December, 2008 message for Everyday Zen letter

by Norman Fischer | December 31, 2008 at 2:55 PM

Written Dec, 2008 for Everyday Zen letter

Dear friends,

This newsletter comes to you at the end of an exciting and trying year. 2008 featured an uplifting National Election and an horrendous economic downturn, offering us, as always, a full and complex reality of joys and sorrows.

I hope the year was a good one for you, and that the uncertainties of the moment are not having too bad impact on your state of mind or your pocketbook. And if they are that you are finding comfort in your practice and in your family and friends. 

Despite the difficulties, I have great hope for the future. While the collapse or near collapse of our economy is terrible news in the short run, it is also potentially good news for the long haul. I have felt for some time that the unbridled and ungrounded speculative enthusiasm that has seemed to produce so much (probably too much) wealth was not a good thing. We have been sobered by what has happened and this may cause an outbreak of sanity that will produce an economics based on human need and on sharing rather than on cleverness and greed. The current situation is painful and threatening, and no one would have chosen it. But, since it is what has happened, it makes sense to see the darkness as a pre-condition of a new light.

I even more hopeful about the Obama Administration. In fact, I have never been as hopeful about any American leader in my lifetime. I believe our President-elect is a person of integrity, vision, intelligence, and destiny. His character even seems to shine through the confusing blizzard of media hype. I have read several blog postings about Barack Obama as our first “Buddhist President.” None of them suggests that Obama is actually a Buddhist or a meditator. They are referencing his character and personal style, which do seem to be reflective of the qualities we would aspire to as practitioners of the Buddha’s path. His temperament is steady and equanimous. He is fair-minded and inclusive, humble and forgiving. He seems to know himself well, and to trust his faith and his own good heart. When he speaks of others, even those with whom he disagrees, you sense his genuine respect – as if he actually understands people from their side, and is not interested in manipulating anyone. He seems to trust people’s goodness. So that when he speaks of unity you believe him. During the Presidential debates with his opponent, a much older man, it was Barack who seemed unmistakably to be the grown-up. In his victory speech on the night of November 4, when he might well have been giddy and triumphant, Obama was sober and measured. “This election is not about me,” he said. “It is about you.”

It will not be easy to govern the country with all the problems we’ve got and all the confusion that has been sown over the last eight years. It is possible that President Obama will not be able to govern effectively. But it will be a relief to know that the best of our human qualities – love, respect, honesty, intelligence, compassion, and fairness – are represented in the White House. We have had bad politics in America for a long time. Things just might improve.


Norman Fischer