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by David Elders
In the endless debate about the power of liberal or conservative approaches to improve the lives of our collective citizenry, we tend to forget that though ideas can affect outer behavior and lead to change, it is ideals that ultimately lead to our growth to higher levels of civilization. Both liberal and conservative ideas of governing, while nurtured in the mind, are born of a single ideal known only in the soul--that the very existence of each unique person can be no less than an expression of that person's intrinsic value and any collective activity must both recognize and reflect that ideal. That is the law of life.
As we beat about the bush of encouraging civilized behavior with this new idea or that, the law of life itself continues unabated in the inner experience of each person, apparently unconcerned about the rules we may establish outside. Notwithstanding who lays claim to power on any given day, the real meaning and true value of life itself emerges from the inside out, expressive of a unique convergence of genetics, experience, and the mysteries of self-conscious existence. While governments pass or rescind laws governing behavior on the outside, the laws of fear or faith truly Govern human motivation and action.
The willingness of one person to fuel his or her life by the taking of another's, is the unmistakable expression of fear; the willingness to fuel another's life by the giving of one's own, is the unmistakable expression of faith. If nourished by the recognition that fear causes most human misery, true government will come to reflect our collective agreement to provide an exterior environment in which each individual can live a safer life. Then, as faith begins to fill fear's place in the inner life of its dwelling, its transformed host, not rules of law, will take us to higher levels of attainment. There is no other way.
Understanding this principle of the law of life exposes a serious flaw in our debate about which idea of governing--liberal or conservative--works best. As the pendulum of politics swings first right then left and back again, we shift but don't extinguish the fear that truly governs faulty human actions. Today, those who view themselves as weak, fear that government won't prevent the strong from abusing them. Tomorrow, another group fears weakness from the foibles of a fickle electorate and charge their leaders to protect them for awhile.
The viewers on a swinging pendulum are never truly mindful of the ideal of the intrinsic value of every human life and busy themselves instead with the work of justifying their particular solutions. In a misguided attempt to prove worth and ability, both conservative and liberal alike raise fears of the other's approach, and so make unintended contribution to that which fuels the very human responses they seek to modify. Neither the death penalty nor its lack can still the violent human response to inner fear; civil rights laws cannot extinguish racial hatred; laws favoring either abortion or its prevention cannot instill the sense of sacred trust implicit in the creation of new life. It is inner fear or faith that truly governs the actions by which our humanity may be stained or glorified.
It is transformed people, not government, who will transform our civilization.
So, while we argue ideas about family life and call them values, life itself produces family not simply with the birth of a new body, but when one or two people make the unselfish commitment to care for a child, or an aged parent, or a sick friend. An army capable of protecting its citizens is not forged alone by outer conformity to qualifying characteristics, codes of behavior, or discipline, but in the end by the unselfish commitment each soldier makes to another fueled by that inner faith in ideals that overcomes fear. A civilization is not molded by its laws, but its laws are molded by the civility of its citizens. The true birthplace of civilization is the inner world of humankind, where dwells the awesome motivating spirit of conscious life itself. If the evolutionary legacy of animal fear sits upon the throne of this inner kingdom, our world will witness violence. If it is faith that rules our inmost being, the world will witness acts of kindness.
There is a hopeful light. Emerging from the mists of our confusion there seems a growing consciousness that claims of new ideas to solve the old ideas' problems are hollow claims indeed. Only by seeking return to the simple ideal embodied in the unifying commonalty of the very existence of each and every person will we be able to reach new levels of living. For it is transformed people, not government, who will transform our civilization. Thus, we must demand of ourselves and of those we call to service in this mechanism of our collective, outer lives, that our acts derive from and reflect the integrity, unselfish dedication, and principle that is rooted in faith and which engenders trust, not fear, in all the rest of us. Then, and only then, will we be able to accomplish the challenge which Maya Angelou placed before us: to look into another person's face, to see her soul, and make her morning good.