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Tango is a beautifully romantic dance conceived by the Italian immigrants to Argentina. When I had the opportunity to see it performed, the seemingly absolute perfection of the dancers gracefully moving across the floor never ceased amaze me. Of course, the people who were dancing were far from perfect and knowing this made their dance seem even more beautiful. We are more able to see the good in others and in ourselves when we are unpretentious about who we are.
As I have observed the political process these past few weeks (and years), I have been appalled at how easily a candidate’s reputation is destroyed. An unguarded word, a wink of the eye, a wrinkled suit coat—anything can become the focus of national media attention and used to destroy one’s political enemies through mere innuendo and spin. What does this say about our models of leadership? What does it say about us?
I think it speaks to the fact that, as a nation, we are losing our soul. I mean that a growing percentage of the population (politicians and regular citizens alike) no longer have an internal compass that points to true north and, therefore, the only thing they have to grasp onto is appearances. On the one hand, we are told that we should be shocked at the imperfections of our leaders; on the other hand, we see a growing display of pathetic credulousness as people place their hope in government and in men to solve the nation’s problems.
Thomas Merton said it well when he described our confusion as a desire to “be as gods–changelessly perfect in [our] own being.” We seek life among the lifeless and power from the powerless. We have acquired this intense demand for perfection in our leaders because we have lost connection with the Source of real perfection. The solution, says Merton, is to evaluate ourselves as we really are–imperfect in our very nature–and to cling instead to the One who is perfect.
As long as we are on earth our vocation is precisely to be imperfect, incomplete, insufficient in ourselves, changing, hapless, destitute, and weak, hastening toward the grave. But the power of God and His eternity and His peace and His completeness and His glory must somehow find their way into our lives, secretly, while we are here, in order that we may be found in Him eternally as He has meant us to be. And in Him, in our eternity, there will be no change in the sense of corruption, but there will be unending variety, newness of life, progression in His infinite depth. There, rest and action will not alternate, they will be one. Everything will be at once empty and full. But only if we have discovered how to combine emptiness and fullness, good will and indifferent results, mistakes and successes, work and rest, suffering and joy, in such a way that all things work together for our good and for the glory of God.
Could our demand for perfect leaders be a symptom of our desperate longing for connection with the true source of perfection, the perfection and peace and joy and honor that is not of this world but is all around us and in us and through us?
Do you see any connection between the political angst our nations seems to be experiencing and our own loss of spiritual centeredness? I tend to think all of life is connected and that, what is happening in our souls, eventually is reflected in the outward manifestations of our political and social systems. Do you think there is a connection?
Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.