The Healing – II

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by DCH Park

Things are still integrating for me as I come out of my second near-death experience. Both times, I remember clearly having a choice and choosing to come back to life. Both times, there were things to heal and things to accept about myself. In fact, I am still healing and growing from the second near-death experience. Maybe from both.

One of the ways that I continue to heal is in who I am in the world. I notice that in choosing to be alive, I am choosing myself, but who am I? I notice that many forces in society want me to be this or that, but they are uninterested in what I am. They want me to be what they want and seem to actively suppress anything else.

I think that there are many forces in society that work this way. However, my sense is that this is not what the Founding Fathers of the United States or great scientists and artists have wanted. Nevertheless, these forces are very strong and very subtle. They are practically invisible and therefore very strong. However, remember the parable of the cave. Things are invisible because we won’t see them, not because we can’t.

Expectations seem natural. They seem like “just the way things are.” However, are they? Can we make a different choice just by seeing that we can? Is our awareness that powerful?

I find that we are taught to expect rules and norms to conform to. We usually measure or prove our worth by how well we conform to these ideals. Those who call themselves “spiritual” often still conform to rules but they conform to different rules. Nevertheless, they are often playing the same game, just following a different leader.

The game that they are playing is looking to others to define for them what is right, what value they have, who they are in society and thus to themselves, etc. They are looking outside themselves for definitions of who they are and how they feel.

Instead, notice what you feel inside. Notice the difference between high and low emotions or between what has been called emotions versus feelings. Heal the one and celebrate the other.

This can begin simply and small. Simply notice what you feel. Notice what emotions are present. Notice the relationship between emotions and Ego.

Science can be summed up in a single word – honesty. Regardless of what science may have been associated with in your schooling, it comes down to honesty. That’s why scientists in the twentieth century have been able to take conscious responsibility for their culture. The net result has been a vast acceleration of cultural development. There’s no reason that the lessons of science can’t be used in other fields. Be honest with at least yourself about your emotions and what you feel. What’s going on? The more you see, the more you can see.

© 2013, David Park. All Rights Reserved.

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Leaders Are

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by DCH Park

Two things come to mind for me right away when the subject of what makes a good leader comes up. One is the idea that “eagles don’t flock.” The other is the notion that in order to be good leader, you have to be a “good follower.”

Certainly, these two things sound like they express different, even polar opposites. How can you be a “good follower” and do whatever is asked of you if you go your own way because “eagles don’t flock?” Nevertheless, both are true. Military leaders are trained in both.

In fact, the US military, arguably (some would say “unarguably”) the finest military force the world has ever known, prides itself in and relies on the excellence of its leaders. How can a leader not “flock” and at the same time be a “good follower?” What do these things mean?

Taking the last one first, note that “follower” does appear in the dictionary. It leads to what you might expect – several definitions that all revolve around the idea that the follower subscribes to the directions of or copies a leader.

There is a symmetry argument at work here that relies on the idea that the leader in a person is balanced by the follower in that person. In this regard, the person benefits by always being aware of how he or she fits into the organization or nation that he or she is a part of. This speaks to the true nature of humility, which is the topic of another meditation.

Nevertheless, without this context, the relationship between a leader and the people that he or she leads may become distorted or lost altogether. The debt that a leader owes to the led may be lost. Both can lose sight of the fact that each is reflected in the other. Without this reflection, one side of the equation can be easily lost.

Beyond symmetry, you can argue that without followers, it is easy for a leader to forget the community from which he or she springs. Without this context, a short step can descend into a slide down to ultimately defining the community as the led and seeing the leader as bulwark against chaos. To wit, the leader can lose sight of moral action and justice and begin to define those things as whatever he or she wants them to be.

Similarly, the led can lose sight of their role in closing or defining the circle. They can forget that they are the origin of justly derived powers and see all power as flowing from the leader. When they see things as a one-way flow – going from the leader to the led only – they can easily forget justice and fall into the same trap as the leader.

Perhaps greater insight can be gained from consideration of what it means to be “good,” whether you are playing the role of leader or follower at the moment. More than simply being effective, being good also implies that there is a moral or ethical standard that applies to effective actions that ideally does not change with circumstances.

