Funny, isn’t it, that we celebrate the beginnings of sport seasons – Week One of the NFL season is always a big day in my house – but we don’t get as excited about political seasons. I’m wondering: why is that?
Sports are meant to entertain us. The games are usually pretty exciting, but their outcomes have no real impact on our daily lives. I’m just gonna step over all a y’all Steelers fans, here, because you’re crazy 24/7/365. But honestly, what is most important, the thing we should really pay Super Bowl or World Cup level attention to, if not our political system; who runs it, and what the hell they’re doing with our money?
Say you pay $200 or $600 for a ticket to see your favorite team play, or watch your favorite band in concert. You expect them to put on a damn good show. You expect quality for that money. You expect to feel like, even if your team didn’t win, it was a damn good game. Those are reasonable expectations. Why don’t we have those same expectations in politics?
Nobody’s going to lose their job as a result of a poorly executed tennis serve, but a few tens of thousands might as a result of a poorly executed debate. Why is it so much less important to us? Why are there twelve ESPN stations and CSpan has, like, three? And they’re way up in the high numbers where nobody accidentally scrolls (FYI, I checked my cable provider’s website for the exact channel numbers for CSPAN and found a 1/3 page ad for ESPN’s streaming service on the homepage… I already feel a little vindicated.)
So how are we going to change this? I say WE because I assume, if you’ve read this far you do care about this stuff. So, how?
What to do? First off, let me say, DO NOT rely on some political meme you found on Facebook, no matter how funny or real it looks. That’s also stupid. What you should do is learn from lots of different sources. Read them, and then find out something about the organization that published the material.
Everyone has an agenda. This, in itself, is not a bad thing. But you should know what their agenda is before you go embracing their data, conclusions, and politics. Mom and Dad used to tell us to wait a half hour after lunch to go back in the water at the beach. Their agenda probably had more to do with them wanting just a half hour of relaxation than it did cramps. Here’s Politico’s About Us page. I found it by scrolling down to the bottom of their homepage. I also like Snopes to debunk stories that sound either too good or too bad to be true (see political memes above). Some sites, like FactCheck.Org even publish how they’re funded. FactCheck, is a resource I like, but it is commonly cited as having a liberal bias. Finally, don’t forget to check the politicians’ websites. Fingers crossed they list clear information about where your politicians stand on the issues and what they’re doing in your name.
Spend a little time considering what you really care about, then research what’s happening in your community (local, state, and national). Then research your candidates so you can pick one who most matches your concerns.
You can take it slow. And maybe you should; it’s not easy. I like what Rand Paul has to say about staying out of foreign conflicts, but I would never vote for a man who said if you believe that every American has the right to quality health care “You’re basically saying you believe in slavery.” Things get messy in politics, but that doesn’t mean we should opt out.
Did you notice in any of the above where I told you what you should think and why? You didn’t. Well. Maybe the part about campaign finance reform, but okay. That’s not my point. Of course I care if my candidates win or lose, but I care more that we become involved. This is my country. It is your country. If you’re not willing to stand up and be FOR us, work FOR us, then you shouldn’t call yourself an American. Not being involved has resulted in one current presidential candidate leading in the popular polls. That he can spout his filthy rhetoric and retain his popularity is beyond me. I find it frightening, but I also believe he is a direct result of our disinvolvement in the political system.
Hell yes, I want America to be a great country. But I’m more interested in watching a good game in the elections. A fair one. One that involves the best of the best political players. Any other scenario, in my mind anyway, is pointless.
I find it interesting that in the English language we don’t have masculine or feminine words, like other languages do; French and Spanish come immediately to mind. Yet we assign, as a culture, masculine and feminine traits to words. Powerhouse, for example.
As Americans, we attribute maleness to any word related to power. We see it as manly to be powerful. Even 45+ years after Gloria Steinem first took to New York Magazine to chronicle and highlight the growing Women’s Liberation Movement, power is still, in a subconscious and deeply ingrained way, a man’s game. That fact is unfortunate for so many reasons, but let me dive into just this one.
I am, at my very depth, thoughtful. I put more time and effort into consideration of my daily words and actions than some people put into doing their yearly taxes, which is to say, a lot. I am a ruminator, a cow chewing her cud. I think things through thoroughly and honestly and wholeheartedly, so much so that my decision-making is usually a tediously slow process. The upside is that once I’ve made a decision I stand very firmly on it. You could say I’m stubborn, and you would be right, but my stubbornness comes from a position of power. My powerhouse is thoughtfulness.
Another definition of powerhouse is a generating station. In common terms this means the generation of electricity, but I’m going to expand that and say it should mean to generate and distribute whatever individual, unique powers we have. And by power I mean our innate intention, our most powerful and resilient and individually characteristic human quality. Your power is likely how you are described by the people who know you best. Most people have more than one, for sure, but some, like Mother Theresa have one that seems to fill their entire soul.
