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Thoughts Are Things, I Think
By Judith Gayle | Political Waves

I've been thinking about thinking. Motivational speaker James Allen tells us, "You are today where your thoughts have brought you; you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you." In times of upheaval, it's a sure bet that thoughts are zooming around in the ethers like birds startled out of their nest, flapping and dodging and making a din. Errant thoughts, most likely -- unpoliced, let loose in panic. I could wish we'd be more deliberate with our thought process, but, as Henry Ford put it, "Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is the probable reason so few engage in it."

This business of taking back our lives, making them work in collaboration and harmlessness while discovering and replacing the old patterns that held us in servitude (if not paralysis) will take generations to accomplish. We've made a few good steps this last week, overlaying a new template on some of what is outworn; and we've had a few sharp reminders of the mindless, emotional thought process we must rise above if we are to regain our national sanity.

Under the umbrella of the Chiron/Neptune/Jupiter mix, we saw a 'pro-life' zealot walk into a church and murder a doctor who provided late-term abortion for often desperate families. In the unenlightened soul, Jupiter has the capacity to puff us up in self-righteousness and God-delusion, fuel our confidence; Neptune provides the fantasy and Chiron the wounded disgruntlement. Given the limited consciousness of some Americans, the eventuality of this kind of incident was all but fated, driven by this combination of energies; only a matter of when and where. The where turned out to be a church vestibule on a Sunday morning in Wichita, Kansas.

Another example of this overblown energy came at the announcement of a new Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor. Sotomayor appears, at first blush, to be the epitome of the prototype necessary to balance out a male-dominated court and a growingly diverse American population. She is a she, for starters, and a Latina, raised by her widowed mother in a South Bronx housing project. One would think that her early accomplishments -- high school valedictorian, graduating summa cum laude from Princeton University to become an editor of the Law Journal at Yale Law School; then on to become a judge, as well as work in public and private practice -- would be heralded by the Republicans who are constantly berating the little guys for not pulling themselves up by their bootstraps, which Sonia obviously did.

Not so, of course -- the Republican leadership has mastered both projecting their own gunk out onto others and tossing out any charge they feel might 'stick' to someone, selected from their bag o' truthiness which typically contains tiny bits of supposition and giant handfuls of slander. This is broadcast from their national bullhorn (FOX News) and responded to by all the other media outlets, jonesing for controversy and a ratings boost. As Sotomayor is a moderate-liberal, cut in the cloth of sitting-judges Ginsburg and Breyer, the level of pushback from the Right seems foolish and crudely self-aggrandizing in a national selection process that traditionally demands the highest levels of respect and civility. Feels like "thought-crime" to me -- or is that too Orwellian?

The Media Matters for America newsletter outlined the charges from Rightys, long before they met with Ms. Sotomayor, thus: "bigot," "liberal," "radical," "racist," "reverse racist," "activist," "socialist," "Marxist," "anti-constitutionalist," "affirmative action." Overkill of the first water given this woman's record; thick with Neptunian fantasy of the righteousness of Republican ideology, under attack, and the gaseous bloviating of Jupiter, misinterpreted. Yeah, Orwellian. I think so.

There are big problems out there we're tackling now, profound ones, and these two incidents brush against them without illuminating them. If we were big thinkers, it might be obvious to us; but we have ignored the larger picture of our humanity for a very long time. Thinking, itself, has been discouraged, if not outright attacked by charges of "intellectualism," and equated with "elitism." We do not aspire to original thought because we aren't socialized to seek it; we are given our thoughts through countless media sources, PR campaigns, church pulpits -- and, of course, unenlightened family attitudes which I think of as the 'sins of the father until the seventh generation' warning given in the Bible. Shaking off our intellectual lethargy and becoming sentient beings has never been more imperative, seems to me; and if there's a bigger problem for awakening humanity to tackle, I can't think of it.

It's apparent that passions have been ignited under this transit in a kind of desperate need to act out internalized pain and fear. The problem, of course, is that the actions of the fearful are shortsighted, a looping of old energies that only produce more of the same. In the case of late-term abortion, this procedure is rarely needed but appropriate in some cases; I cannot imagine it a decision come to lightly. The man accused of this crime did not see both sides of the situation; he only saw one, and acted upon it. What was he thinking? He was thinking murder, or it couldn't have happened. As Freud put it, "Thought is action in rehearsal."

I have no respect for 'pro-life' advocates that also support Stepford fashion, the death penalty, wars of aggression and limited social assistance for the severely damaged, struggling newborns that this procedure is designed to circumvent. Neither can I support those who consider Dr. George Tiller's murder justifiable. In some sense, this is the Terry Shiavo conundrum, revisited -- is our journey on this planet defined by only the ability to draw breath? Or is it something more? And if more, what is our responsibility?

As to the Supreme Court nominee who is a moderate-liberal replacing same and not destined to shift the makeup of the High Court in any radical fashion, the Republican vitriolics appear to be a last desperate cry from older white citizens who are afraid their world is changing; in point of fact, it already has. As Jeff Toobin, author of The Nine (a book highly readable and recommended, by the way) tells us, of the 110 Supreme Court judges in our history, 106 of them were white men. Sotomayor will be the third woman, and the third non-Caucasian selection. Such a nomination is long overdue, welcomed by the majority, and, as Toobin points out,"a fitting representative of a changed and changing nation."

