As most of us already realize, political discourse in our society is growing increasingly rigid and preconceived. That is, politicians and others have staked out their positions on certain issues before even taking time to seriously listen to another person who may have a different viewpoint before having a discussion with them. Of course, in part this dogmatic approach is a function of many people believing that various social and political forces need to be tightly controlled in order to keep things from going awry. That is,they think that just as a powerful river needs to be dammed in order to keep it from overflowing its banks, societal forces need to be controlled in order for them to be dealt with correctly.
Whether its finding an equitable way to be certain that everyone has access to affordable health insurance, how to somehow put an end to the current wave of mass shootings, or how to deal with the issue of climate change – we tend to think that approaches to these particular issues, and others, need to be tightly regulated in order for them to be effectively addressed. And unfortunately, people of the left have now become just as guilty of this sort of myopic approach as those on the right.
Whatever the issue in question – health insurance, gun control, immigration, foreign policy, or climate change – political candidates and others now tend to feel that it is somehow necessary to cling to rigid positions on hot button issues, lest they begin to lose control of their attachment to them. Certainly, the recent Democratic debates in which candidates appeared to be too busy defending their narrow positions on particular issues to genuinely listen to each other would seem to be a prime example of this trend.
Part of the problem may simply be that so many people in our current Twitter universe culture believe that approaches to various societal problems must first be narrowly defined in order that those problems will be properly addressed. That is, rather than through an understanding that by letting go of this need for dogmatic control, the forces in our society, if left alone to resolve themselves without a certain measure of external control by government or other bureaucracies and organizations, might move effortlessly and naturally toward other larger, more significant forces in reaching a point of equilibrium.
The metaphysical thinker Alan Watts in his book The Wisdom of Insecurity made mention of what he referred to as The Great Stream of Life, that universal force that we consistently impede by defining various realities through words, thoughts, and concepts which are never the actual realities which they describe. So we’re never really in touch with those same forces because we have limited their dynamic flow by tightly defining them. Instead, if we allowed them to flow toward where they’re naturally inclined, they would grow larger in scope, thus permitting us to see the full spectrum of societal dynamics of which they’re a part more clearly.
Perhaps what is needed is a new type of libertarian approach in which government and other bureaucracies stop damming the stream of life of which all such issues are a part by the imposition of narrow, myopic solutions, and instead allow events which are part of our social and political discourse to move naturally and effortlessly toward wherever they’re inclined to move. For this to take place, however, would mean fusing political and social concerns with a more expansive view of life in our world; something which might best be described as a flow state in allowing different points of conflict to resolve themselves naturally amidst a larger vision of what might be possible.
To place political and social concerns within narrow definitions that limit them even before they have had the opportunity to effectively assert themselves among us prevents us from envisioning just what type of society we might inhabit. Part of the problem, of course, is that in today’s Internet age with the appearance of the 24 news cycle on cable television, the media is not only more able to define for us how political leaders should look and act, but to also narrowly define the context of important issues. And so we remain not as open as we otherwise might be to potentially larger visions of these issues.
Ultimately, it makes no sense to pigeonhole the forces with which our society must deal by constantly preventing them from expanding into what they might eventually become, particularly when this is done in the name of dogmatic expediency and political correctness. Maryanne Williamson may not be ready to be President, but her appearance at two of the recent Democratic debates may have provided a welcome respite from narrowly defined issues; and in so doing gave us all a slight peak over the edge of what might be possible if we were to open our minds just a little.
Lyn Lesch’s book Intelligence in the Digital Age: How the Search for Something Larger May Be Imperiled is being published later this year by Rowman & Littlefield.