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Dissatisfied with Violence and Politics?

In light of violent events that occur near us whether we are in the United States or we are in the Eurozone”, whether we are in Kenya, or we are in Bahrain, and in light of political victories and failures (a victory for one is a failure for another), and in light of the Interdependence Project’s mission to “bridge the gap between personal development and collective engagement in our world”, and in light of tonight’s event at IDP (Congressman Tim Ryan is coming to IDP), I ask the question, “Are you dissatisfied with violence and politics?” I would like to discuss activism through the lens of the Four Noble Truths so that we have tools to evaluate our intentions when we are trying to change the world.

We do not need to have the same political stance to agree that there are things that we can do to make the world a more workable, livable place for all beings. We may disagree about marriage rights, gun laws, the environment, and economics, but we can still agree that there are things we need to do: we need to engage our world.

We can also agree that we are not 100% satisfied with things as they are. In fact, if we look into the little moments of our day and night, we can see all sorts of funny little “this sucks” moments. Like funny little “this sucks that I am hungry, I just ate an hour ago” moments; like “this sucks that I have work today, I am tired” moments; like “this sucks that my lover is leaving, he/she just got here” moments. But we also have big really not-so-funny “this sucks” moments like, “this SUCKS that people in Boston were hurt, and this SUCKS that things are exploding everywhere, and this SUCKS that the world is the way it is.”

All sorts of unable-to-be-satisfied-nesses, big and small, happen all the time. This is the first noble truth. This unable-to-be-satisfied-ness is the feeling of what it is like to be unable-to-be-satisfied. It happens many times in the course of a day.

This feeling of unable-to-be-satisfied-ness has a cause. This is the second noble truth. Most of the time we don’t know what that cause is, so we try to satisfy ourselves thinking that every time we take action, it is going to be the thing that finally ends this unable-to-be-satisfied-ness once and for all--we try to fix it in the best way we know how.

Trying to fix our experience is the path from the second noble truth back to the first noble truth. Many will say that the initial cause of cycling back to unable-to-be-satisfiedness is craving or desire. It is like the feeling tone of needing to fix things. That feeling tone has been cyclically cultivated at least our entire lives and is therefore very strong.

Let’s evaluate the first two truths in light of activism and politics. Politically, we are not 100% satisfied with the way things are. Perhaps our leader didn’t do what he or she promised to do—not satisfactory. Our opponents did something unjust and illegal and our allies lost—not satisfactory. Our judges made a ruling that we think is a bad move—not satisfactory. That’s the first noble truth.

We are not satisfied, so we try and fix the world. Our attempts don’t completely work, so we feel unable-to-be-satisfied-by-politics-the-way-it-happened-ness. That feeling is the second noble truth and the path back to the first noble truth is when we try to achieve our political goals with the intention to satisfy ourselves. Additionally, in politics, the stakes are very high, and we often have a poverty mentality (we think we have 0%) so the political arena becomes vicious. We don’t recognize that we will never gain complete satisfaction through political activism, but we keep trying and we keep failing and trying and failing and trying…

The third noble truth says that we can stop this cycle, and that is a relief, because I am tiring myself out writing about it. Yet, I said earlier that “we need to engage our world.” We can engage our world and partake in activism without getting caught in the cycle that leads to unable-to-be-satisfied-ness.

Part of the path that leads us out of that cycle is mindfulness. Tonight, Congressman Tim Ryan (author of “A Mindful Nation”) is speaking at IDP about his time in politics and what we need to do to create real change. I am very interested in hearing what he has to say about mindfulness and how it fits into politics.

Yet there is something I can do before I attend that event, that we can all do before we engage in any type of political discussion or activism, and that is to think about our intentions. If I know that I will not find personal satisfaction through politics (and I hope you are convinced of that as well), what will my intention be when engaging the world in a political way?

“I aspire to make the world a more workable, livable place, not a world that will satisfy me or others,” works for me.

In light of the four noble truths, what is the intention you want to bring with you into political activism either at the event tonight, or in your activism in the future? Share your intention or thoughts below.

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Images from Wikimedia Commons (1 and 2)

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