative to their own experiences.

I continue to applaud you for always encouraging the strongest levels of commitment and dedication in your own actions and others. I also commend those who may be taking a new step that seems small now, but could lead toward a better tomorrow.

Brendan R-W

Brendan, great points


thanks for the kind words, these are very good points that you make.

Speaking honestly...

I was disappointed to see this. As your organization becomes more political, singles out individual politicians for criticism, and dualistically (is that a word?) labels large swathes of people, my interest level will wane.

I understand that many in your group may embrace this as part of their path. I spent decades drowning in the anger and frustration that goes with being a political party guy; I now understand that it is not consistent with my path to a peaceful mind.

I wish you well. Perhaps I will continue to find a relevant message in the IDP writings. :-)


Hi Ray


Thanks for connecting! Again, this blog is meant to propose dialogue among everyone who cares about interdependence, so everyone has a voice. Please do write a journal if you so choose. My view is not that we become political, it is that we ALREADY are embedded in politics by virtue of being a human being in human society, and we have to figure out how to engage with that reality compassionately.

I am not sure what you are referring to here in terms of your disappointment. Is it my reference to Carl Paladino? I don't believe I'm exaggerating any of his beliefs as he has stated. I don't believe it's dualistic to say that people who care about mindfulness and compassion should care about hate speech, which has very much been on display by many of these candidates, especially Paladino. We have to make choices. NonDuality is more about avoiding fixation than about the myth that we could somehow live without making choices about interdependent reality.

It is quite ok if your interest wanes, but your interest in my views could wane without that affecting your interest in IDP. However, I'm really not sure I understand your critique so if you could say a bit more it'd be helpful. I don't think I over-generalized the clearly state beliefs of many tea-party candidates here. If you have counter information, perhaps you could offer that.

Thank you for the

Thank you for the well-considered answer! Sorry to be vague; I'm at work and quickly jotted something down.

I don't have a lot of information to offer about the Tea Party as it applies to the races in your area of the country. (I live in the southeast, and don't really pay attention to regional politics outside of here) I'm dimly aware of Paladino and some of his commentary about homosexuals. I'm not in agreement with his stance, as I remember it, but I'm forced to remember that my own feelings in the matter have changed over the years. (For which I'm thankful)

I agree that we have to make choices. I'm a 43-year-old engineer and father of 2, so needless to say I've made a couple over the years. I think I was just surprised to see a leadership figure in a Buddhist community actually call out a politician and a political movement directly. I guess I'm seeing a difference between personally making a choice, and publicly taking a stand against someone. Obviously you see this differently!

It's all good. I think what I'm finding is that I didn't come to Buddhism for activism. It's a personal endeavor for me, in which I hope to point a finger at my mind and (hopefully) be a happier, more peaceful person. I have no desire to proselytize, nor to push an agenda, be it political or religious. LOL, I guess I'm lazy. If someone sees that I'm a happy dude and wants to know why, I'll be glad to share with them. Politics just gets so nasty, so quickly, in my experience. Sure, you can surround yourself with people who agree with you in totality...but then you have to wonder if you're really seeing the world for what it is anymore.

Obviously, it falls to me to decide whether or not the ID Project is something with which I'd like to maintain a connection. I'm intrigued with the youthful spirit of it; someone needs to carry the torch forward!

Best wishes,

yeah well

I agree that there's a bit of Statler and Waldorf going on here, and it's an opportunity to preach to the converted and feel good and smug about how dumb everyone is who doesn't agree with you. However the rally has another important function -- it will generate some press, and hopefully some liberals who wouldn't have otherwise bothered voting might get up off their asses and vote. Yeah, it's a snarky, high-brow event, but it's a snarky high-brow event that has the potential to reach millions of people. I agree, it would be nice to have some real information on what "sanity" looks like. But I'm happy that someone is making some noise. Noise needs to be made right now.


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