1. If you're reading this, you have some kind of character. You see the world through a series of interconnected lenses––Gucci, Armani, Oakleys, Ray-Bans–– that create in you a sensation of having one total view you call "me" from which things like your opinions about Donald Trump come from.
Now imagine a new pair of sunglasses wants to contribute to your view of things. You can reject the new pair immediately as out of fashion and therefore unwanted; or you can put them on without thinking twice. Both of these options create problems: the first we call prejudice, and the second we call indigestion and a bad sense of style.
In the first case, rejecting all new ideas because they don't corroborate with what you already know means you'll be stuck forever in a limited cage of knowledge from which you'll never crawl out. How could you when your first instinct is to say "FAKE NEWS" to everything you don't agree with?
In the second case, you'll merely take on another person's views like a snake can swallow a whole rabbit: your gut will be all paunchy and you won't be able to move very well. This is what Dylan was singing about in "Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat:
Well you, look so pretty in it
Honey, can I jump on it sometime?
Yes, I just wanna see
If it’s really that expensive kind
You know it balances on your head just like a
Mattress balances on a bottle of wine
Your brand new leopard-skin pill-box hat
In order for something to become a natural part of you, you need to do more than just put it on top of your head.
You need to internalize this new view which requires some tension and frustration with your already existing views. That's why character development is often hard and can create a temporary tummy ache. But those are just your digestion juices flowing, mixing what you already know with God Only Knows what this new thing is you just swallowed. It hurts.
But those who integrate new ideas by breaking them down, comparing, getting rid of old views that no longer make sense, these are the people who are deliberately cultivating character even thought it's a hard thing to do. The irony, of course, is that not to do this is even harder since you'll pay way more than twice the price for remaining ignorant.
2. Donald Trump's character is based on his need to appear the best at everything, probably because he was never accepted for who he was as a youngster growing up under the care of his father, another real-estate mogul for whom success was measured with money and image.
Consider these 24 things Donald claims he's the Best at:
Humility is the opposite of braggadocio and it's the path counseled by all wisdom traditions. Unless I'm mistaken––can someone point me to wisdom that suggests arrogance is what people of character dine on?
Anyway, on David Letterman's new Netflix show in which he interviews guests in-depth, his conversation with Jay-Z takes an intriguing turn:
When he was asked about the Trump presidency, Jay-Z said: "Trump is a great thing. I think that what he’s forcing people to do is have a conversation. You can’t really address something that’s not revealed. He’s bringing out an ugly side of America that we wanted to believe was gone. It takes people like you, especially all the young people across the country, speaking out and saying, 'This isn't right, I don't represent what he represents, and I'm gonna change that.' I think we'll see record-breaking numbers next election."
Facing our shadowy parts is the domain of designing your character. The courage and consistency with which you turn toward the parts of yourself that you deny will be the ultimate measure of who you really are.
3. In our first Beer + Book Club meeting about Healing the Heart of Democracy, we came across this passage:
If we want to "create a politics worthy of the human spirit," we must find ways to bridge our differences, whether they are defined by age, gender, class, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or political ideology. Then we must seek patches of common ground on the issues we care most about. This is more than a feel-good exercise. If we cannot reach a rough consensus on what most of us want, we have no way to hold our elected officials accountable to the will of the people.
Every time we fail to bridge our differences, we succumb to the divide-and0conquer tactics so skillfully deployed by individuals and institutions whose objective is to take us out of the political equation.
Question: why are billions of dollars spent annually on cable TV performances of political ‘infotainment’ that are all heat and no light? On disseminating disinformation and agitprop online? On PACs that can produce and purchase air time for fact-free attack ads that offer no solutions?
Answer: To make ‘We the People’ so fearful and suspicious of each other that we will become even more divided and politically impotent” [so the rich can continue fucking the poor with little disturbance.] (Addendum there at the end by yours truly)
What does this passage invoke in you?
IMPORTANT: We'll now be meeting on Thursday evenings at 7:00pm @Radio, in Austin, TX.
Second meeting is Thursday April 26th @ 7pm. Please read to the end of chapter three, p.67. Send an RSVP if you plan on coming, please.