Having walked though all 50 states and a wealth of countries on this little island “Earth,” I have witnessed many exhilarating, magical and tragic events. I have seen the Berlin Wall fall, the rise of communication, the Arab Spring, progressive women rights, the speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, the walk against apartheid, the battle against HIV, the music of Louis Armstrong, the tragedy of September 11th, the tsunamis, earthquakes, the space shuttle. I’ve seen some wonderfully terrific men and women as well: Francis Collins, J. Craig Venter, Nelson Mandela, Richard Stallman, Aung San Suu Kyi, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, Clara Barton, Rosa Parks, Malala Yousafzai, the Clintons, General Powell, Bill Gates and many, many more.
Personally, I’m under no illusion. I am not worthy to sit in the shadow of such great men and women. I have not cured the world of disease. Nor have I solved a nation’s critical problem. I have not invented something that positively impacted anyone, let alone bring water to a village, electricity to the poor, nutrition to the hungry, freedom to the enslaved or hope to the hopeless. Nope …. sorry. I do not count myself in that realm.
But what my travels has revealed is the opportunity to review the collective soul of all whom crossed my path. And in that, many United States leaders and politicians, at some point in time, have crossed my path. These paths have ranged from the short momentary sight and quick handshake, to an actual conversation of meaning and thought. I have been lucky to witness the soul and these snippets of time bared unknown quantities of fruit. For some, the soul bursts forth with ideas and thought exchange.
Seriously, these men and women all have faults. But many share at least one solid character trait. Their need became the needs of the many. Each was able to align themselves to the greater good, not so much for themselves, but for the betterment of humanity. Something inside brought forth an unknown quantity of fruit to which they were willing to share. In splendor and blemish, each willingly gave life to all whom they touched.
In the ongoing battle within Washington these days, I see a darkness. Borrowing from Spock (Star Trek), the needs of the many outweighed the needs of the few. Yet today, it’s as if one party loyalist or another openly defies the world and claims, “The needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many.” Budget hawks claimed stripping services from the poor were crucial for economic soundness while ultra-conservatives placed a stake in the ground by stating the unborn is their mission. Bishop E.W. Jackson, candidate for Lt. Governor of Virginia repugnantly claimed government programs created more harm to blacks than slavery; and that non-Christians are “engaged in some sort of false religion.” For faith voters, tons of guns remain really good while gays are vile. And yes, religious freedom seems to be always under attack.
For all the “let’s get back to God” symposiums, there are the overlooked: the complete and utter lack of interest in the poor, immigrants, the unemployed, the father and mother working two jobs, the sick, the mentally handicapped, the hungry, the handicapped, those in constant pain, the poor in spirit – yeah, the very people Jesus loved. In an era of big money, big politics and ego, it’s apparent there aren’t enough representatives for many: the meek, the soiled and outcast. We’ve have been abandoned by the wayside of life’s road.
From a Buddhist perspective, we must acknowledge many nations reflect a kaleidoscope of religious faith and belief. Religion is a sacred engagement, often believed to be a spiritual journey. In some instances a heavenly god may be the center of a religion. In other cases it may be saviors, scriptures and sacraments. In this light, we all are interconnected. And that interconnection swallows us into the collective of “the many.”
When the needs of the few mirror the nation, we become more than just ourselves. We transform from a substandard set of egos to consciousness. Only then can any of us reach for the greater glory within. This is the Christ, the Buddha, the Muslim, the Protestant, the Catholic and Atheist we all want.
Seek the needs of the many, not the needs of the few … or even the one.