Deepak Chopra and Intent

An article in the Washington Post On Faith section in response to their question: What does the election of Barack Obama as president say about America? What does it say to the world?
The phrase in my title comes from an ABC News reporter gazing out over the throng in Times Square last night, trying to describe their mood. There was communal joy over the election of Barack Obama but also a physical sense of release amounting to a national convulsion. For me, this sudden moment of liberation was caught in random overheard comments rather than grand declarations.
From a black woman in one of the crowds who was asked to reflect on the fact that America was born as a slave-owning country: “That stain is washed away now.”
From Bernard-Henri Levi, French intellectual and America-watcher: “Junk politics and immorality have come to an end.”
There were silent comments, as eloquent as the spoken ones: a black mother and daughter, knees crumpling, as they watched a Jumbotron image showing all 44 American presidents, everyone white except for the man in the middle, our President-elect.
The most sober comment came from Obama himself, when he pointed out that his win wasn’t the change the country is seeking but only the chance for change. Happily, he’s wrong in several regards. We will see immediate change globally. The rest of the world breathed a sigh of relief at the end of the neocons’ attempt to create an American military empire.
In the end, the most moving comment came from Sen. John McCain in his concession speech. Like all the candidates who have stood for the Republican cause since the Reagan revolution, McCain couldn’t resist the temptation to employ “junk politics and immorality” in his campaign. But he went out honorably by saying that America “isn’t a country that hides from history.” That hasn’t been true for the past eight years. Let’s hope it’s gloriously true from now on.
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Wanting to change the world is different from having to. The latter is what’s expected of Barack Obama if he’s elected. The huge crowds he keeps attracting aren’t looking simply for a new leader, or even a reformer to undo the bad things wrought by the Republicans. They are looking for transformation. This isn’t pure fantasy. Sometimes history forces change right before your eyes, and when that happens the road forks. You can tinker with the world as it is or you can remake the world as it should be.
Obama hasn’t given clear signals yet about which road he might take, because the ritual and theater of election campaigns force a candidate to spend a lot of time telling people what they want to hear. The last president who drastically remade the country was FDR, and yet nothing of the sort was expected when he ran in 1932. Roosevelt could have turned into a better Herbert Hoover, rescuing failed banks, restoring trust in government, bringing people back to a sense of hope and safety. Those are all good things, and Obama is poised to repeat them seventy years later. But if he does nothing more, the world won’t change. While he attacked the basic problem of the Great Depression, FDR laid down the template of the modern social welfare state. His actions didn’t immediately create prosperity — far from it — but they expanded opportunities for millions of people, stripped the old elites of their absolute power, and gave Americans their first economic safety net in Social Security.
I would hate to see Obama turn into a better Herbert Hoover. He could, and should, lay down a template for the next fifty years. It’s no secret that we need to repair our image abroad, deal with Islamic extremism in a better way, open up global markets, repair our infrastructure, shift away from fossil fuels, and attack global warming with clear, vigorous policies. For many people, accomplishing those things would be a page-tuner after eight years of reactionary neoconservatism. But they wouldn’t change the world.
What would is the following:
— Get America off a war footing. We’ve been armed for imminent war since 1945.
— Develop an economy that makes a profit on peace. At present, we are dependent on arms and arms dealing.
— Get the rest of the world not to fear us.
— Take the side of the world’s dispossessed people, who only now are seeing the possibility of a decent life in India, China, southeast Asia, and much of Russia.
— Bring humanity and humane conditions to all of Africa.
— Stop dividing the world along ideological lines and religious factions. We need to be a secular leader friendly to all sides.
— Speed up nuclear disarmament until all weapons stockpiles are gone in this generation.
I hope Obama is thinking along these lines, because if he isn’t, the best he can hope for is a prosperous interval, like the Clinton years, while the underlying militarism and religious fractures fester. Two presidents — Lincoln and FDR — heeded history’s call with the utmost foresight, never compromising their vision. The difference here is that we aren’t facing civil war or economic ruin. America has an opportunity to change the world through free choice, by looking at what would be best rather than what has always worked.
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There are no facts to tell us what happened to the young Jesus during his "lost years" between the Nativity story and the day he appears at the River Jordan, age thirty, to be baptized. I was glad for this mystery, because it allowed me to describe an extraordinary youth who discovers, step by step, that he is the awaited Messiah. This isn’t a fictional biography but a journey into the realm of miracles and, in the end, complete enlightenment.

It’s been a long time — perhaps as far back as Thomas Jefferson — that Americans seriously considered Jesus, not as the Son of God, but as an enlightened teacher. For me, that doesn’t rob him of his sacred stature. It puts sacredness in human terms.

I wrote my book, "Jesus: A Story of Enlightenment" to give readers an appreciation for how enlightenment unfolds from promising beginnings, not full divinity. In an age when Jesus threatens to become the exclusive property of fervent, literal-minded devotees, we have an urgent need to bring him back, not as the savior, but as a savior — one who won his own salvation before promising it to the world.

Warm regards,

Deepak Chopra


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A friend sent this funny video to me recently. Click on it at the end and you can customize it to your friends’ names to encourage them to vote.