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Lions Roar : September 2006
on their chests, which you can see when they don’t have their shirts on and which they will show you to explain some point. Some of the old people from the bush have a gravitas and dignity that seem to have transcended greater differences and problems than mere color. And they carry the back story, the legend behind why we are sitting in the pub. So in that bar and bars like it, and the parliamentary dining room and various cubicles, we worked away and quarreled and drank and conspired with and against each other and the tide shifted until at least lip service was given to land rights. Whether our efforts played any part in the turning of the tide was hard to say, of course. Eventually legisla- tion passed, not terrific legislation but, nonetheless, better legislation, and later there was a backlash. If you plotted the progress in three di- mensions you would probably get a rather slow spiral. This might be the first of some general conclusions I might draw about politics: 1. You can go towards and through uncertainty and difficulty. We end up trusting in and working with the imperfection of all embodied things. This story doesn’t have to go anywhere dramatic. The benefit of politics is to act upon the world, possibly with a view to improvement or at least making things not worse. Minor improvements are made to the culture, perhaps. It’s hard to estimate the value of the outcome. And considering the bad outcomes that are possible in the world, uncertainty might be an excellent result. The spiritual benefit of engagement in politics comes from going into rather than away from the imperfection. And if you are diving right into the heart of delusion, naturally this means into the heart of your own delusion. There’s always a chance that such a plunge might increase self-knowledge more than it increases self-righteousness. The point here is that you have to forget all that spiritual stuff about what a good person you are or intend to be someday, something that is anyway unlikely to be at- tained. The spirituality in politics might not be visible to others or even to yourself. Down there in the heart of delusion you look like a demon too, just like the rest of us. You’ll have to adapt your fashion sense to having horns and fangs. This is the force of Bismarck’s famous comment about the art of the possible: in order to bring about any sort of transformation you have to work with what is actually the case, rather than what you might have wished for or pretended—in the world, in others, in yourself. 2. Empathy is a natural and even involuntary impulse, as well as a kind of guide; there is just a reaching out that occurs. When I accepted how the world is, I noticed that empathy is part of how it is. It’s not easy to explain; it doesn’t have a reason. Empathy seems to be a basis for spiritual work—for the bodhisattva way. Empathy also doesn’t seem to be entirely personal. We didn’t work for change because we liked each other or the people who might benefit; there was empathy even when people were behaving in ways that I might find painful. 3. Meditation helps; knowing you are on a path helps. Another general conclusion or observation was that if I meditated for a couple of hours every day, I was less crazed by the injustice, madness, and lost hopes around me. In more or less the same SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2006 59 The spiritual benefit of engagement in politics comes from going into rather than away from the imperfection. You have to forget all that stuff about what a good person you are or intend to be, something that is anyway unlikely to be attained. ➢ page 96