Is It a Time to Advance or Retreat?

27  66%  18%  1mph ENE bar29.95 falls windchill26  Imbolc

            Waning Crescent of the Winter Moon

A strange, sometimes troubling struggle has broken out in the responsible section of my Self.  The sometimes subtle, sometimes hammer blow obvious skirmishes have me puzzled about what actions to take, if any.  The formal study of Daoism I began a couple of weeks ago has begun to push me in a way that I hope will resolve this matter, or at least give me a way to handle it.

The struggle is over politics.  As I’ve written elsewhere politics defined my life during my late teens, 20’s, 30’s and early 40’s.  That is to say, by my junior year in high school I was a political animal, a politician and an activist.  President of my high school class for my freshman, junior and senior years, a favorite teacher pushed the Little United Nations Assembly of Indiana to accept me as the presiding officer for the 1965 Little United Nations.  The year before I represented the Republic of Chad.  In the fall of 1965 we protested the CIA recruiters on the campus of Wabash and I never looked back. 

Draft eligible and permanently active from that point forward I got involved in civil rights, student rights and anti-war politics. I was a student senator for three years at Ball State, then ran an unsuccessful campaign for president of the student body.  I helped organize and lead anti-draft and anti-war rallies, marches and teach-ins. 

In seminary I pushed the seminary on anti-war politics, became an early feminist and began a ten year involvement with anti-racism training.

While working at Community Involvement Programs as their janitor and weekend counselor, I lived in the Stevens Square Neighborhood.  There I got involved in neighborhood level politics, leading an effort to push General Mills out of the community and organizing the Stevens Square Neighborhood Association.  Made a lot of friends and few enemies.  It was fun.  This was the 1970’s. 

In 1978 the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area hired me to work on the West Bank as a community minister.  I got involved in community based economic development, building affordable housing, organizing against unemployment and for broader community involvement in the management of philanthropy. 

In 1984 I left the West Bank and took over urban missions for the Presbytery which expanded the arena of action.  In various ways I was still at it when I met Kate in 1988. 

Over all this time I had a very active hand in DFL politics working at the precinct, congressional and state levels.  Then I left the Presbytery in  1991.  Not long after that Kate and I moved to Andover.

Since then my political work has shrunk to near nothing.  I send the occasional e-mail, make a phone call, show up (sometimes) at the precinct caucus, but I’m part of no ongoing, organized effort to make or change policy.  The whole climate change issue is fraught with political issues of real import, many of them.  I’m interested, especially in water related issues and Lake Superior.   Yet I do almost nothing.

The 1960’s was a “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.” era.  My political superego came into maturity in those times and this notion became a benchmark for my own assessment of responsible behavior. 

Thus, the struggle.  I wonder, sometimes, where this guy went, this political guy. It’s like he crawled under a rock, but that’s not so.  No, this is a struggle that has moved back and forth in my mind since the move to Andover.

Now the Daoist studies I’ve engaged propose a way of addressing it.  Daoism suggests that there are times to retreat and times to advance, times which call for more yang, times which call for more yin.  The wise man, Daoism says, adjusts his inner life to what it calls the temporary conditions, the way the Tao manifests itself.  This area of Daoist studies has my attention right now.  I’ll keep you informed because this struggle is not productive and it’s not over.


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