David Brooks says it outright

The [US] presidency is a bacterium. It finds the open wounds in the people who hold it. It infects them, and the resulting scandals infect the presidency and the country. The person with the fewest wounds usually does best in the White House, and is best for the country.

David Brooks’ article on Obama vs. Clinton starts out supporting Clinton as the most viable winner in a competition between the two… if the race is for the Senate!

Then he dissects the vicissitudes of the Presidency of the Big, Fat ol’ US of A. And he doesn’t mince words. He uses the above acerbic language to describe the nature of the US presidency.

Then he outlines the particular strengths of Barack Obama to fill those HUGE shoes. Perhaps Oprah Winfrey is thinking along the same lines.

Moreover, he has a worldview that precedes political positions. Some Americans (Republican or Democrat) believe that the country’s future can only be shaped through a remorseless civil war between the children of light and the children of darkness. […]

But Obama does not ratchet up hostilities; he restrains them. […] In the course of this struggle to discover who he is, Obama clearly learned from the strain of pessimistic optimism that stretches back from Martin Luther King Jr. to Abraham Lincoln. This is a worldview that detests anger as a motivating force, that distrusts easy dichotomies between the parties of good and evil, believing instead that the crucial dichotomy runs between the good and bad within each individual. (emphasis mine)

Well put, Mr. Brooks. Are you by chance considering running for Vice-President?

And, above all, could this analysis of character be applied to each of us in our search for balance and meaning?

The Porous Nature of Thought

Porous ThoughtMy daily walks are a combination of meditation and exercise. I practice the Alexander Technique, meaning I am acutely aware of how I use my Self. The Self includes the body and mind, the whole package.

As I walk, I keep my neck free and flowing up. I remind myself that the neck is a continuation of the spine, not separate from it. I am aware of my 3 dimensionality. I feel my “thickness” and my “width”.

After a few minutes of this awareness and loosening up, I think about my day, or whatever comes to mind. Occasionally a negative thought will arise, or I will dwell on an unresolved issue in my life.

Porous Nature of ThoughtIf I am careful to keep my body free and balanced during these thoughts, I have noticed how much freer my mind is in dealing with them. I prevent my Self from disappearing into the abstraction of thought, where the world becomes something other than where you are now.

Thoughts can be insidious in this way. Thinking can go on automatically and habitually in the back of the mind. Many of us live with thoughts constantly churning and unbalancing our bodies. Emotions are reactions to thought. Thought always affect the body. It emanates from the body and involves it.

You cannot raise your hand without the whole Self being involved; your entire body and mind are involved. This is not to say that you must focus your entire being on raising your hand. No, but your whole being is a participant. It is the same with thinking.

We also tend to treat thoughts as “real”, as if they are actual events occurring to us at the moment. They feel that way to me if I am not careful. If I think of a dog attacking me, my pulse will quicken with adrenaline. If I think of my debt, my body feels heavy. Those are reactions to thoughts, not the thoughts themselves. If you maintain a balanced, free Self during thought, you can prevent those reactions from occurring without your consent.

So what do I mean by the “porous nature of thought”? If we are aware of staying balanced and 3 dimensionally free throughout the process of thinking, the feeling of thought seems less “heavy” and “solid”. The presence of bodily awareness helps us keep perspective of what thought is: an abstraction of possibility or emotion. Priority is given to the physical self, and a thought is just a passing concept.

Then, thought can pass through us like water through coral, or air through a fan.

Pithy Truisms From Brad

Integrity recognizes itself.–
The power of the inability to learn a lesson is the multiplier of the cost to fix it.–
The ego is a useful vehicle, if you get to know the driver.

Those are from Bradisms. Brad regularly expounds on various subjects ranging from politics to trust to caring to love, all with an inimitable style which can only be described as “pithy”, meaning tersely cogent. He also has a webpage featuring a collection of his best work, also worth visiting. Brad recently commented on my post Truth and Being, where I attempt to summarize large patterns in life, and which I almost deleted because of its intractable pithiness. But Brad seemed to understand my obscure logic. Then I found this post, “Life is…” on his website, and realized I think a lot like him. Yet he allows himself much more freedom in the realm of pithiness than I! Thanks Brad, for showing us how playfully rich truth can be.