It does not work the other way around, as some might have us believe. We do not derive our idea of morality or ethics simply from what is effective or from what seems to work in the short run. What works in one moment may not work in the next or what works for one person or in one situation may not work in the next. Inconsistency and arbitrariness are usually indications that there are deeper truths at work.

When I find that deeper truth and live by it, inconsistencies tend to disappear and what is ethical, what is right, and what is effective tend to converge. Most importantly, not everything that we can do are things that are good for us to do. There are some things that are not “right” but that we are encouraged to do by everyone else, even though our consciences, our senses of what is “right,” tell us otherwise. We can choose to shout down our senses of what is right or we can listen to them and do the right thing.

It seems to me that this is how being a “good follower” and eagles “not flocking” can converge. It sometimes takes courage to do the right thing precisely because everyone else may seem to be doing the same thing and that same thing is something else. There is pressure to conform with everyone else but this is not necessarily what the “good” person does, whether that person is a leader or a follower.

Sometimes, the “good” person is called to do exactly the same thing that he or she is called to do by the group. Such things happen more often than not in moral organizations. However, the morality of an organization is not determined by its strength or how often it is effective or even if it claims to support “good” things by committing “bad” deeds. Its morality is decided each moment by the people who make it up and the people who are affected by it.

Each person may be a leader in the organization – even the lowest person. Every follower may be a leader. That cannot be clear though unless everyone decides for him or her self whether the organization is acting morally. This means that every person owes it to him or her self to be aware of what that morality is outside of what the organization is doing.

We owe it to ourselves to speak up and question when things don’t add up or when we don’t understand something. We owe it to ourselves to act in accordance with our own senses of what is right. We owe it to ourselves to listen when others talk. speak responsibly, and to act responsibly. Remember – eagles don’t flock.

© 2013, David Park. All Rights Reserved.

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Passing On the Gift

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by DCH Park

Recently, a mother posted a query to our metaphysics group asking for advice about schooling for her one year old daughter. She was concerned about making sure that her daughter was challenged but also focused on giving her daughter opportunities to learn a spiritual wisdom tradition. Her concern was that public schools might not provide all of the opportunities to learn that her daughter could benefit from.

The following essay is drawn in part from my response to her.

First of all, please let me respond to your concern about waiting until she’s “too old” to teach her about or expose her to a wisdom tradition. Is there really such a thing as “too old?” Certainly, some people come to a realization of the value of their consciousness and how to use it earlier in life than others, but each person comes to things when he or she is ready. I have met several young people who seem to have a much deeper working knowledge of mental hygiene and success principles than I remember having when I was younger, yet many of them tend, in my experience, to have a relatively narrow focus. Their insight, abilities, and levels of success and happiness are indeed advanced, but their abilities to understand and make meaningful connections across disparate traditions and to find value in even common and difficult circumstances seem to be limited, generally speaking.

I am beginning to suspect that perhaps the times of late childhood, teen, and early adulthood are times when a young person goes through a period of personal turmoil and self-definition perhaps reflective of the transitional states of neurological development and restructuring in the brain that occur throughout those years.

During this time of life, the brain grows and develops radically and rapidly. As connections proliferate and then are pruned in the brain, certain things may from time to time literally fail to connect. It has been observed that functionally, this bears a striking resemblance to brain damage. Of course, it is actually a natural part of growth and development, nonetheless, it might be the case that some degree of turmoil is inevitable during those ages, regardless of the type of training received in childhood.

I’m inclined to believe that a young person raised to practice self awareness will tend to have less difficulty in an absolute sense than someone who hasn’t, however, I suspect that the personal experience from the young person’s perspective might tend to misery. In other words, although my child may do well compared to me when I was his age or compared to his peers, perhaps his experience of his life is full of things that he felt were hard.

On the other hand, I imagine that there are cases in which family, school, community, and religion align perfectly so that a growing child’s life is happy and turmoil-free from birth through say the third or fourth decade of life, however, I wonder how flexible and robust such a person’s worldview and attitudes are likely to be. It’s commonly accepted that the way to raise a spoiled child is to make sure that she gets whatever she wants. I once read in a parental discipline book that the role of a parent is to frustrate the child whenever his demands become unreasonable or inconsiderate. Would raising a child in a completely turmoil-free manner create a monster?

