The Political is Personal– and Fundamental

The Master walked into the Zen Pizza Parlor and said, “Make me one with nothing.” 

She gave the pizza man a $20 bill, and he put it in the cash register.

“Where’s my change?” she asked.

The pizza man replied, “Change must come from within.”


A thoughtful and articulate reader responded to my last post with this comment:  “It seems to me that we often equate political change with fundamental change. In my opinion, the only meaningful revolution is within. No other revolution will result in fundamental change.” I see what he means, and I am intending more to extend and augment the discussion than to argue with him, but I don’t think there is really anything more fundamental than politics.  Everything we do in groups as humans is political.  All matters involving allocation of resources are political.  Decisions about what actions are right and wrong are political.  Even the small negotiations that go on from moment to moment between romantic partners, family members, colleagues, and friends are a form of politics.

Some years ago, a colleague insisted that she was “just not political.”  I wrote this prose poem as a response:

‘You always say, “I’m just not political.”
But politics is everywhere.  It’s in the way
you say good morning to your partner.  It’s
what you eat for breakfast.  It’s the car you
choose to drive to work, and whether you
own a car at all.  It’s your job—what is
caused by your job?  Is yours a right
And what about your lunch?  Has a cow
died for your sandwich?  What multinational
agricompany are you supporting with each
bite?  It’s only noon, and you’ve been heard
‘round the world.
Was it what you wanted to say?’

The same reader asked if I could give an example of the phenomenon my daughter described, in which an action in the physical world made it possible for people to imagine and intend something they would not have thought of otherwise, which would then have an effect on the world.  “I would be interested to know how you think this change would manifest,” he wrote.  “In other words, what is it that others might see that would lead them to believe that an inner transformation is taking place? In my opinion, this would not occur on a national or global stage. In fact, it would not be dramatic at all. It would occur in small increments, in mundane daily interface, like this conversation we’re having. Those who have undergone a transformation would be those burning logs in a fireplace imparting their flame to those they come in contact with.”

I agree that “small increments” could create this kind of effect, though only on a small scale.  Any worthwhile piece of art, for example, might do it, even small works.  I hope that my poetry, for example, might have some impact that way.  However, Lenore and I were thinking of much larger-scale shifts.  I did think of one dramatic event along these lines, which a recent PBS show about the history of the American space program put in my head: the building and maintenance of the International Space Station.  In particular, there was the time when the destruction of the Columbia and suspension of space shuttle flights left our crew on the station with no way to get home.  The Russians had a craft available and picked them up.  The moment when the hatch between the docked vehicles opened and the Americans and Russians embraced was priceless.  The significance to today’s subject was this:  When I was growing up, no one could have imagined that Americans and Russians would work together on major projects.  Now it’s routine.  When we saw, in the physical world, that this had happened, we knew that cooperation was possible.  Something that had seemed impossible was now a reality.



Filed under history, human rights, politics

3 responses to “The Political is Personal– and Fundamental

  1. You seem to use the word political as a catch-all term, rather than as one might normally view it – as a word describing our views about governmental affairs. One could use the word spiritual the same way – actually people often do. The change I describe as fundamental is the one in which we understand that we are not separate from one another – I don’t mean politically, or philosophically, but actually. There is no me or you, as these are just the illusions of a confused mind. There is only life, one life, without division. If you quote Ramana Maharshi, this is a truth that you embrace. Politics is of the mind, and who you are in your essence can never be found there.


    • Politics goes way, way beyond government. A small group that doesn’t have or need government still has politics. A chimpanzee troop is one example.

      John, have you seen Lynne McTaggart’s book “The Bond”? In it she is advancing the idea you mentioned, that we are not separate, in a rigorous way, backed up by research. I hope this idea will get through to more and more people. It should, since it is objectively true, but that often seems to have little to do with what humans are willing to believe….


  2. Hania

    At this moment i do not have anything to add to your blog statement but want to say that I agree with your perception that whether we think ourselves we are political or not, we ARE political anyway we turn. So we are spiritual, cannot avoid it.
    Yet i am using here “political” and “spiritual’ in a much broader sense than it is often used. It seems to me that the differences of opinions here, so far, are mostly in the semantics of these particular words.


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