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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Acknowledging Donald Trump

I just completed a draft which I am calling Soul Growing: Spiritual Exercises in Postmodern Times. It is a collection of meditations that build on one another and culminate in a summary describing the stages of spiritual development. What I mean by postmodern times, I clarify in the appendix. 

As I attempt to understand the spiritual dimension of human nature, I am in dialogue with masters of spiritual development, ancient and contemporary, to whom I am most indebted, as well as philosophers, neuroscientists, and psychologists. I had in mind many of my heroes who are "great-souled." Some of these are famous: The Socrates portrayed by Plato and Xenophon, Jesus as described by the evangelists, Buddha Gautama, Francis Assisi, Gandhi, Havel, King, Mandela, Romero, Merton. Others will never be famous, but I knew them: Father Ray Ellis of Detroit and Father Jack Egan of Chicago, my own father, Roshi Tanouye, Rabbi Marx. These all exhibit transcending consciousness. And there are many friends and acquaintances, students and teachers, with whom I still interact as models of spiritual growth for me.

I recognize myself with weak-souled ones who still need lots of work. In fact this little book I just finished will never be finished. It will be my last work because I will hopefully be refining and improving it until I die.

I wrote my reflections on soul growing while the American campaign for presidency was happening. I now realize how that event was influencing my thinking. When it came for me to discuss the great souled ones, I also came to question what a man without a soul might be. I had a living model in the campaign for president. I never knew or even thought about Trump before. (I never watched the Apprentice or read his ghostwritten Art of the Deal).

I disagreed with many candidates and found them petty and misguided. But Trump was a man uniquely distinct.  Not a villain, not an evil man like Iago or Richard III or Atilla, Hitler, Pol Pot. Satan, as Milton describes him, at least has a soul. I also understand how so many weak-souled ones like me have hoped in him as having the key to success that he advertises. But as I listened carefully I realize he has nothing to say.

Adolf Eichmann was described by Arendt as banal. And so I describe Trump. Certainly not a mastermind. Not an archfiend. He is a man without character, without a center, without consciousness. Focused on expanding his Ego while diminishing his soul, he builds towers for himself and walls between neighbors. Therapists see a man very insecure fearing his inferiority. I don't know about that. But I found myself pitying him.

Pity is an ignoble emotion because it demeans the other and keeps him other. Great-souled ones have compassion. Compassion is, with a plethora of mirror neurons, taking on and appreciating the feelings, the worldview, and style of the other. I try to have compassion for him, but compassion is a mingling of souls and I cannot find his soul. Or when I think I find it, there is nothing there. Except Ego. Perhaps I am projecting my own fear of gaining the world and losing soul.

In any case, I thank Donald Trump for helping me see who I do not want to be, how I do not want to define success, and the country I will act to avoid. More positively, he helps me see the community and communion for which I strive. Thank you, Mr. Trump.

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