Given the growing diversity of this nation, inability to break the existing line of conservative white power would not serve our purpose or represent our population. We will become a post-racist nation -- as some have suggested Obama's election proved -- when we no longer promote such ridiculous, stereotypical conversations about tribal and ethnic bias. This is not much of a problem in the liberal camps; but the Right has always needed an enemy to be successful, and that invariably shakes out as the people who don't think exactly as do they. As much as this nation seeks to move ahead into the future, it seems like somebody is always dragging us back into controversy and impeding our progress. America is of two minds, and the chasm between them is widening; we'd better learn how to use those minds more efficiently.

Learning to think independently and critically is not always a comfortable process; as a friend reminded me recently, a good many people don't want to know anything that will shake up their happy delusions. It's a psychic shock to discover that things are not as we've perceived them, and become subject to our initial defense and denial. Remember The Matrix? Our hero, Neo, is told that he is living a drug-induced dream foisted on him by energy-sucking overlords; his first response is to reject the truth and fight to keep delusion, despite the obvious theme of the trilogy -- that his purpose is to become The One who has the capacity to dissolve the conspiracy against humankind. This movie was an apt analogy for our times, especially as released at the closing of the Bushie administration; it illustrated that our ability to see through delusions is only as developed as our capacity to surrender comfort zones, question reality, and embrace critical thinking.

Life is messy, and if we consume it mindlessly, our outcomes are muddled and haphazard. Mindfulness, on the other hand, is designed to put us all squarely into our own petrie dish of conflicting information, and requires us to reconcile disjointed emotions. For instance, I find myself a bit perplexed by this week's embrace of all things Reagan, as this dead president approaches his 100th birthday. If I had to point to one of the prime architects of the current socio-economic disaster in this country, I'd nominate Ronnie. Dick Nixon, close second: Nixon took us into the dark delusions of grandeur defining an irresponsible unitary presidency; he was stopped, but hardly held accountable -- in my mind, a huge mistake.

No, I won't be throwing Ron a party. Even as I respect the office of the presidency, I can cut him no slack for his national service; his tenure began the spiral that turned our brains to mush. He was the guy who broke the unions, weakened regulation and convinced us, with his winning smile and folksy presentation, that "government is the problem." He gutted public education, put mental health patients on the streets and turned us toward religious nationalism. Several administrations later, we saw the poverty of his small government proposal on our television screens during Hurricane Katrina; what the Republicans had configured as a decades-long minimizing of government interference in the lives of Americans (but not corporations) had shaken out as a newly visited maxim: "government is the enemy." Fat Cats might argue only to the po' folk -- but now that trickle-down economics has done its work, that's most of us.

We've come to this realization late in the game, I think, but only because I've thought this way for (frustrating) decades. I suspect that I popped into this world a devout anti-authoritarian, but I incarnated into the perfect lifetime to watch authority twist and turn and warp history to suit its needs. A child of the 60s, I'd seen what happened to Martin and Malcolm, Jack and Bobby; some say that was the beginning of our national decline, and most certainly our cynicism. As a young adult, I'd fought the cover-ups and knew the score. Here, in our new century, I have no doubt that what has too often been branded conspiracy theory in generations past will come to light as criminal in those to come. And it seems a no-brainer that if we'd thought about it all a little harder and a little longer as it was happening -- questioning the authority that gave us our marching orders -- we would have been saved shock and surprise when we discover, eventually, how completely and determinedly we've been lied to.

There are plenty of people/institutions who stood in the way of our awareness that we could blame for our apathy, our lethargy, our inability to discern truth from lie. But it's not a matter of blaming, at this point; perhaps we required of ourselves so thorough a blindsiding in order to make awakening now both critical and necessary. The energies have coalesced to give us just the ingredients we need to prompt a new response, risk a new way of dealing with old problems. That will require moving out of our comfort zone and realizing that our entire social order is built on shifting sand and requires restructure. We need to see the big picture, examine it to get the Full Monty of its reality and we need to think -- mostly, to think.

In that regard, I offer this brilliant little presentation called The Story of Stuff. Do not miss this, because it offers you a quick look at the big picture in enjoyable, easily understood sequence. The industrial revolution that blasted us out of an agrarian age is over; we stand on the cusp of an emerging new era, unwilling to let go of what was and unaware of the entirety of what will be. Clearly, brain-power is going to drive our future and we need to sharpen up those tools. Until we understand just how dramatic a change this must be, we will continue to drag our feet, parse our words and put off until tomorrow. We will indulge ourselves in change by eye-dropper when change by truckload is required.

If you breezed through that, here's another series of entertaining clips that intrigued me. While they're actually a sales campaign for a product, they illuminate contrarian thinking in a startling way and beg a perfectly legitimate question: when is enough enough? Is more always better? This is a conversation we need to have with ourselves; and it's a vital one, as we face issues of sustainability. We must break the sleepwalking consumerism of our thought process if we are to create a new social contract and a survivable future.

Everything we see around us, all the things that we experience and value -- all of this began in mind. How we think is critical to our becoming -- what we think is destined to manifest. For years, me and mine and various of the spiritual traditions have called this, "Thoughts are things." As Tyron Edwards puts it, "Thoughts lead on to purposes; purposes go forth in action; actions form habits; habits decide character; and character fixes our destiny."

And while I firmly believe that positive thoughts provide us with the hopeful energy that makes things possible, rational thought that looks at everything with a critical eye and connects the dots from symptom back to cause gives us a platform of power from which to work. It's time for our brains to do some heavy lifting. Don't you think? I thought you did.

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