Perhaps there is a link between the degree of difficulty that a person experiences and her ability to transcend difficulty and distractions in life. Gautama didn’t begin his journey to become the Buddha until after he realized that suffering exists and he didn’t transcend suffering as the Buddha until after he understood suffering from personal experience. If he had stayed in his father’s palace, enjoying his family and wealth, he would have not become the Buddha, even if he knew about suffering as an abstraction.

As an aside, it is interesting to recall that Gautama was foretold to be destined to either become a great spiritual master and teacher or to become a great military leader and conqueror. If he had stayed within the palace grounds and embraced his wife and son as part of a life that was defined by the world, he might have been impelled by his awareness of suffering to try to wipe it out. This might easily have translated into mounting war to bring the benefits of abundance to as many people as he could and thereby to ease or eliminate their suffering.

The wisest, richest, happiest, and most serene people I know have grown that way not because of their early childhood training, but because of what they discovered in themselves as they met and transcended the demons of pain, fear, suffering, and distraction in their lives, just as the Buddha did. In meeting and transcending these demons, we learn from first hand discovery not only that we are capable of transcending them and healing our wounds, but also what such demons are and where they come from. We grow in power and wisdom and eventually discover from personal experience the source and nature of wisdom and power.

Perhaps these are things that cannot be taught. Perhaps in trying to raise a child in traditions that we have found useful, we simply invite him or her to become brittle and deaf to the wisdom in a tradition different from the one we were raised in (and grew to be deaf and brittle to). One person may easily feel inspired by Judaism or Christianity and convert into that faith at the same time that someone else may go in the opposite direction for the same reasons.

In the end, intuition tells me that observing my own practices and sharing the benefits of my practice through my accepting presence and love is the most important factor. By being open with my child about what I understand as well as what I am as yet unclear about (but am sitting with) about the world and myself, I set an example and offer insights into a living process of growth and opening to wisdom. The child can follow it or not, use it as a launching point for creation/discovery of his own practices or not, as he chooses.

In this way, we can provide living examples of the tools in use and how the wisdom they lead to is recognized and received. This may be the most important and powerful lesson that we can offer our children.

In my case, I consciously realized that I would not always be able to protect my son and that he would want to be recognized and honored for his decisions, just as I wanted to be honored as I was growing up. I started by acknowledging that he made good decisions to the extent that he was able to make decisions – which, of course, has grown as he has grown – and let him know that I had confidence in his decisions. This provided a foundation and a forum within which we could (and can and do) discuss decisions. As he has grown, our discussions have grown from explaining things and decisions that I have made to probing his thinking, expectations, and decision process and possibly offering suggestions or challenges (or possible consequences) for him to consider but always with the understanding that he is naturally expected to follow his own sense of what is right with my support.

Of course, this also means that he takes responsibility for his decisions with my support. I have “taken him to task” and reminded him of his responsibilities and opportunities for change more than once in this vein. Sometimes he realizes that he hasn’t been fully aware of how his decisions have affected others or himself and sometimes he has made decisions knowing their possible ramifications. In either case, he has ultimately always taken responsibility for himself and his choices.

Spiritual enlightenment is essentially being aware. As I grow more aware of the myriad ways in which I have fallen into habitual shortcuts in how I perceive, receive, and act in the world, I find that with greater awareness comes greater choice and freedom. As I am aware of how I behave, I can choose to exercise a different way of being. In the same fashion, recognizing and accepting responsibility opens the possibility of exercising choice, even to the extent of changing a decision I have made in the past. Without awareness and responsibility, such choice and change are not possible. Perhaps this is why suffering and transcending suffering is linked with enlightenment.

Parents have by far the greatest impact in a child’s life. Although it would probably be better if school and culture (including TV, music, video games, etc.) were all in alignment with you, even if none of them were, your daughter will learn the deepest lessons from you. The manner in which you live your life and in which you treat yourself, her, and other people in your lives together will be the most important factor. When we live well, life is good. What better lesson could we hope to pass on?

