Finding the Rhythm of Being

It’s been a season of sharp edges and blunt trauma to the body politic. The absurdities and shrill banalities of a Bachman, Palin, Angle or O’Donnell are annoying jabs that cause no more than surface wounds and bruising. They lack the arsenal to deal mortal blows.

But then there are the pronouncements of a politician who brings considerable education to his quest for power: a career doctor like Dr. Rand Paul.

Flushed with victory, Paul announced, with a slow unfurling of each sentence, that the message he was taking to Washington was: “we are going take our government back.”

Back? Where had it gone? Over to the dark side of “socialism” apparently because the way the newly minted senator from Kentucky promised to restore America’s greatness was to once again assert the primacy of capitalism. The man who was on his way to join government in Washington promised to get government out of the way because government, he tells us, does not create jobs; we, the people do.

When this is what an educated man promises to do as he sets off to occupy one of the highest government offices in the land for the next six years: that’s blunt trauma.

With these blows raining down hard on any kind of reasonable expectation that those who form a government of the people might serve all the people, I began reading Raimon Panikkar’s The Rhythm of Being.

It’s not an easy read. But it does reward. And it helps puts some of the public posturing of self-described “pro-life Christians” into perspective.

The essence of Christianity is looking out for your neighbor.  Panikkar leads us to renewed recognition of this, not as a familiar pious injunction from Sunday School but as a non-negotiable imperative if one calls oneself Christian. “We are all co-responsible for the state of the world,” says Panikkar.

Finding our rhythm with our neighbors

He asks: “Do we really take the peoples of the world into consideration? Have we seen the constant terror under which the “natives” and the “poor” are forced to live? What do we really know about the hundreds of thousands killed, starved, tortured and desaparecidos [the disappeared ones], or about the millions of displaced and homeless people who have become the statistical commonplaces of the mass media?” In just this elapsed century of “civilized Man” . . . there have been over a hundred million people slaughtered in wars. . . . During the 1980s, there were over three million deaths in warfare . . . two and half million of whom were civilians. In the same period the GNP of Africa and Latin America decreased by 15%–which if we discount the wealthy elites, probably means a 30% decrease for most of the people.”

Rand Paul and those of his temper who want to “take our government back” would be well-served by Panikkar’s reminder that the often uninformed invoking of the ancients does not necessarily serve us well. “If those ancient sages were to live in our times, they would not be the same sages intact with just some slight adjustments. . . . Our task and our responsibility are to assimilate the wisdom of bygone traditions and having made it our own, allow it to grow.”

Rhythm is Pannikar’s metaphor for the urgent necessity of what he calls an “intra-in-dependence.” He sees rhythm as being essential not just to Christianity but to the very essence of Being across cultures and faiths.  Panikkar discovers the Rhythm of Being in the obligation each of us has to find meaning in life here and now, not just at the end of time. ”

”To dance is to learn to breathe at the rhythm of the world,” said Martha Graham.

Panikkar invokes her in almost the same breath as he draws on Islam, Hinduism, Greek, African and Zoroastrian cosmogonies.  There is a wonderful humor and sense of the contemporary that emerges through Panikkar’s densely erudite exposition of what life is and what it demands of us.

“Rhythm flows. We remember the flowing, and this flowing is time as such.”

As we move beyond the election season of often hateful rhetoric to the business of governing for the good of all, the new class of legislators might keep in mind another lesson from Panikkar:  “Wishful thinking is not actually thinking. It is a kind of intellectual cancer, a proliferation of groundless thoughts with no roots. “

Panikkar passed away a few months ago, but he could have been referring to the banality of campaign slogans and bumper stickers that continue to be offered by too many as if they could pass for public policy.

Dare we hope that the legislators might find their rhythm?

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Posted in Governing, I BLOG, Politics and Religion, Uncategorized
One comment on “Finding the Rhythm of Being
  1. I could not agree with you more

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