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Outlooks from the Inner Life

By Cedric Speyer



“Successful solutions are based on the powerful principle that resolution occurs by fostering the positive, not by attacking the negative. Recovery from alcoholism can’t be accomplished by fighting intoxication, but, rather, only by choosing sobriety. The ‘war to end all wars’ did no such thing, nor could it possibly have done so. Wars — including wars on vice, drugs, or any of the human (unmet) needs . . . can only be won by choosing peace.” — David R. Hawkins

I know about the bad, but I look at the good thing.” — Alice Summers

Picture the following cartoon characterizing the state of much public discourse. There’s a pair of restroom doors, but instead of the bathrooms having male and female signs, one says “evil doers” and the other “entitled victims.” The zeitgeist (spirit of the age) these terrorized days tends toward such “dichotomous thinking”; the polarized worldview of win/lose, either/or, good guys/bad guys, truth/lies, and especially us/them.

It has its roots in the age-old conflict of romance vs. reason, faith vs. intelligence, symbol vs. science, or essence vs. experience. Lost is the coincidence of opposites we find on the cross, where human/divine, soul/spirit, dark/light, and sadness/joy are held in creative tension. On the cross, one movement is horizontal, the other vertical, apparently at cross-purposes. Yet it shows us that the nature of reality is cruciform.

When opposing ideas or clashing energies of all kinds collide within us or in society, we are naturally aggrieved. We tend to keep a tight grip on our emotional position and mentally or literally expel that which threatens us. Most of human history charts the seesaw violent power struggles that result. Sacred history, however, shows us a different way — the way of redemptive suffering rather than the escalation of grievance politics.

If we have the creative courage to hold the tensions and contradictions inherent in our reality, a Third Way can emerge. It’s based on what we are here for, not what we are here against. It depends on “Be ye not afraid.” It’s the way of Jesus, St. Francis, Julian of Norwich, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King. They knew all about the bad, but practiced the better. They took “against-energy” and let it pierce them right through, until it revealed the beautiful human needs, or “for-energies” beneath it.

We are witnessing the politics of polarized “against-energy” playing out in the American election campaign. We haven’t quite decided whether it’s a comedy or a tragedy (both suffice for a dissociated culture’s “entertainment”). Most would agree on “theatre of the absurd,” given the extreme partisan divide between liberal, well-educated, progressive do-gooders and conservative, principled, traditional patriots.

The antagonism between “left” and “right” displaces the kind of creative dialogue allowing third alternatives. Instead, the intolerance of competing agendas degenerates into childish name calling.

It’s no accident that it appears childish. Psychologically, left and right represent opposite ways of dealing with the basic wounds of childhood — those deficits of nurturing and respect we can spend the rest of our lives compensating for. It’s just that Republicans and Democrats do it so differently! In short, the former identify with the authoritarian, punitive parent; the latter with the victimized, powerless child. Then both hold righteous political positions intended to uphold their God-ordained missions, be it for justice or mercy, neither camp realizing . . .

“Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed” (Ps 85).

Speyer is a Benedictine Oblate as well as an author, subject matter expert for e-therapy, clinical consultant and director of InnerView Guidance International (IGI). He also directs a documentary series entitled GuideLives for the Journey: Ordinary Persons, Extraordinary Pathfinders. Connect with Cedric on or via