© 2013, David Park. All Rights Reserved.

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Restitution and Responsibility – I

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by DCH Park

When I was a Boy Scout, at one point I was an assistant Den leader for a group of younger Cub Scouts. I don’t recall many details of how or when I started working with the Cubs or what we did, but I do recall very clearly one horrendous incident which, in retrospect, I realize probably led directly to my being quietly and gracefully dropped from the Den.

There was a festival or celebration coming up and each den had to put on a skit, song, or presentation before the entire Pack and their families at the upcoming monthly Pack meeting. The meeting would be held in the elementary school auditorium and each Den had to perform on stage.

In the weeks running up to the big celebration, my Den were struggling with what they could do so I suggested a variation on a gag that I had once seen in an old movie. The boys would start onstage, pulling a rope that led offstage right, obviously in a game of tug-of-war. They would struggle and strain but gradually win as they inched offstage left, leaving only the rope visible as it stretched from wing to wing. Then the same group of boys would struggle from offstage right as they were pulled across the stage (by themselves (presumably offstage left) and off into the wings.

There were no lines to memorize and the sight gag of the Den struggling with themselves in a tug-of-war was clever and sure to elicit a good response. However, we did not plan well and we failed to even rehearse. On the evening of the performance, we tried it for the first time in front of the whole Pack and everyone’s family. In our confidence from the apparent simplicity of gag, we overlooked having someone standing in the wings offstage left to hold the rope while the boys scrambled behind the backdrop to stage right.

However, that wasn’t the critical failure. As soon as the curtain rose and the boys started to tug (with me offstage, holding the other end of the rope), I snapped into a kind of automatic pattern and forgot all about the skit. Perhaps it was the lack of rehearsal, perhaps it was the nervous energy combined with the feel of the rope in my hands and the tug-of-war scenario, but I lost all context and started to pull against the boys in earnest. I even asked a friend who happened to be backstage with me to help!

I remember a few laughs from the audience as we pulled the confused and angry Cubs off stage. I beamed in pleasure over “winning” the game. I didn’t realize how seriously I had misfired until I saw the scowls and heard the angry comments from the Cubs. They had very reasonably surmised that I had perfidiously tricked them. To all appearances I had deliberately made them look like fools to get a few laughs from their families.

As shocked realization rushed into my awareness, I was at a loss to comprehend or convey my bewilderment or ruefulness for what I had done. In the emotional swirl, even my apology, which was the one thing that I was clear about, was lost. I could utter nothing, which naturally did nothing to propitiate bruised Cub Scout egos.

What can be done to heal injury like this that results from actions by another or that someone else suffers because of your actions? Apologies and philosophies like “forgive and forget” seem empty and fruitless, even disingenuous. Indeed, popular “wisdom” views such things as admissions of weakness and recommends against them altogether with aphorisms such as “Never let’em see you sweat.”

But this attitude seems harsh to everyone, including yourself. It certainly has no room for any kind of healing or growth other than the “school of hard knocks” variety, which tends to lead to a hardened, cynical attitude that only promotes further immersion into the ego-drama of a hostile world characterized by a dynamic of “injure and be injured.” Might there be a way to deal with such transgressions in a more open and honest way? Is it possible to heal such injuries so that they don’t fester with guilt, remorse, anger, or worse? What alternative is there to repression or actively ignoring a transgression, especially if it was unintended and/or something that happened many years ago?

There is a prescription for healing the wounds caused by such transgressions, whether they were deliberate or not. It can be initiated as either the wounded party or as the transgressor. It can even be performed if the other party is unavailable due to distance, time, or death.

© 2012, David Park. All Rights Reserved.

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Success Mastermind

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by DCH Park

Popular entertainments commonly revolve around struggles between a villain and a hero. Although it is no longer fashionable to call the villain in such pieces an “evil mastermind,” the pop culture characteristics are still very evident. The evil mastermind is a wicked genius who is also driven by a very old injustice in which he or she was somehow wronged, cheated, or hurt.

