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The Slipstream Versus the Long View
By Judith Gayle | Political Waves

I WROTE A letter not long ago; a real one, with paper and ink. It was agony. My fingers, accustomed to jotting short notes and lists, protested the long haul of paragraph after paragraph with persistent cramping. My handwriting, which I once took pride in as an artistic extension of my persona, appeared unpracticed and unsatisfactory. My brain raced ahead of my ability to put my thoughts on the page. I came away with a sense of frustration shadowed by an uneasy feeling of loss; after that came sheer relief in getting back to my keyboard. So much, I decided, for the niceties of life.

We live in a time of instant communication, amazing technology that has brought us enormous benefit and the ability to participate both globally and personally with immediacy. We're plugged in, we're informed, we're available, and we've paid a larger price for that than we realize. We've gone a little manic; lost some of our ability to distance from those things that drive us forward. We've forgotten some of the skills that, experientially, gave us creative insight and the chance to ponder our challenges. We've entered a slipstream of information, a speed-up of necessary response and strengthened one of our worst human traits -- our need for instant gratification.

Some things need patience, growing revelation and full understanding; some of the things we've traded in for our ability to swim the slipstream we have need of, to make sense of our shifting world and our desire for orderly change. A major difference between a supersized Big Mac, handed through a window in a bag, and Chicken Cordon Bleu as an entree after a first course or two, is essentially the time it takes to create it. That is the experience of dining as opposed to gobbling a quick bite; to exist on junk food, physically as well as mentally, emotionally and spiritually, is to become overweight and undernourished.

The Web has given us all a place to gather, to discuss, to get news quickly; cable news, being a 24/7 loop of limited actual announcement, endless analysis by talking heads, and fluff filler, can't hope to compete with the immediacy offered by the Net. Still, in the race to get news into words, with opinion quickly following, we lose perspective by increments; we lose the experience of thoughtfulness and skew the big picture -- what Obama calls the 'long view.' Not all of us have brains that respond in lightning-quick fashion to compartmentalize information into the larger landscape of a situation.

Case in point: I've read a number of articles about how Obama is failing the Progressives, allowing Bush's policies to stand or mirroring them; how he's reneging on his promises and ignoring the group that supported him while attending the needs of the group that opposed him. Obama's pledge to be transparent has some up in arms because there are things he won't spill into their waiting websites; those who want war ended entirely are anxious about troop assignments, calling him traitorous; those who want legalities turned back, appear frantic that some remain untouched pending assessment.

Today we mark the completion of Obama's first month in office. Here's a question -- if you were elected president of a nation in sociopolitical free-fall, where would you begin? Keyword: begin.

Does anyone notice the cognitive dissonance here? After watching Bush spend the best part of a decade treating this nation in much the same way that Sherman marched to the sea, we assumed that Obama would fix it all in a heartbeat? That he could twitch his nose like Samantha on Bewitched or cross his arms and blink, like I Dream of Jeannie, and the whole ugly mess he inherited would disappear? We thought we'd just switch channels; find a new dramedy to watch on TV?

It feels as though we want the Bush Family Hour, with its cast of villains and torturers reminiscent of Fox's popular 24, banished to the vault and replaced with An Evening With Obama, where everything looks happily different and we can relax our white-knuckled grip on American reality. Well, sure -- who wouldn't, but does that ever happen, outside of Hollywood? We want government by sound bite, do we? Gosh, I thought we were giving up on that black/white reality thing.

I think Americans, in general, have a bad case of indigestion; we've taken in so much junk that we can't get it through the pipeline without discomfort, and spend too little time digesting what's in there. And God/dess forbid that we get uncomfortable; we'll just have to take something for that -- a pill, a treat, a diversion. Some trade-off to silence our pain and concern; some reality-avoiding narcotic that can soothe us instantly, because we've been trained to consume mass quantities, Conehead-like, and counter our gluttony with a big dose of mindlessness.

Too much news? Take a sitcom or a video game. Too much unresolved emotion? Take a Xanax or a six-pack. Too much anxiety? Take a vacation or a therapist's visit. Too much political despair? Raise our voice in anger above the herd or wave our picket sign high above the crowd. A druggy friend of mine once told me that reality was the harshest fix of all; if that's true, then I think it's evident that we've got some cold turkey ahead of us if we're going to have our wits about us to navigate the future.

In the long view, I'm flabbergasted at how much this new president has accomplished in his first 30 days; and more, how quickly the public -- or rather, the talking heads, that hand us opinions for redistribution -- have consigned responsibility for every jot and tittle of the government to his administration.

The Republicans have been grateful to hand off this hot potato: Here, catch this! Tag, you're it. Since American drones hit in Pakistan, the wars are yours. Since you want to spend to rescue the economy, that's yours too. Since you ran on change, the risk belongs to you alone.

They've got that dumbed-down, attention-span-of-a-gnat populace theory going for them, assuming we'll be so spooked by our circumstance that we won't notice who gave us the problems. They're counting on our need for instant gratification to swing our eyes toward Obama, waving our long-ignored laundry list of demands based on national emergency, behaving like rabble after an eight-year rant. In the longer view, some of us are meeting their expectations; so maybe we should look at that instant gratification thing. The first hundred days of a presidency, at least since FDR who was charged with saving a nation from total collapse, sets the tone for what comes next.

