Friday, November 18, 2005

"The Dali Lama for President?"

The other day, the Dali Lama published an article in the New York Times that was one of the most literate, rational and penetrating debates on the roles of science vs. religion published -- especially considering the present contentious atmosphere that exists between the scientific community and the entrenched right wing zealots. An article that was completely in context for the man about whom little is known yet serves as the perfect role model for the true Renaisance man….

. I thought to myself, if somebody didn’t know who wrote this article aside from the fact that it was the titular leader of a country, one might think that whoever wrote it had to represent the most cutting edge country, a country that was attuned to the modern world; it would be a shock to most to recognize that it comes from the leader of one of the most spiritual and isolated third world nations on earth. Nevertheless, this wasn’t quite by chance. The Dali Lama is more than just a unique individual as I have learned over forty years of reading and listening to his wisdom. He is not only an informed man who constantly struggles with the issues facing his country despite the fact that he is in exile and the Chinese have invaded his country, he is very contemporary in his thinking and has an open-mind to change and a willingness to embrace change for the better..
All to often, those in the west, comfortable with their limited knowledge, are happy to put people into square holes, but if you think about it, this remarkable man has forced us to think that perhaps not only do we need to rethink our tendency to pre-judge, that perhaps we should subject our own leadership to the standards we apply to willingly to others. For some, what is discomforting is the fact that this speech should have come from the leader of the most technological nation on earth; and the president’s recent remarks would not surprise anyone if they came from a remote kingdom that had never had the benefit of advancing technology. And if we were to take that liberty, we would also have to recognize that we do a disservice to that country.

The conundrum here is that one cannot help but be impressed by such progressive thinking from the third world and such reactive thinking coming from the leader of the country that serves as a beacon of democracy and the country best noted for its technology edge. This kind of role-reversal is mind-numbing but has elicited little commentary. . . Contrast the sophisticated and articulated brilliance from a man who respects knowledge and learning with the embarrasingly crude ramblings of someone who would like to move the calendar back to the days of the Scopes Monkey Trial, a man who speaks almost in tongues to convince us that God speaks into his ear. This is all very strange for a leading power that achieved its leadership through its technological prowess.

But the Dali Lama’s article just didn’t talk about science; it talked about the need for balance, the need for spirituality but it also suggested that each had their defined role and that there should be no confusion of the role of each. Plaudits for this informed man of peace! There is no need to try to supplant the theory of Evolution with Creation theory.

Surprisingly, it took a man from a remote third world immersed in spirituality to help us see the light and to serve as a literate and informed counter-weight to the growing muddle and confusion between religion and science that now seems to swirl around the leaders of this once unencumbered land. While the irony is that the spokesperson for the USA should have talked up science and evolution’s role and the Dali Lama, the spokesperson for Tibet, should have been ruminating about the role of spirituality may not have been fully lost on those who read the speech, what clearly came through is the fact that never before in memory has this country seemed so awkward, so indecisive, so backwards in deciding its own future or determining what role aside from its crusader fixation that it wants to fulfill in the world.

And while it is astounding to think that the leading democratic country in the world sounds like it is running dead last against one of the most spiritual of countries, it is also remarkable to think about the training of a young child raised in Lhassa a million miles from the center’s of education and western hubris and how that child could have evolved into such a realist with such a grip on the roles of science and technology.

Of course, at the same time, that would be an over-arching simplification. The simple fact is that the Dali Lama, the 14th appointed to fulfill that role, has spent his entire life being educated and groomed for the role he was to play. He was chosen by the wise-men in his country who were deliberately trained to seek out the best possible candidate for that role. Imagine, if you will, that that was how we selected our president? Can you imagine having the brightest, most promising marriage of all of those abilities that make for wise and judicious leadership combined with great intelligence, compassion and understanding. When you compare this so-called “backward” country’s criteria for appointing its leader, it makes one wonder which is really the backward country?

Les Aaron


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