Sometimes the injustice is ancient – so ancient that the details are lost and the villain is characterized as simply “evil.” Sometimes the injustice is revealed to be predicated on a misunderstanding. In the latter case, the possibility of redemption exists, but in either case the villain acts out the pain, suffering, and fear of further injustice by seeking to punish, control, or sacrifice the whole world in order to avenge past suffering or escape further suffering.

It is interesting to note that some popular morality tales describe the origin of the hero in similar fashion to that of the villain, except that the hero’s vengeance is tightly focused and limited to the actual perpetrator of the original injustice or those allied with the original perpetrator in deed or spirit.

In any case, the evil mastermind is portrayed as obsessed. He (or she) has a plan which is usually brilliantly complex and layered. It often takes the hero’s own actions into account and makes them critical components in moving the evil plot forward. In other words, the popular portrayal is accurate in many respects but gets a few critical details wrong, making the whole concept of a “mastermind” unsavory.

The term “Master Mind” was used by Napoleon Hill to describe the power by which successful men and women achieve their goals. In The Law of Success he describes how Andrew Carnegie first described the manner in which he brought together and organized a team of people dedicated to creating a fortune through the manufacture and marketing of steel.

Carnegie himself had no knowledge of how steel was made. He didn’t have to. His expertise was in creating and leading the team whose members already knew everything they needed to know about making and selling steel. Carnegie’s role was to forge and lead this Master Mind group. In the process he made himself and many of his employees very wealthy.

The Master Mind is an emergent phenomenon that comes out of the coming together of two or more minds “in a spirit of perfect harmony.” Under such circumstances, Hill observed, a “third mind” emerges that is greater than the sum of the individual separate minds that have come together. It carries with it a level of excitement and commitment that can be exhilarating. It also provides a connection to insight and creativity that can lead to previously unimagined solutions to difficult problems.

Hill is very clear that the Master Mind is the means by which great power and success are achieved, regardless of how one defines success.

No individual may have great power without availing himself of the “Master Mind”. … Analyze the record of any man [or woman] who has accumulated a great fortune, and many of those who have accumulated modest fortunes, and you will find that they have either consciously or unconsciously employed the “Master Mind” principle.

Thus, the popular notion of the lone mastermind hatching plots of diabolical intricacy by virtue of his (or her) incredible genius is a phantom. According to Hill, it is the other way around. The levels of creative imagination and insight that become available to members of a successful Master Mind can propel them to operate at the level of genius. In fact, Hill speculates that the inventive genius of Thomas Edison and the brilliant business acumen of Henry Ford were due in large part to their personal association in a Master Mind group, though it is unlikely that they called it that.

The other elements of the popular mastermind – clarity of goals, focused direction bordering on obsession, persistence that spans years or decades, consistency of effort, and formulation, execution, and refinement of a plan – are all necessary elements to realize success in the real world. For those who wish to be successful, it would be wise to keep sight of these truths while forming a Master Mind.

There is one further caveat to bear in mind. Hill is careful to point out over and over again the importance of “perfect harmony” in the formation and operation of a successful Master Mind. This is of such paramount importance that he even recommends that married couples who are unable to achieve and maintain harmony with each other would be better off divorcing so they can find more compatible partners.

Unfortunately he is silent as to exactly how to foster harmony in a group. He does observe that there are many ways in which harmony can be induced by leaders. Although this is, according to Hill, the most important characteristic of a leader and, in fact, the thing that distinguishes a leader from a follower, each leader must discover individually what leadership style works best.

Leadership style aside, Hill does state clearly that not every mind will be compatible with every group. In some cases this might simply mean that the mismatched individual would be better suited and very valuable in a different group or environment. In other cases it may mean that the individual is not well suited (by temperament or habitual outlook, for example) to cooperation in “perfect harmony” with others in general.

There are certain minds which… cannot be made to blend in a spirit of harmony. This principle has its comparable analogy in chemistry. For example, … one atom of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen will not produce water; moreover they cannot be made to associate themselves in harmony!

… Just as the combining of certain elements changes the entire nature, the combining of certain minds changes the nature of those minds, producing either a certain degree of what has been called a “Master Mind” or its opposite, which is highly destructive.

In such extreme cases, according to Hill, the responsibility of the leader is to remove the negative influence from the group in order to foster robust harmony within the Master Mind.

