Today a few reflections on our beliefs, politics, Oprah and the call for us to transcend our sense of separation.

Oprah and Belief

As I write this, Oprah and her TV network (OWN) are embarking on a new series this week for seven consecutive nights entitled Belief which “explores humankinds’s ongoing search to connect with something greater than ourselves.” I have been able to view several preview episodes and I look forward to watching the others as it really is an interesting look at the human story.

This statement from her website describing the series struck me as being quite powerful: “Our planet is home to countless religions, and nearly every one of those faiths asks us to love. If we truly want to connect with god, the divine, with a power greater than ourselves, we must first connect with one another—because life is a journey we are not meant to take alone.”

I agree that our connecting with one another is an important step in our evolutionary journey.  As I have written about previously, all of us carry within us a dynamic tension where something calls us to connect with others and a greater life (“communion”) while another part of us is being called to maintain our sense of separation and independence (“agency”).  In a sense, I believe we live simultaneously in two worlds—one world is based on our “animalistic-physical” nature with desires to feed our needs as “individuals” in competition with one another trying to get by in an existence of “survival of the fittest”—yet  the other world is based on our “spiritual-nonmaterial” nature with desires to transcend our small self and seek connection with others as well as something greater.

No matter if we believe in “God” or “Spirit” or some larger force or not, it is this second world and that sense within us that wants to commune with something greater that I believe Oprah’s series is telling us stories about.  We don’t have to label it “God” or something supernatural to recognize that we do have embedded within us a desire for love and connection and understanding how we fit into the greater universe.

Recognizing that “life is a journey we are not meant to take alone” calls us to that sense of connection and communion with others and to that higher path.

Politics and Belief

Recently, I wrote an article here about the “Bond of Spirituality and Politics“.  A key point was that “whether we choose to label it as ‘spirituality’ or not, we all have spiritual beliefs – we all have a way of experiencing our true connection to all that exists and then making choices in the outer world based upon those beliefs. One of the many ways we act in the outer world is through our political beliefs and actions.”

For example, if you have a “traditional” worldview (the 3 major worldviews in modern society I mention here are described in the other article) such that your strict fundamentalist faith calls you to act politically in alignment with your understanding of your religious text, the most important actions you might take in the political arena may be to take stands against same sex marriage or abortion rights.

But if you have a “materialistic” worldview such that you see all of the universe as “physical stuff” to be understood, accumulated and possessed, the most important actions you might take in the political arena may be to reduce the role of the government so as to free individuals and corporations to maximize profits unencumbered.

Yet still, if you have a “humanistic” worldview such that you believe that every human is valuable and important and needs to be treated with dignity, respect and equality — while also valuing the earth as our only home –, the most important actions you might take in the political arena may be to push for equal rights for all, to reduce income inequality and for environmental protections.

Now, I recognize that I am way over simplifying here in the interest of making a point and that one may hold one worldview and still see the importance of political issues that are key to another worldview.  I am talking in generalities here, so please keep that in mind!

What I do think is critical to see here though is that these different viewpoints do tend to prioritize political issues differently (in addition to frequently taking different stands on the issues).  And one of the consequences of this is that for the most part, people with one worldview don’t understand the rationale and prioritization of the other worldviews. Not aware of these various evolutionary worldviews (and instead thinking in either-or “choice type” categories of “religious vs. scientific” or “conservative vs. liberal” or “Republican vs. Democrat”, etc.), not only do we disagree with them we are also left wondering “how can these people think like this?” Such thoughts can unfortunately lead us into negative judgments and demonizing the other, both of which tend to separate us further.

Transcending Separation?

Most of us look out at the political world and see it as one giant mess.

Certain groups (who, of course, hold their beliefs about life and its meaning) seem to have made it their mission to block our government from being effective.  They stand so firmly on certain ideological issues that they would rather shut down our government than to compromise on these issues.  They appear to forget that our democracy was forged on the basis of listening, understanding and healthy dialogue and compromise.

Meanwhile, we see the unhealthy way in which our democracy has been side tracked by money. It appears to be more of an oligarchy controlled by a few rich people who control politicians so as to bend the rules of government for their continued financial gain.  The results include a middle class that is shrinking and income inequality that is growing.

And then there is the corporate control of our media such that our “news” is really entertainment designed to keep us from not knowing what is really going on. A handful of corporations control the vast majority of what is presented to us and there is growing distrust on the completeness and accuracy of their messages.

You could probably add to this list other evidence of our political quagmire.

Yes, things appear to many people to be out of control…moving towards some kind of breaking point.  Yet from a deeper spiritual perspective, we can recognize that it is in such personal “breakdowns” that we are moved to “breakthroughs”. Could that be happening here?

As Oprah stated recently discussing her new show: “I will tell you that there is nobody who gets to be a human being who isn’t going to have a dark hour. There’s nobody who gets to walk the human path who is not going to have, at some point in your life, something that looks like failure. Belief lets you know that because it looks like failure, it is just a detour. It’s not the end of the road, it’s just a detour saying, ‘Move in another direction.'”

Could the challenges we are experiencing in the political world really be a wakeup call for us to move in a new direction? If so, I hope we answer the call soon.

The truth is that in spite of our attention on the variation we see in our beliefs — spiritual or political — we have more in common with one another than we have differences.  I am optimistic that both the message of Oprah’s Belief as well as our ultimate reaction to our political challenges will move us into transcending our sense of separation and call us to that higher truth of our connectedness.  Ultimately it is up to each of us in our own way to take the first steps to make that vision a reality.


Mark Gilbert


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