we’ll throw him off our backs

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Disgust…

disillusion…

a desire for national stability.

According to historian Paul Johnson in Napoleon: A Life, a populace sinks down into such feelings after a time of revolutionary upheaval.

From the people there then arises “an overwhelming demand for a Man on Horseback to restore order, regularity, and prosperity”.

Thus, when The Man on Horseback rides up, they’ll overlook his “eccentricities”.  We look with only one eye; we listen with only one ear.  We’re willing to sacrifice certain values, in order to regain a sense of stability, a sense of balance.  As with any living creature, we instinctively sense: balance is health is survival…

So, we’ll accept a Napoleon.  We’ll accept a Hitler.

But in the U.S., our current situation isn’t that dire, is it?

Yes, we are experiencing much social upheaval.  We’re fighting on several fronts.  I don’t think it’s hyperbolic to say: our many battles swirl together to create one wild rising storm.

But since we’re nowhere near the end of it, we wouldn’t be open to anyone who aspires to be The Man.

Or would we?

As I see it, one major change has indeed reached an end—what I call our “De-Industrial Revolution”…

At the beginning of the 1970s, we were still a manufacturing-based economy.  Now, four decades later, we’re a service-based economy.  This slow but steadily transformation has shaken us to the root.  Much of our current social upheaval relates directly or indirectly to this revolutionary change.

At its end, I hear many of our folk voicing disgust and disillusion.  Their communities don’t feel so stable to them—nor does their nation.

So yes, we may indeed be vulnerable to the will and wiles of The Man on Horseback…

However, I also believe we can knock him off his mount before he gains too much power…

But to win, we must do more than fight him—we must also fight ourselves.  We must control our strong desire for stability.

A tough order—we’ve defeated our better selves so often in the past.  Nonetheless, I think I have good reason to hope.  I think we may actually be stronger now.  Consider:

Yes, we have a general feeling of instability.  But we’re no strangers to that feeling.  Who among us has known a stable nation, a stable world?—no one from nine-years old to ninety.

Though human beings have always known an uncertain existence, now our worries go far beyond our own tiny corner…

What occurs in some other tiny corner of the world can jolt me in my tiny corner.  We have so many corners of concern!—they keep multiplying.

Where can we go to find refuge from our anxiety?

Like so many of my generation, I’ve never found a place for myself in any religious institution…or, for that matter, any social organization.

But as I see it, this sense of homelessness actually works in our favor…

Lacking outside help, we’ve learned to draw upon our own resources.  Born into a world of change, we’ve learned to deal with upheaval.

In the sixties, we saw our trusted leaders fail us—or else be taken from the scene.  As a result, we learned to look to our own selves for strength and guidance…

We’ve learned that peace must come from within.  I’ve learned that I’m the only one who can control my feelings—my reactions to this life, to this world.

We’ve learned to be aware of what’s happening in here, as well as what’s happening out there.

We’ve learned how to balance ourselves while working in this rocking boat.  We know the struggle to maintain balance never ends.  We know the boat still rocks, even when it seems to settle.  We know instability is an avoidable part of life.  Thus, we won’t be willing to trade our values for a false sense of security—a false stability.

So I say: we’re better prepared today to deal with any who would be The Man on Horseback.

Yes, many may swoon to his cowboy song…

But plenty will see the danger of him and fight.  We’ll fight for our freedom, we’ll fight for all lives.

Awareness is never flawless.  Awareness is always a work-in-progress.  Nonetheless, I think we’re now aware enough to defeat The Man on the Horseback before he defeats us.

© 2017, Michael R. Patton
My War for Peace: a poetry book

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a mixed-up mix

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Politics and religion wouldn’t seem to be a good mix…

After all, don’t have they different objectives?

Politics is about winning and losing…about one side against the other…

…whereas religion (ideally) tries to get us to realize there really are no sides.

When we talk about politics, we talk about power—

—about getting and using power in order to further a particular agenda.  To further a vision of what your society should be.

When we talk about religion, we also talk about power…

…but it’s different type of power.

Some call this power, “The power of God.”  I won’t argue.  To me, it’s a spiritual power within and also, without.  A metaphysical power active in the physical world.

That type of power is never really lost: it’s here all the time.  It’s eternal.

Political power, on the other hand, can be won and lost.  It’s a possession; like all possessions, it’s temporal.

Politicians often try to use religious organizations and institutions to help them win that power.  And religious leaders often agree to the partnership, for various reasons…

Such groups may want to protect their position in society and politicians promise that sort of protection.  They may want to broaden its sphere of influence.  Politicians tell religious groups: we want what you want for our society. Help us realize those goals.

The politician may indeed believe in the group’s lofty goals.  Yet in such bargains, the religious institution inevitably loses its moral high ground.  When you choose one side over the other, how can you join together?  You actions no longer match your words.