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by DCH Park

I remember sitting in class at school when I was 10 or 11 years old and hearing about John Kennedy’s assassination. My teacher was telling us about her experiences that day. She was saying that people who were old enough then tended to remember exactly where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news. I imagine that it was similar to the experience that most people of younger generations have with remembering the 11th of September, 2001.

As a child, though, I had a hard time understanding why so many people would be so profoundly distraught over one man’s death that the incidental details of what would otherwise have been a very unremarkable day became indelibly etched into their memories. This question has many levels and in many ways takes us to the heart of what it means to be human. My teacher struggled with it in what I have come to recognize as the quest to fit nuanced feelings and insights into a context and vocabulary that an intelligent 10 year old can grasp.

What she came up with was a description of Kennedy and how he inspired and symbolized the best hopes and dreams of a nation. She spoke of how he was able to touch and warm the hearts of those he spoke with. She said that he was charismatic. She explained that some people had charisma and that it could help them to become great leaders. She taught me a new word, but she left me with a mystery – exactly what is charisma and how does it work? Also, is it something you are born with, like black hair, or can you learn it?

One dictionary definition of charisma describes it as “a personal attractiveness that enables you to influence others; personal appeal or magnetism.” Though this defines the term, it falls short of illuminating the mechanism or essence of charisma, not to mention why hundreds of millions of people would feel the loss of one man so personally.

Looking to great leaders and teachers holds one clue. They are generally held to be those who speak great truths. Often, the truly great or immortal teachers and leaders are the ones who can speak the truths of our own hearts better than we can ourselves. Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King come to mind.

On the other hand, charismatic leaders have also become infamous due to their success in persuading people to perform morally repugnant acts that they wouldn’t otherwise consider. One author cites the examples of Jim Jones and Adolf Hitler as two men who created cults of personality that were both immoral and brutal.

Such charismatic leaders can be likened to con artists. Great con artists can speak to the heart, just as great teachers can, but as I understand it, they speak of what we might want to be true but isn’t and ultimately offer a cheat – a way to steal or otherwise gain an unfair advantage over someone else – which backfires, providing the payoff for the con artist and the “sting” to the victim (or “mark”).

The well known Nigerian swindle is an example of this. In case you’ve never heard of it before, one version of it involves an email from some unknown person who claims to be an unfairly persecuted dignitary in need of funds. He has plenty of money but can’t get direct access to it due to some technical reason. He asks for help in accessing the funds in the form of a relatively smaller amount for fees, bribing corrupt officials, etc. In return for this “help” the con artist promises an exceedingly large profit.

The hook that catches the “mark” is the promise of an unfairly large payoff which is made possible by taking advantage of someone else’s misfortune. It denies the reality of connection. There is no connection with the other person because the mark is fully immersed in the story of huge profit. Thus, the successful con is one that takes us into our own stories and fears of loss and separation (from the other person, society, or divine truth) and then offers a cheat or magical fix that will supposedly make things instantly better (like bribing corrupt officials, killing the Jews, gypsies, and gays, or drinking the kool-aid).

However, even after the magical fix, the con leaves us in essentially the same position we were in to begin with, if not worse for the experience. Any advantage that we may have gained only ties us more tightly to the ego-story of ultimate separation.

In contrast, great leaders and teachers gain their charismatic draw from their clarity and courageous devotion to the truth. They are divinely inspired and share their inspiration with others. They remind us through their examples, words, and deeds of truths that we have always known but have forgotten in our daily lives. Yet in no case do they claim to have special access to truth that exceeds anyone else’s.

In fact, I sense that this is where the answer to our mystery lies. The loss of JFK was a personal blow to so many because they experienced him personally. He inspired in them a greater awareness of their own reality and connections to divine truth. Is it any wonder that such a man might be charismatic and persuasive?

This also points the way to becoming more charismatic ourselves. If inspiring others to recognize and reconnect with their own divine natures is the key to being an effective, charismatic leader, how better to learn to do this than to become intimately acquainted with our own divine natures first?

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Economic Turmoil – Obama’s Fault? Really?