Aching Cold Morning

Snow Morning Aching MoonHe awoke, as usual, way too early, around 7 AM. Being a night person, that meant he only got 4-5 hours of sleep, not quite enough. But it happened often to him. And since optimism wasn’t one of his surpluses, a heaviness filled him seeing dawn’s early light.

He felt the warm little body of Punky, his oldest cat, next to him. The thermostat was set to go down to 55 at night to save energy, so Punky, now almost 18, always slept as close as possible to his body to keep warm.

Instead he found Perlin, his younger Siamese, in Punky’s place. He petted Perlin, and asked him what he had done with Punky, whose spot he had taken. Perlin just looked at him with that look cats give which can mean anything. “Punky, who?” or “I was just asleep, why are you asking me?” Rather than roll over to fall asleep until a more civilized hour, he got up to see where Punky was.

The furnace had kicked on to heat the house up, as it was set to do about this hour. But the air was still burning cold to his near naked skin. He had almost no fat on his body, so the cold went right through to his bones as he descended the stairs in boxer shorts.

He found Punky sitting on one of the spindly café chairs by the back window, like a little monk folded up in a peaceful meditation pose. At first he seemed lonely to Dorn. After all, if he were human, old as an oak sitting alone in a cold room, he would seem lonely. But then he realized Punky wasn’t too bad off. The chair he was sitting on was right over a large heating vent, which was now blasting nice, cozy warm air, and would be for at least the next half hour.

He approached Punky and tried to pet him, but he pulled away. He rose out of his meditative pose and turned to face the picture window behind him. Dorn’s eyes followed.

The morning was a brittle white icing on a cake which had sat out for a day too long. The fresh snow from the day before had hardened under a bitter blanket of night cold. Tracks and various marks held account of the previous day’s activities. He could see where he had stepped to sweep the back steps and where he walked through the garden to shake the piles of snow off the evergreen branches to keep them from collapsing under the its weight. His car had made two crystalline geometric tracks into the now closed garage.

In the sky, a sharp slice of thin moon pierced the aching dawn. He was reminded of the movie he had seen the night before on network TV, The Day After Tomorrow, about how global warming could create terrible mega-storms which might, in one scenario, bring down the crushing cold of space to earth’s fragile surface, freezing everything on it. But this sky had the promise of life-giving warmth just beyond its horizon, a glow to which the moon pointed, and which Punky faced through the window.

Through the double pane glass he heard a bird chirp, one piercing peep. It was still gray enough to hide clear sight of the scene outside. Most birds were still asleep, he figured. He found the bird, a female cardinal, her brownish red blending with the twisted sticks of the wisteria clamoring over the garage.

Then he noticed that the bird feeder, a covered rectangular platform like a little house atop a six foot pole, was empty. Though he filled it daily they ate it as fast as he could fill it. He knew a swarm of birds would soon be fluttering around looking for breakfast on that feeder. They relied on it, especially when snow covered the ground.

The cardinal swooped to the feeder and pecked at it. It was only ten feet from the back window. Half naked and singed with cold, Dorn stood there and watched. It looked so cold out. But he knew he had to fill that feeder. He couldn’t go back to bed with the lingering thought of those cold birds.

He went upstairs to cover his bony body with a terrycloth robe and bedroom slippers. Punky continued staring out the back window as Dorn opened the back door. As he broke beyond the wall of heat coming from the vent by the door, his skin recoiled against the heat sucking molecules of dense lifeless air. If he had fur, it would stand on end to conserve warmth. Instead, the benign terrycloth did little to help. Luckily the garage, where the birdseed was stored, wasn’t more that twenty feet away.

After dumping a bowl full of seed on the feeder, he scurried back indoors. Punky ignored his shivering entrance and continued to peer out the window. Within minutes the show began as the light rose from within the dead cold snow. Dozens of birds appeared from the dormant scenery around the garden. The feeder became grand central station, with flights arriving and departing in a continuous stream from the hub to all the bushes and trees around the garden.

A lone squirrel, covered in snow like a little kid out in it for the first time, dug for scrap seed in the frozen icing as patiently as a scholar seeking a cure for cancer. All this activity filled Dorn’s mind against the leering void of the the approaching day. Sharp rays of sun now splintered the aching cold morning into pieces he could grasp and hold onto.

Punky turned around to gaze at him with a kitty kiss, eyes slowly closing and opening.