We expect such hypocritical behavior from our politicians.  We know it’s a natural part of the political game.  Of the winning and losing game.  However…

…religious hypocrisy is harder for us to accept.

We may roll around in the political muck for awhile—and maybe even do some good in the process…

But eventually, we’ll feel like lifting ourselves up and washing off.  If our religion is down there in the muck with us, how can it help us lift and cleanse?

And so, I say again: politics and religion aren’t a good mix.

That’s not to say religious leaders and groups shouldn’t encourage politicians to act according to certain moral principles…

But when those politicians ask for their support and promise to support them in return…

…they would do well to climb out of that muck before they get stuck.

© 2017, Michael R. Patton
Survival: a poetry book

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the doubting believer

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“The world is in chaos.”
         — Henry Kissinger*

That quote caught my eye because it spoke to a goal of mine.  A deep ambition.  Perhaps an impossible dream…

That dream is to someday suddenly see some type of grand design within the apparent chaos of this world.

Though that vision might only last a moment…

…the wisdom gained would remain with me ’til the end of my time.

Thus, I’d be able to perceive the underlying forces within any situation.  I would see the deeper truth.  I would see the reason behind an event that seems to defy reason.  I’d know the best way to respond to any conflict scenario.  I’d see more effective ways to create peace.

Ironically, Kissinger also wants to create peace.  But he’s taking a different approach.  His way is to try to impose order on the chaos he sees—he wants to design a peace.  I would say: force a peace.

Considering past results, I can’t go his way.

Nonetheless, I’m willing to admit: that way might be our best bet.  I’m willing to admit: what appears to be chaos may just that—chaos. A chaos—a violence—we must try to contain.

Fight wars when things get out of hand—but ones of limited destruction.  Though many would still die, humankind would survive.

I choose to believe we’re capable of better behavior…

…but I know enough of our history to doubt.

Maybe one day, I’ll see the grand design and realize how we’re actually making progress—

—that we’re not only capable of living in peace, but headed in that direction.  That our history has actually gone according to plan.

But even if that vision never comes, I’ll be a better person for having tried to understand…

…because in this pursuit, I’ll be working to elevate my perspective.  I’ll be working to raise myself.  That means dealing with my own inner chaos.  My inner conflict…

So, if nothing else, I’ll achieve a greater degree of peace from having aimed so high.

(* This quote comes from an interview in the December 2016 issue of Atlantic Monthly.)

© 2017, Michael R. Patton
My War for Peace: a poetry book

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our man, our mirror

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As I see it, we’ve chosen a mirror…

…a big-mouthed mirror…

…to be our next president.

According to my theory…

…we elected this mirror because we’re trying to wake ourselves up.  Shock ourselves awake.

We’re saying to ourselves: consider that man, that mirror—is that what we want to be, what we want to become?  As individuals, as a nation?

When I look into that mirror, I see someone with a fragile ego.  Because he feels weak and insecure, he charges at any perceived threat like a bull.  And he perceives so many threats.

He gains a sense of power by putting others down.  But such put-downs only provide temporary relief.  The self-doubt is always there, lurking just beneath the surface.  And so, he continues to charge.  It’s an addiction.

He won’t change much, because he refuses to see the truth about himself.  Though the narcissist spends much time looking into the mirror, he sees only what he wishes to see.

The narcissist doesn’t dare explore his depths.  If he dives down, he’ll find many aspects of himself that challenge his cherished self-image.  He’s afraid of his own shadow.

Too often, we see such people as strong.  We see in them an ideal.  That’s the type of person we want to be—tough, bombastic, demanding.  The type that won’t take nothin’ from nobody.  That’s how we want our nation to be.

Or is it?

According to my theory…

…we elected that man, that mirror, because we want to challenge our ideas about strength.

We’re trying to learn the difference between dominance and real power.

The difference between bravado and true courage.

According to my theory…

…we’re trying to grow.  We’re so determined to grow, we’ll take extreme measures—such as electing that mirror.

Some will chaff at this belief.  But I think the test of any belief is where it leads us.  And as I see it, this belief leads us to a good place…

Yes, it’s fair to criticize our president’s behavior—and protest if we so choose…

…but at the same time, let’s take a long deep look into that mirror.  A deep look into our own psyche.  We may not be able to change the man, but we can change ourselves…and in so doing, change our nation.

© 2017, Michael R. Patton
Searching for My Best Beliefs: a poetry book

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our cyber light

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“If God is not in cyberspace and we have to bring him there, how do we do that?”
                 — Thomas Friedman*

When I first heard that question, I said, “Yes—we must find a way!”

But after some thought, I realized: god is already there.

After all, cyberspace is us.  If we all died tomorrow, planet Earth would still exist.  But not cyperspace.  Chimps and dolphins, smart though they be, would not be going into cyperspace.

