Something’s lost and something’s gained. I look at Both Sides Now in this week’s edition of “Isn’t That Ironic?”.
“There’s something lost and something gained in living every day.”
So sang Joni Mitchell in the 1960s song “Both Sides Now”, still one of my favorites. Certainly, the US election has brought to light many ways in which we have gained and lost—not just the candidates and not just Americans—but all of Western Civilization.
Who won? Who lost? All of us have lost—much more than we’ve won. In the electoral battle for president, all have been wounded. The nation is wounded. Western Civilization is wounded. On this great battlefield of the presidential election, as in any war, there are no real winners, only losers. All of us need healing.
Thinking back to the days when I listened to Joni Mitchell sing Both Sides Now, we’ve gained lots of money, but not real prosperity. My parents bought their first house for $12,000. I bought my first house for $82,000. My current house cost over half a million dollars. I was flabbergasted that anyone would lend me that much money. Yet it’s not much different as a house. Maybe a bit bigger, with more wasted space. We have more money, yet we have a greater desperation for money. The more of it we get, the less it’s worth. I don’t feel “better off” than I did in the 1960s. I’m not sure anyone really does. I was happier and less stressed in the 60s—and it’s not just because I was a kid. There’s an epidemic of stress in kids today. Not back then. Is that progress? Have we won or lost? How do we heal?
Back then we had riots over the senseless killing of millions of people in Vietnam. Now we have riots over the supposed sins and insults of historical figures who lived centuries ago. Have we won or lost? How do we heal?
The election campaign revealed that we have not a war of words, but a war of world views; not a war of ideas, but a war of ideologies. We have much talking, but little listening. Have we won or lost? How do we heal?
We have gained powerful new means of communication, but we only listen to what we already believe. Our once-respected news outlets have become propaganda outlets. There is no more “news”, there is only “conservative news”, and “democratic news”, and “environmental news”, and “socialist news” and “climate news”. As if the climate was news to anyone. As if ideology was news to anyone. As if today’s lies are news to anyone who lived through yesterday’s lies. Nowhere is there truth, but only a thousand differently myopic and narrow-minded views of the world. No news. Only views. Have we won or lost? How do we heal?
We are part of “communities” that span the globe with people we’ve never met and may not even be who they claim to be. Yet we’ve never met the soul who lives in the next house or the next apartment to us. We “connect” on social media, but we won’t come within six feet of our friends.
Back then we talked about race relations. White people and black people should get to know each other, work together, learn together, live together. No more segregation. Now we talk about race reparations. White people should give money to black people to make up for the injustices of past generations. What twists of logic are required to think that taking money from people who were never slave owners and giving it to people who were never slaves will somehow heal the wounds of slavery? Money cannot heal.
Only one thing heals: forgiveness.
Some say Donald Trump is a liar. It seems his opponents are as well. Is this news? Was good ole’ Tricky Dicky Nixon not a liar? There seem to be more lies today—I’ll agree with that—lies everywhere. What’s an ordinary person to believe? Personally, I don’t believe much of what passes for “news” regardless of where it comes from. After all, the truth that is “out there” is never as important as the Truth Within.
In the censorship, the lies, the deceit of today, we have a desperate need for honesty—especially with ourselves. In the same statement we decry racism and celebrate the obvious racism that, “Black Lives Matter”. An organization that poses for racism, yet its true purpose is something different. Our world is littered with such organizations. Environmentalists who know nothing about the environment. Scientists who seem ignorant of, or blind to, basic scientific principles. Medical professionals, dedicated to helping people, yet seemingly blind to the growing despair, malaise, depression, suicides, drug overdoses, bankruptcies, family violence—caused by their relentless pursuit of a microscopic virus they cannot even reliably identify.
Every politician claims to work for the “good of the people”, yet all have ordered people not to work, not to play, not to greet their family members, not to do all the stuff that makes life “good”—and all out of fear. Don’t worry, you don’t have to produce anything. We’ll just print paper money and you can have everything. Even a child can see through that lie. Have we won or lost? How do we heal?
Only one thing heals: forgiveness.
Healing comes only from forgiveness. That’s a hard pill to swallow. In our pharmaceutical age, we think that healing is as simple as taking a pill. It comes from outside us, just like the bacteria or virus came from outside us. A government policy will heal us. Just build a wall and keep all the illegal aliens out. That will heal us. Or maybe just let all the illegal aliens in and that will heal us. But no healing can come as long as we see our brothers as aliens. Healing never exists outside us; it exists in our hearts, or it doesn't exist at all.
Can you forgive your socialist neighbor and let him be a socialist? Can you forgive your rich neighbor and let him be rich? Can you forgive your unemployed neighbor and let him be unemployed? Can you forgive your environmentalist neighbor and let him be an environmentalist? Can you forgive your Trump-supporting neighbor and let him support Trump? Can you forgive your Biden-supporting neighbor and let him support Biden? Can you forgive the oil companies, the abortion companies, the green companies, the black companies, the dirty companies, the gambling companies, the media companies, the tech companies for being what they are? Can you forgive the Chinese, the Mexicans, the British, the Argentines, and maybe even us Canadians for being what we are? Only in forgiveness is there freedom. Without forgiveness you constantly find something to condemn and constrain in everyone; the righteous excuse to tell others how to live their lives. Yet none of us really knows how to live. If we did, we truly would be “better off” than we were 60 years ago. The tolerance we most need is the willingness to tolerate each others’ delusions.
Most of all, can you forgive yourself? If you cannot forgive your own weaknesses, you will not be able to forgive the weaknesses of others. You must forgive Christopher Columbus for whatever you imagine his sins to be, just as you must forgive yourself for tearing down his statue. You must forgive the unknown white policeman you threw rocks at, just as you must forgive yourself for throwing the rocks. He is not evil. Neither are you. You are both eternal children of light and love. Only when you can see that, will you heal. Only then will there be peace in your heart. And only then can there be peace in the world. Only then will there be healing. Through forgiveness.
An election does not change a nation; a nation changes an election. It’s time to be a nation again.
As the song says,
I’ve looked at life from both sides now,
From up and down and still somehow,
It’s life’s illusions I recall.
I really don’t know life at all.
Most of what you believe is illusion. And recalling that great collection of irreverence and wisdom colloquially known as, Desiderata for the 90s, “Trust me on the sunscreen,” trust me…
Healing only comes through forgiveness.
As Abraham Lincoln famously said so long ago, on another battlefield,
…that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
We are still seeking that rebirth of freedom, that healing, which can only come through…
God Bless You!
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