"The Blossoms and the Thorns"
- in my meditation garden -
A few days ago BBC radio aired a clip from one of Donald Trump’s recent speeches at a political rally. Trump was serving up a big dose of bombastic nonsense and the crowds were eagerly eating it up as he announced: “When I am president, America will be a winner and everyone in America will be a winner. People will come to me and ask: ‘Mr. President, can’t we lose just a little bit?’ and I’ll say, ‘No, there is no place for losers in this country.”
The BBC played this excerpt to illustrate the silliness of Trump’s pompous rhetoric; but from the reaction of the crowds at that rally, this kind of speech is exactly why he has become so popular: “If someone can create a society in which everyone is a winner and there is no place for losers, let’s vote for him.”
First of all, I don’t have a clue what it means to say that America would only be a place for winners if Trump becomes president; but I do believe that this is dangerous political speech and also very bad spiritual advice. As a matter of fact, on a spiritual path we need more losers, we need to “embrace” failure and loss and imperfection.
The fact is that in real life we all need to fail in order to thrive. Learning how to negotiate your way through life is like learning how to ride a bike - you never find your balance unless you have fallen off the bike.
I am very fond of the wisdom contained in this one line from priest ad author, Richard Rohr's book, Falling Upward:
You learn how to recover from falling by falling.
This is never more true than when it is applied to the spiritual journey.
Like many if not most people I was always taught that the spiritual path is a "journey of perfection." God was often portrayed as a demanding "Father.” The rules were clear, there were commandants, laws and obligations, and I was expected to be an obedient son and do what I was told. When I made mistakes, disobeyed the rules and "fell into sin," I was a failure and a disappointment. In a sense I was taught that there is no place for losers in the eyes of God - I have since come to see the folly of such teaching.
Interestingly enough many people still continue to cling to the belief that you need to be perfect to walk a spiritual path. In fact, many religious people fear that they are "hypocrites" because they are well aware of their own flaws and acquainted with their demons; yet they place themselves in religious circles where "supposedly" only the angels dwell.
As a matter of fact I know plenty of people who keep away from religion or avoid a spiritual path because they don't think they can "make the cut." They have too many sins, too many secret failures and hidden warts in their lives to dwell among the company of the "righteous" ones.
But of course this idea of "spiritual perfection" is a myth. Human beings are an interesting mix of shadow and light, beauty and beast. We sometimes are guided by our better angels, but we all also have our demons who walk side by side with us through life.
When I recognize my faults and failures - those times when I am angry or judgmental, lazy or apathetic, and when I can embrace that part of me, I come to acknowledge that I am not a "cast-away" because of my faults; instead I am a human being, a wonderful blend of painful thorns and beautiful blossoms
In fact, it is at those times when I am able to acknowledge my own imperfection, loss and failures that I can become vulnerable enough to break out of my ego and reach out to others for forgiveness, love and support. As Saint Paul says of the spiritual journey:
It is when we are weak that we are strong.
I think of yet another of Richard Rohr's bits of wisdom:
We grow spiritually much more by doing it wrong than by doing right.
So, sorry Mr. Trump but you got it all wrong. If there is no room for losers in this country, we are surely on a slippery slope. In fact, we need more losers on the way to wisdom.