Here’s why I like this word, powerhouse: it’s a “place” where power is both created and distributed. You make your power and you also send it out into the world. I can’t think of any better way to live, creating and giving away the deepest and most valuable part of who we are. It’s enriching for us, as individuals: When we’re focusing attention on our deepest and most authentic selves we can’t help but grow deeply satisfying lives. But there’s a community component here, too: We’re all a single piece of a giant, Earth-sized puzzle. And if you’re not filling your spot, who is?
We’re all born with certain strengths, certain powers. I am convinced that we are meant to use our powers to support and grow our community, our world really, into its best version, while we grow ourselves. It’s not such a leap to suppose that if we’re all busy growing these rich inner lives that the community would also be gaining the benefit of that wealth, too, is it? And if for no other reason than that, we should take back our power, in aid of our communities. But isn’t it an even better idea to take it back for ourselves?
So tell me, what’s your powerhouse?
Since becoming a “wise woman” is my overriding goal in life, I figure a good place to start that journey is a simple study of the difference between knowledge and wisdom. And what better way to do that than by defining the two?
According to the Oxford dictionary, knowledge is defined as follows: “Facts, information, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education.” I can get on board with that. I mean, the Oxford people have been publishing what most of us think as the final word on English words since 1884 – who am I to argue? Plus, that’s pretty much what I was thinking anyway, only in story form:
A boy, walking through a field of wild flowers, stops to pick one for his mama. He notices, too late, a buzzing black and yellow bug nestled in the flower he’s picked, and gets a nasty sting on his right wrist for the trouble. He’s had his first experience with a bee; bees sting.
What about wisdom, though? One of Oxford’s sub-definitions for wisdom is this: “the soundness of an action or decision with regard to the application of experience, knowledge, and good judgment.” Yes! But also, dammit. This is where the issue becomes a subjective one. Who’s to judge the “soundness” of a decision? Who’s to say it’s good or bad or otherwise? The boy, let’s call him Dan, can apply his knowledge in any number of ways:
He now knows bees like flowers as much as he does, and if he’s not watchful he might get stung. Next time he wants to bring his mother a pretty wildflower, he’ll look it over closely and shoo away any bees before he tugs on the flower. Good for him. That’s a self-protective application of his knowledge. But how else might he apply this new-found knowledge?
Maybe the next time he happens by a field of wildflowers, he’s walking with his friend, Dariun, who wants to take a shortcut through the field to get to the nearby pond. Dan will tell Dariun about the bees and their painful stings – he might even show him the scar on his wrist – and suggest they run through the field to outrun the bees (and maybe each other).
Ah, is this sound reasoning? Some would say yes. Some may say only perhaps: if Dan suggested skirting the field altogether their chances of getting stung are reduced significantly. On the other hand, he could have chosen to let Dariun walk through the field unwarned. Maybe Dariun caught a bigger fish than Dan did the last time they went to the pond. Maybe Dan’s still a little miffed; he wouldn’t mind seeing Dariun get stung. Well that’s a Machiavellian use of Dan’s knowledge of bees, but it’s an application of his knowledge nonetheless; one which suits his purpose. Sound decision? Maybe, but did he use good judgment?
There’s the rub. I suppose, the only way to define wisdom is from each of our own individual perspectives. But not only that. If I am to be truly wise, then I need not only create my own definition, but apply it to all of my life’s activities. Hmm, I’ll require a pretty broad definition, then. I could use some help, here, and luckily, the Bard’s always there when you need him:
“The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.”
True wisdom is never attainable? Wisdom, then, is a lifestyle rather than a goal?Dare I say it’s a philosophical way of being?
Yes, I dare. Wisdom is a sum as well as an application of the knowledge we attain every day of our lives. I might make a totally different decision tomorrow than I would to the same problem I face today, because I’ve had new experiences. I am the same as, but altogether different from, the woman I was in my 20’s. She was just a girl; wide-eyed, naive, trusting and hopeful. I am all of these things still, but tempered by a woman’s years of experiences.
Here’s another point to ponder: in my mind, a large part of this lifestyle I’ve chosen is in the sharing of wisdom. What good is it to have bits of wisdom if you keep them trapped up inside? Wisdom isn’t something that can be hoarded, a true wise person isn’t a miserly Mr. Potter from Frank Capra’s ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ Wisdom should be strewn about freely. Or to paint a better picture let me go back to the bees.
A worker bee’s job is to gather pollen to feed on. As the bee gathers pollen, though, she spreads some of that pollen to other flowers, thus pollinating or fertilizing the other plants. Bees create new life in the very flowers they gather life-sustaining pollen from; what a beautiful circular benefit.
That’s the kind of wise woman I want to be, that’s the sort of wisdom I want – the wisdom of a worker bee. As I go humbly about my work I’ll gain a little for myself and give away even more as I visit each new day. Sharing of wisdom leads to creation. And if it’s true that the only mark we leave on the world is the sum of our creations, well I’d like my mark to be beautiful, like a whole big field of wildflowers.