Spirituality and Voting
Spirituality and voting? Yes, you read that correctly. There is a connection between the inner spiritual life and the outer political one. Individuals do not live merely as individuals, but as individuals within a larger human and natural community. The health, vitality, and well-being of one depends upon the other. Working on yourself is not a good reason to disengage from politics. It’s the opposite. Working on yourself also means engaging that self with the rest of the world.
Life is political and life is spiritual
Political conditions affect all aspects of human development, including spiritual development. We often think of spiritual practice as something deeply personal and apolitical. Yet spirituality can, and often does, involve an individual’s relationship to other people, community and the larger world. In this way, spiritual practice and community engagement go hand in hand.
Political persecution of spirituality
Further, political conditions often affect, allow, or preclude the possibility of spiritual practice. Falun Gong and Tibetan Buddhism are poignant reminders of state limits on spiritual freedom. Realizing this should encourage us to safeguard the political conditions that allow our own spiritual freedom.
Spiritual leaders are political leaders
Great spiritual leaders may also be political leaders. Consider Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Dali Lama. Their work acknowledges the liminal space between personal and social well-being. There is no sharp demarcation where the health of one begins and the other ends. The personal and socio-political spheres continually inform one another. It is naïve, and it is just wrong to pretend that spiritual practice can flourish irrespective of the quality and condition of our communities.
We often remember Thoreau for his meditations in nature, but we can also recall his political activism, and how these two seemingly disparate interests were unproblematically integrated in a whole human being, who was trying to make sense of a whole human life, in the context of a larger human community, and greater natural world. In his life Thoreau embraced solitude, communed with pine needles, and meditated on walking. He defended education, engaged in political action, and practiced political dissent.
“Let every man make known what kind of government would command his respect, and that will be one step toward obtaining it.” (Civil Disobedience) Thoreau was not always happy with his government, but didn’t use that as a reason to disengage. He used his dissatisfaction as a rallying cry to engage as many people as possible. He knew that people’s voices affect political outcomes, and that political outcomes matter. Political conditions are more than public policy. Political conditions affect daily life and the possibility of social harmony.
Pursuing spirituality is no reason to abandon politics. It is a reason to embrace it.
Of course people might not like what they see in politics. Given what we’re seeing these days that’s quite understandable. But the way to change that is to engage in a positive way. Be the sort of citizen you would like to see. The way we engage politically affects the way we are governed, and the way we are governed affects people’s relations with one another. It is a circular, iterative process.
Create the future
If we don’t like politics, then let’s do what we can to make it so that we do like it. Sedona is a beautiful community full of talented and interesting people. Let’s all take responsibility for our community by participating in the upcoming election. Don’t let a few angry voices intimidate you. Let’s make politics for the people again. Let’s re-imagine voting, not as a mere civic duty, but as an integral part of our spiritual life, and an expression of the part we play in creating the kind of community we want.
No matter how disillusioned you may be about the current state of politics, checking out is not the answer. We can improve politics. Improvement happens when we opt in.
Political work and spiritual work both challenge us to bring our best selves forward. Both make space to imagine what might be possible, create the future, and call upon our courage. This is a moment to recognize that political and spiritual life are inevitably and inextricably intertwined. Voting is your voice, and a creative force of the future for yourself, your community, your country, your world.
On August 28, the people of Sedona will have the opportunity to vote in the primary election. We will decide the question of home rule. We also have the opportunity to elect a mayor, city council, and choose the top party contenders at the national level. If you care about spiritual life, recognize and take responsibility for its connection to political life. Do not miss this opportunity to vote, to have a voice, to exercise your volition.