Democracy & the Human Spirit

Having just enjoyed a July 4th “Independence Day” celebration featuring nurturing food and friendship, I would like to share some “food for thought” from Parker Palmer’s book HEALING THE HEART OF DEMOCRACY–The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit.

There is so much in this book that is wonderful … I will just quote one tiny bit that I shared recently with a friend concerned with the political process as it has evolved over time. I find these words/concepts from Palmer useful to contemplate, and I share them below in the hope that they might resonate.

Parker calls the heart “the place where we wrestle with democracy’s basic questions, emerging with answers on which so much depends … The most consequential conceptual space that most of us inhabit when it comes to politics is the space defined by the media … And almost all of it is generated by media controlled by a handful of megacorporations … If we are to be citizens of a democracy, we must spend time in conceptual spaces defined by personal experience, not by the mass media, spaces where we can get the news that comes from within …”

“If we fail to turn inward for some of our news, we cannot embrace the questions … on which democracy depends — questions about our inner capacity for mutual respect, generosity, listening openly to others, courage, trust, and resolve … Once a day, we might lock the door to our home or office, turn off our digital devices, put down our work, quiet ourselves inwardly as well as outwardly, and reflect for a while on what is moving within us … The better we know our own hearts, the better we know the world.”

Each of us can work out when/how to find this quiet time for self-reflection … to get in touch with our inner voice. Some find this time for quiet reflection in a meditation practice. Peter Bolland, a local treasure who teaches comparative religion and philosophy here in San Diego, recently wrote about meditation in his Blog: “Meditation is nothing more than allowing yourself to sink beneath the waves of the thought stream and enter the vast field of awareness of your authentic being – your true identity… as we move deeper …we are increasingly liberated from the limited and limiting thoughts, judgments, concepts, and opinions of ordinary knowledge. From [this] perspective, we are boundless awareness existing in a deep state of interconnectedness with all things.”

And to quote Palmer again, “We need safe spaces, silent and solitary spaces, where we can get the news from within. But when it comes to forming the habits of the heart that make a democracy work … we also need safe spaces … where citizens can come together to explore the challenge of living heartfelt lives in the neighborhood, in the workplace, and in the larger world.”

And because sharing food together supports community building, consider including a potluck where folks prepare and share a favorite recipe. A potluck favorite of mine is Berry Crisp from our Food for Thought—Healing Foods to Savor. I used a combination of blueberries, cherries, and raspberries for the July 4th celebration that went along with the “red, white, and blue” theme. Enjoy!

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