Don't worry, the song goes: be happy... A good Buddhist mantra.
But sometimes that's easier said than done. Ellie, I think it's fair to say, is a greater worrier than I am. For the past couple of weeks and more, she has been having difficulty getting back to sleep when she wakes in the middle of the night, beset by worries about the outcome of the election.
I understand that there's plenty of cause for worry. It astonishes me that the presidential race is so close, when one candidate--in my view, at least, and in Ellie's--is unquestionably far superior to the other. Having experienced eight years of conservatism under Bush and witnessed the economic disasters at home and the damage to world peace and international relations abroad, there's good reason to worry that a Romney presidency might drag us further along that path. His recent crash-course u-turn toward the center is of little comfort to those of us who have listened to his boasts of "severe" conservatism in the recent past. His reluctance to disown any lies or slanders made on his behalf give little reassurance as to his personal integrity. And his refusal to detail any policy he might promulgate as president is mightily disturbing.
Reason to worry, then. But my formula--undoubtedly an annoying one for Ellie!--is simply this: either Obama wins and all my worry is for naught; or Romney wins, and all my worry is for naught. It's what I think they mean when they refer to a "zero sum" game--though I have to confess I have never been really sure of what's meant by that piece of political (mathematical?) jargon. The bottom line (To indulge in another mathematical cliche) is: either way, I lose. My worry has been helped no one, least of all myself.
Worry, of course, is a bi-product of fear, and fear is about what may happen at some point in the future. Reason--and, of course, the teachings of the dharma--tell me that I have no control over what might happen in the future. But emotion is a more powerful, more primal force than reason, and in any conflict between the two, emotion will inevitably trump reason without the added benefit of presence of mind. Mind is bigger than both, because it embraces both; and mind is perfectly capable of bringing the two together in a workable truce. When I find myself beginning to worry, as I often do, I try to bring that awareness to bear on the cause of my concern and re-establish some equanimity.
I have to confess that my emotions around the coming election have more to do with anger than with fear. I am angered by what I judge, in my great wisdom, to be the stupidity of those who fail to see things in the same way that I do. I am angered by what I deem to be the willful ignorance of a large proportion of the American electorate. I am angered by the all-too evident influence of money, used to buy the television advertisements whose lies sway so many gullible voters. I am even angered--let me be honest--by the unchanging, vapid smile on the face of the Republican contender.
So this is the emotion I must contend with. And the painful truth is that I am no more successful in dealing with my anger, than Ellie is in dealing with her worry! So much for fifteen years of meditation practice! Although... in my defense, I think it's true to say that I'm better prepared to hold my emotions in awareness than I was fifteen years ago.
Oh, and to resort to one last cliche: may the best man win!