December 23, 2010

Holy cognitive dissonance Batman!

While I was stopped with my motorcycle at an intersection in Boulder today, I noticed the rear bumper of car that was next to me.   If you’ve ever been to Boulder, you’ll know that this isn’t an unusual occurrence.

There are probably more bumper-stickers per automobile here than in most cities in the U.S.  Most of them are from a liberal perspective.  What struck me was the particular stickers that were plastered to the back of that car.  There were three.  One  said “Palin-McCain.”   One said, “NoBama.”  The other said, “Namaste.

Did your jaw just drop like mine did?

Namaste is a word that is often uttered in the many yoga studios in this town.   It’s a Sanskirt word that is used by the Hindu people of India when they greet each other.  It is not a casual term.  It’s a sign of respect that essentially means, “I bow to you.”  It’s sometimes been said that it means, “that which is divine in me, greets that which is divine in you.”  The base word namaha literally interprets as “na ma” (not mine).  Hence, it carries a deep spiritual significance of negating or reducing one’s ego in the presence of another.

I’ve never thought of Republicans as being much into yoga or Hinduism, let alone “reducing their ego in the presence of others.”  Ms. Palin has all but said that the “real Americans” are those who are Christian, support our wars, and who vote Republican.”  That sort of excluding and judgmental attitude is utterly foreign to yoga and Hinduism as I understand them.  (It’s also foreign to my understanding of Christianity and patriotism).

My first reaction was to think to myself, “What the hell gives that turkey the right to have those stickers next to each other?!  Does she even know what the hell Namaste means?!  Is she really that clueless?!”

But then…  it dawned on me, I was being given a lesson in my own tendency to be judgmental and exclusive.

When a Catholic priest says the Mass, it isn’t about him.  His parishoners can think he’s a total nit-wit who can’t preach his way out of a wet paper bag and is wrong about everything.  But when their priest says the words of Institution, it’s not about him.  The words have a power all their own.  And a grace that transcends human differences enters in.

I think that perhaps similarly, that driver’s expression of Namaste conveys a reverential grace and meaning that transcends the person saying it.  It’s not about her and me.

Even if she doesn’t share that perspective, even if she’d rather that I be a Palin supporter if I am to be her friend, her expression of Namaste humbled me and caused me to surrender my biases and opinions and to honor something far greater than either of us.

When the light turned green, I bowed to the driver of that source of my consternation and growth.

It seems to me that it is just this sort of ordinary inter-section moment that is what our nation needs at this time.  This past election year was the most polarizing, ugly, and divisive one that many of us have ever experienced.  We’re a people who have drawn lines in the sand and we’re well on our way toward dehumanizing each other.

Metaphorically, perhaps the best Christmas gift that we can give to each other is bumper-sticker displays that challenge our biases and cause us to ponder, reflect, and grow.

I have a car too, maybe I’ll put on three stickers of my own: “Save the Whales,”  “Tree-huggers for Obama,“  “Jesus loves you.”

Merry Christmas America,



Roger has a new book that will be available within the next 2-3 weeks: Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don’t like christianity.

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