In Bush's first hundred days, he marginalized climate issues with his position on Kyoto, drew a pseudo-moral line in the sand by demonizing North Korea and pushed through tax cuts that sent a clear message that government would be downsized; little did we know just how much. George stayed so far under the radar that we didn't have a sense of him personally, beyond his election particulars. He was considered uncompromising and ideologically-driven yet honest as the day is long, although some of us held our breath as he pondered the surplus that gave the Republican touchstone of small government a black eye; still, in those early weeks, he was judged basically non-threatening and average.

The slipstream branded Bush successful in his early months, although I never believed it; the long view pointed to the tone being set, charted the growing power of the Conservative machine and had me very worried. But we had no idea how determined the president's agenda to turn back the clock on governance and progress; Neoconservative was an unfamiliar concept. We hadn't gone light-speed yet, either; that came later.

I don't remember, maybe we could still write letters back then. Perhaps time hadn't catapulted us into a vortex of crisis after crisis, rerouting our schedules to prioritize only the most important things, letting so much slide away. 9/11 didn't set the tone for Bush to take the stage as a quasi-dictator set on drowning government in the bathtub; it simply provided the cover for him to do what he'd hoped was possible. The post-9/11 conversations were bogus, used to justify mayhem, and we didn't have the long view necessary to see that a real emergency -- like the ruin of our economic system -- was on the horizon.

I seem to remember that challenges, both political and personal, kept a respectful timeline in those bygone days. There was enough space between problems to think through a dilemma without blurting out a knee-jerk reaction and moving onto the next one, arriving like an incoming shell to explode on our doorstep. Something kicked that whole time reference into overdrive, early in this new century. Yet now that the bombs are bursting all around us causing life to feel both perilous and immediate, the one thing we simply can't do without is -- you guessed it -- the long view.

Time is not the enemy; how we use it might be. The slipstream isn't the problem; how we perceive it can be. If we are too busy talking and reacting, we leave no possibility for listening and responding. The long view, the big picture, won't be found in the string of emergencies we face, but in the tone of the changes we propose. We are accustomed to micromanaging the details of our decline -- in fact, for some of us that has become something of a narcotic, itself -- yet we have very little practice at lifting ourselves above them to find the larger view of our journey.

We're 30 days into a period of assessment and reconstruction; we're watching an old paradigm fall under the weight of its own corruption and avarice. It's folding not because it's inherently evil, as some might think, but because it's played out; we've, collectively, had enough of it. The slipstream of information that pushes us ahead like a bullet train is thrilling but confusing: immediate but limiting. It has helped us find our authenticity, as do all new things, but it isn't our authenticity -- it's just the newest medium through which we discover ourselves.

There is another flow we can enter that will help us make use of our potential, nicely articulated by Christian D. Larsen:
When we learn that real wisdom comes directly from God, we shall no longer seek knowledge through the training of the senses to discriminate between illusions; nor shall we depend on experience for instruction. Real wisdom does not come from the experience; experience can only tell us how it feels to live in illusions and overcome illusions; but it tells us nothing about how it feels to live in the real and ascend into the greater and the greater of the life real.
He said a mouthful; if that didn't stop your racing mind for just a moment, you're a disaster junky and you need a program. Here are some things you can do to measure your dependency. Stare at a blank wall for a few moments and try not to think anything at all. Go ahead -- try it.

How'd you do? Did it sound like a police scanner in there, or something less busy? What floated up? What did you tell yourself? Would you be shocked to learn that those bits of information were infinitely more important than anything you read on the web today? That was the news of the day in your own private universe; that is the filter through which everything else you hear must flow. That is your own personal long view of life.

If you want to change that, you will have to get cozy with ... gasp ... silence.

Perceiving the long view will require us to slow down and find our balance; let's start with baby steps. We might take time to write a letter this week. Eat a meal on a tablecloth, lovingly prepared and creatively served. Sit outside and listen to a new morning arrive. Put aside a quiet time, just for ourselves, not filled with noise or chatter from outside of our own mind. In the spaces between our thoughts, All That Is resides, waiting to whisper encouragement, creative solutions, great truths that illuminate our consciousness and instruct us in wisdom.

If life's amusement park is no longer amusing, we need to change it; but let's not forget that the thrill ride is just the thrill ride, nothing more or less. That's the long view that silences fear and creates confidence; that's the vision that brings us together to overlay today's reality with tomorrow's compassion and lovingness. That's the trust in life itself that only the exquisite vibration of love within us can bring to our attention.

Crisis is a bit-player in the script of change; since we write our own script with each response and thought, we would do well to set time aside to listen to those Higher Angels whispering in our ear. Each of us has within us a source of inspiration that can knock our socks off, if we invite it in. We can tap that unfailing source at any time; we could even channel some extraordinary advice, if we'd like. I'd suggest that we slow time (we made it, we can slow it) for silence, on a regular basis; then sit right down and write yourself a letter -- if you still remember how.

Couldn't we all do with a little, "Be still and know..." about now? That's the long view that calms our fear, expands our heart and renews our spirit; and that's the very thing that is taking us into a new human experiment.

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