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by DCH Park

In the aftermath of the US credit rating downgrade, some are saying that it is President Obama’s fault. Is this really fair? Lessons from the Bible say otherwise.

It’s been over a week since Standard & Poors downgraded the US credit rating and market volatility has been quite high. Substantial losses have been reported only to be followed by large gains the next day as valuations see-saw back and forth. This is a classic uncertainty or mixed signal pattern of price behavior.

During such tumultuous times, it is unclear who has a stronger presence in the market – the bears who want to get out at any price and sell, driving prices down, or bulls who expect that the longer term outlook is positive and buy, driving prices up. Bulls and bears are evenly matched and the resulting tug of war sends prices first one way, then the other.

Of course, this market is also very passionate. A lot of people have very strong feelings, although many probably don’t really know what to believe. One one hand, the US credit rating has never been downgraded this way, which seems scary and bearish. On the other hand, there really is no viable alternative to US Treasury bonds, so it’s unlikely that the downgrade will precipitate the kind of crash here that Italy is suffering. This seems bullish or at least stabilizing. So although panic may cause sharp drops in valuation, prices don’t fall far before investors flip and decide that the depressed prices represent an opportunity and buy. So the market see-saws and when prices move, they tend to move dramatically.

Nevertheless, this stock market volatility is unnerving The S&P rating has shaken a lot of people’s confidence. Pundits are talking about how the already shaky recovery is in serious peril. Suddenly the outlook for jobs and an end to economic pain seems much farther off. The S&P rating is based on the view of their panel of experts on a country’s ability and willingness to repay its debts.

Although it seems clear that the US, with the largest, most dynamic economy in the world, is able to pay its debts, the recent debt ceiling crisis arguably brings into question the willingness of the United States to repay its debts. Although the American people are unlikely to favor defaulting on national obligations, as the recent debt crisis suggests, the US government apparently has trouble mustering the will or cohesiveness to make serious decisions or real change. From this perspective, it is not surprising that S&P downgraded the US rating. In fact, it’s interesting that the other agencies didn’t do likewise.

Some are clearly and loudly saying that it is all President Obama’s fault for letting the debt ceiling debates turn into a crisis and then caving in at the end so that nothing was gained and a lot of good faith was lost. Is this fair?

Obama made early concessions to Tea Party radicals in the Republican minority in Congress. He demonstrated a clear willingness to compromise in a spirit of good faith in the best interests of the nation. Republican leadership likewise seemed willing to work with Obama and the Democrats to come to an early compromise that although it would not have given anyone everything they’d wanted, would have given the nation what it needed – a means to avoid default on government obligations and a step forward toward resolving our ongoing economic crisis.

Instead, the radical minority of the Republican party demonstrated the depth of their intransigence and refused to allow the party leadership to move forward. They dug in their heels and forced both parties to toe the line that they had drawn in the sand. These are the facts. Do they demonstrate weakness or failure on the part of Obama and the Democrats or of the Republican leadership, for that matter?

The Bible teaches that King Solomon, the son of King David, was an exceedingly wise king. He prayed not for strength, wealth, power, or supremacy over his enemies. He prayed for wisdom to better serve the people through administering justice well. God granted his prayer.

In the most well known tale of Solomon’s exercise of the divine wisdom that God had granted, two women came before him embroiled in a dispute over a baby. Each claimed to be the child’s mother. King Solomon ordered that the child be cut in half so that each woman could take her share. When one woman gave up her claim to protect the baby, Solomon declared that she was the child’s mother. Compassion revealed the true mother.

In the current situation, who gave up his claim in order to protect the nation? It’s as if the Tea Party held the entire nation and our national economy hostage in order to serve their narrow interests. In contrast, Obama and the Democrats can be seen as having chosen compassion – they gave up their claims – to save the nation. If compassion revealed the true mother to King Solomon, whom does compassion reveal to be our true or best leader now?

Who would you want as a leader – someone willing to sacrifice the whole nation in order to secure personal interests or someone willing to serve national interests even at the expense of personal well-being?

Who is really responsible for the debt ceiling crisis mess?

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“Economic Turmoil – Obama’s Fault? Really?” by DCH Park is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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