Why politics, Dan?
Why are you running? And for the Greens?
The questions of my dear friends.
The questions I hold a week into this snap BC election.
The questions I asked today as I filed my nomination papers at Elections BC.
My response tonight to the questions is a short reflection and a poem.
The reflection is not really fully mine.
It is my memory of some words I recall in the presence of my mentor and wonderful friend Parker Palmer.
Parker told me that my true calling- my vocation– was not what I can do, even what I can do well.
It is not a pro/con analysis of my options and picking the best one.
My true calling and vocation is this:
what I cannot not do.
It has a compulsive and passionate energy.
Jumping into this election turned out to be something I cannot not do.
The pandemic reveals the privilege, injustice, fear, corruption and unnecessary suffering. These failures were all there before, of course. We can just feel it in our bones and see it all around us, undeniably now.
We can do better.
I cannot not be involved in this.
As far as running as a Green, some of Parker’s other words haunt me.
He taught me that we have two criteria or motivations that guide our actions.
One motivation is effectiveness.
Effectiveness is important.
How effective will this action be?
What will I win or achieve?
What results will I deem as successful? How do I not fail at this?
The flaw in effectiveness is the aversion to danger. I will only take on actions and projects that I can control.
I will limit my imagination to what I trust will be successful.
I will only aim for what I can hit.
The other criteria is very different: faithfulness.
How faithful am I to what is true?
What keeps me faithful to what I know is good and worthy?
The power of faithfulness is that I will take on risky roles and be willing to fail.
All social movements for change were a result of a small group that were faithful. They were not restricted by effectiveness.
So this election campaign is about faithfulness.
And I want to be specific.
I am faithful to the generations not yet born who will inherit my decisions.
I am faithful to those who have no voice in the powerful halls of politics.
I am faithful to collaboration, humility and deep listening.
I am faithful to my inner wisdom that cannot suffer from being whipped by any calculating political party. It is my most wild and free reality of who I am.
At 55 years of age, I honor the wisdom of my body, my heart, and my intuition.
That is my reflection.
Now the poem.
This was the poem that was my tipping point four years ago when I first decided to run for office.
And it still impacts me each time.
Bill Stafford was a coffee buddy and running friend of my friend David, in Portland.
David introduced me to his friend’s poems and gave me a book.
This one has always served me.
A Ritual To Read to Each Other
If you don’t know the kind of person I am
and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.
For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dyke.
And as elephants parade holding each elephant’s tail,
but if one wanders the circus won’t find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.
And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider—
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.
For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give – yes or no, or maybe—
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.
“A Ritual to Read to Each Other” by William Stafford,
from The Way It Is: New and Selected Poems © Graywolf Press.