Maybe E.T.s would eventually land, hook things back together, and log on.  And if they did, perhaps they would see our god…

They could see our god not only in our expressions of religious faith…

…but all through our online flood—in our myriad postings, pinnings, tweets, shares…

Yes, even in our cat videos.

God in a cat video?  How is that possible?

As I see it, any time we express our love of life, there is god.  Of course, not all of those expressions are brilliant gold.  But god is still in each one, to a higher or lower degree.

That belief has served me well.  It’s better for me if I see god in many places, rather than just a few.  To see god, lifts me up.  The more god I see, the better I feel.

Occasionally, I can even see god in sites that aren’t so bright—

—if I can see what’s trying to emerge from that darkness.

That’s so very difficult.  Confronted by such darkness, I often become dark myself—it’s an automatic response. To see into the darkness of another, I must look into my own darkness…

Humbling work.  But I won’t stop trying.  I want to see god.  I want to understand.

While engaged in this struggle, I must remember to appreciate our light.  To appreciate all the cyber-light we’ve created.  To see that light is to renew my hope.

Right now, we’re focusing on our cyber-darkness.  It worries us.  We want to understand it.  We want to bring light into that darkness.

Okay, but while engaged in this struggle, let’s not forget all the light we’ve created.

(* From an television interview with Charlie Rose, December 16, 2016.)

© 2016, Michael R. Patton
Searching for My Best Beliefs: a poetry book

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diamonds in the rough

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After careful consideration, I’ve concluded it’s best to adopt this simple belief:

Life is rough.

Not just for you and me, but for everyone.

And I mean, everyone.  People of all hues and all walks of life–

…for the white-collar worker and the blue, for the newborn and the derelict, the dictator and the peasant, the shooter and the shot…

…for the long-haired and the bald, the hearty and the frail, the tall and the short, the slow and the fast, the ballerina and the klutz…

…for both the homeless man and the heiress, for those in trees and those in caves, for those in the tropics and those in arctic zones…

…for protectors and for poachers, for saints and for skinflints, for the teetotaler and the soused, for the prim and the promiscuous…

…for those who rise and for those who fall.

Yes, there are degrees of roughness.  But those degrees can be hard to measure.  How can we truly measure what’s in someone’s heart?  So, I think it’s best if we simply say: “life is rough for everyone” and not make any special distinctions.  In any case, the purpose of this belief is to join us together, not divide.

Please consider:

If I believe that life is rough for us all, maybe I’ll feel less envy and more empathy.  If I believe we both have it rough, that we’re in this rough life together, maybe I won’t feel so apart from you…

You will seem less distant, less foreign, less “other” to me.  You will seem less threatening.

It’s ironic: by believing that life is rough for everyone, we can experience a greater sense of peace.  Our rough lives will become a little easier.  Or maybe, a lot.

So I hope we will include this belief in our new mythology…

It has the added benefit of not being a difficult philosophical concept.  In fact, it’s already part of our mindset.  People say it all the time: “life is rough”.  We just need to broaden our thinking when we speak.  Life is not just rough for me and those I love and admire and often praise…

…it’s also rough for those who I dislike…for those who I’ve sometimes cursed.

I must admit, I haven’t stopped cursing them in my mind…

…but after acknowledging the roughness of their lives, I now curse them a little less…

…and bless them a little more.  Prompted by this belief, I now bless everyone…

…people of all hues and all walks of life–

…the white-collar worker and the blue, the newborn and the derelict, the dictator and the peasant, the shooter and the shot…

…the long-haired and the bald, the hearty and the frail, the tall and the short, the slow and the fast, the ballerina and the klutz…

…the homeless man and the heiress, those in trees and those in caves, those in the tropics and those in arctic zones…

…protectors and poachers, saints and skinflints, the teetotaler and the soused, the prim and the promiscuous…

…those who rise and those who fall.

If life is rough for all of us, so why shouldn’t I bless us all?

© 2016, Michael R. Patton
My War for Peace: a poetry book

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positive protest

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I have a plan…a protest plan…

…a way to combat the negative actions of our president-elect:

When he does something to abuse the planet, I will do something to heal the planet.

When he insults another, I will praise another.

When he indulges in conflict, I will try to ease conflict.

When he acts small, I will do my best to act tall.

I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

Yes, the scales of power are tipped in his favor…

…but if I stick to my plan, can you really say I’ve been defeated?

However, I do expect to be angry at his decisions, much of the time.  I will try to be aware of the disappointment and sadness beneath that anger…

But though I grieve, I won’t stop fighting.  I won’t let myself get bogged down in those emotions.  I’ll keep working to heal myself, to ease my own inner conflicts.  I’ll keep reminding myself to honor and love others, to honor and love this planet…

Through such actions, I’ll keep trying to realize my full height.

© 2016, Michael R. Patton
dream steps blog

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