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Radicals and Republicans

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An essential dimension of activating a sacred vision for America is going beyond political polarities, not by erasing the differences but by understanding the importance of both poles in a larger context. Seen deeply, the truths carried by radical liberals and rock-ribbed conservatives are both required for America to step into greater maturity as a country.

Our political process tends to drive people towards frozen identities. Candidates gradually morph into more perfect expressions of their party values as they respond to the pressures of voters and their party. The end result: blind, habitual behavior. Once we are frozen in any identity, our continued growth is slowed or even arrrested. We stop seeing the benefit of other perspectives and privilege certain values over others. True leadership demands fluidity to meet the specific requirements of any situation.

At this critical crossroads in history, we need wise and effective political leadership and that requires some cross-training.

One way to think about the spectrum from long-haired radicals to buttoned-down conservatives is that they represent different kinds of training in relationship to our life force - the vital energy that powers our lives. This life force can express on many levels, from our physical activity to our sexuality to how we wear our hair and how we manage money. It also applies to how we manage life force in the form of companies, organizations, and governments.

The more radical camp is driven by a desire to let this life force express in new ways. Burning Man might be seen as the ultimate expression of this perspective - a yearly 30,000 person experiment in communal living in the Nevada desert, complete with massive art installments, themed camps, all-night parties, and a money-free economy. The creativity unleashed in this process is truly spectacular. And by the end of the week, it all disappears without a trace.

The conservative camp is busy cultivating the opposite: fierce mastery over our life force. Military training might be the pinnacle of this perspective, with its intense physical discipline, loyalty to rules, buzzed hair, personal sacrifice for country, uniforms, and a clear chain of command. It is about protecting what we cherish, including family and personal property, as well as disciplining our life force to move according to our will and the will of our superiors.

This polarity shows up in many ways. Liberals may experiment with communal living, blending personal boundaries with shared spaces. Republicans are members of the NRA to protect their personal property. Radicals question tradition. Republicans revere it. Radicals like the freedom-laden term "spirituality." Republicans tend towards religion, which literally comes from the root ligare which means "to bind." Even insults are illustrative: "flaming liberals" is a way of describing someone with an unfettered flow of life force. "tight-assed conservative" is a way of describing someone who is tightening their body to discipline the flow of energy.

I am, of course, talking mainly about stereotypes rather than individuals right now. I focus on stereotypes because they can lead to an important recognition: namely that the radically experimental view of life can be seen as a way to free up life force from old pathways - it allows creativity, fluidity, and an expanded sense of identity. It encourages the emergence of the new. The conservative paradigm is a training in disciplining life force, mastering it with our will and channeling it along specific lines, which often leads to greater profitability as well as enduring, effective organizations.

These trainings initiate something different in us. If we don't embrace both, our highest potentials tend not be activated. In men, for example, someone who remains attached to the free flow of life force often fails to embrace some of the traditional virtues of manhood. In our circles in California we call them "flow boys."They crave freedom and fear commitment. They tend not to marry for a long time and they often don't build much that endures, financially or organizationally.

When younger, with wide-open intellectual and spiritual horizons, the more radical perspective is typically at the foreground. Rebellion against what we've inherited is essential. However, as we take on increasing responsibilities and commitments, from marriage to family to organizations and governments, we often need to embrace the disciplining of our life force into channels. We typically need to restrict our sexuality to create a deep marriage, dress a certain way to influence, focus on building a single career, and make our relationship with money more rigorous, thinking like an investor. That's when the conservative training can be essential.

If squashed, the radical orientation fails to free us up sufficiently from what is outdated, lopsided, and close-minded in what we've inherited. Over-indulged, it keeps us from maturing into someone who can lead families, churches, and organizations.

So, perhaps the most useful program we could advance would be an alliance program to bring together radicals and Republicans. The radicals could help free up the evolutionary life force of the Republicans. And the Republicans could bestow the manifesting powers that come from committed disciplines.

Out of such an exchange, great political leadership could again emerge.
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Stephen Dinan is the author of Radical Spirit and the founder of the Radical Spirit community, as well as the Director of Membership and Marketing for the Institute of Noetic Sciences. He graduated from Stanford University with a degree in human (more...)

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