Friday, January 20, 2017

Steely Dan, Donald Trump, and the Buddha

They got a name for the winners in the world
I want a name when I lose
They call Alabama the Crimson Tide
Call me Deacon Blues

- Steely Dan. "Deacon Blues." Aja

Winning feels great. It is great. Who doesn't like winning? Losing sucks. It's embarrassing, it's painful, it hurts.

But I am a loser. I don't think I'm a hater, by the way, who are lumped together with us losers in Donald Trump's twitter feed. At first his criticism of me, the loser, was bothersome. But then I thought, I've never been criticized by the President before. That's something!

Yeah, my side lost in the election. But I'll be honest, I was not as strongly in the Clinton camp as many of my liberal friends. I don't need to repeat the litany of reasons why, all of which have been pundit-ed a thousand times over. I've not written about the election much, aside from the occasional short quip on FaceBook. My feelings are conflicted. I think Trump, as a man, is weak. A lousy role model for my sons who is effectively a composite caricature of every awful privileged white male stereotype. Pisses me off. How can we white men show up credibly as the smart, hard-working, passionate, caring humans we are when we keep pushing forward these guys? C'mon white men! Is this guy really the best we've got to offer?

And just for the record, while there are plenty of disagreeable things about Trump, his policies, and the leadership team he is forming, I do agree with a few things. We can do better than Obamacare -- though this whole repeal nonsense is foolishness. Universal coverage would be my choice. We can do better with our trade agreements. I'd like to see better enforcement of environmental and labor laws globally through our trade agreements. We can do better for those at home who have been marginalized through globalization. Ending globalization is not the answer, but rather demonstrating leadership towards a 22nd century economy built on renewable energy and reliable infrastructure is where where I'd go. And our whole approach to the Middle East has been misguided for decades. I don't have smarts on that one. But certainly we can do better there too.

But this isn't supposed to be about politics. It's about losing. Which happens in politics. And in life. We lose in competitive endeavors and we suffer emotional loss. And if we are paying attention losing can help us.

Tibetan Buddhism gives us the concept of bardo. Bardo is the in-between state between two lives. After someone dies and before they are reborn their soul exists in the bardo state, one of transition, and also, one of great opportunity. The living pray for their loved one, participate in any number of prayers and rituals to both help the departed's soul transition through and to learn. The end goal being to move the soul closer to enlightenment and to break free of the endless cycle of suffering of human births and deaths.

From the Tibetan Book of the Living and Dying, 

The bardos are particularly powerful opportunities for liberation because there are, the teachings show us, certain moments that are much more powerful than others and much more charged with potential, when whatever you do has a crucial and far-reaching effect. I think of a bardo as being like a moment when you step toward the edge of a precipice; such a moment, for example, is when a master introduces a disciple to the essential, original, and innermost nature of his or her mind. The greatest and most charged of these moments, however, is the moment of death.

Rinpoche, Sogyal (2009-10-13). The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying: The Spiritual Classic & International Bestseller: Revised and Updated Edition (p. 11). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition. 

As I look at the clock, we are just under three hours away from a new president. Some of us are in raptured joy. Others in grievous mourning. And the rest of us scattered somewhere in between. It does feel clear that we are moving from one reality into another. It's scary. It's also our greatest opportunity for learning. Especially for us losers.

Call me Deacon Blues.


  1. I'm not too sure about dying behind the wheel, although I must have tried.

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