I want to suck as much meaning as possible out of yesterday’s marvelous election results.
So I’ll keep the party going (sorry, Republicans) with a story about how I couldn’t find the party.
Which bears quite a bit of resemblance to how I wasn’t able to locate the spiritual extravaganza that supposedly was rocking on a level of higher consciousness, according to the meditation system that I followed for many years.
In both cases, it eventually became obvious that I wasn’t in the right place. But the interesting thing is how non-obvious obviousness can be, if you’ve got your mind made up in a certain direction.
As noted on my other blog, my wife and I planned to go to a Democratic election night party after our Tango class.
I’d read an email invitation from the Marion County Dems. So had my wife.
We both recalled that the party was at a ballroom in the Reed Opera House, a three story brick building in downtown Salem.
We confidently pulled up outside, surprised and pleased that with a large party happening upstairs, there were so many parking spaces available. (First lesson: pay attention to the unexpected, since it may have a message for you.)
All we needed to do was reach the top floor. I pushed the “up” button on an elevator. The door opened. Laurel and I stepped inside.
I hit “3.” Nothing happened. The elevator didn’t move. We looked at each other, wondering if we were stuck. (Sort of reminds me of my meditation.)
I lowered my expectations and pressed “2.” That got us to the second floor, where we searched for stairs that would take us higher. No luck. One stairwell was locked with a gate. The other had a door, but no knob, and wouldn’t open.
We were determined to get to the third floor, where we were confident a jubilant election night party awaited us. Retracing our steps back to ground level, we even believed that we could hear the crowd in the ballroom cheering.
(In retrospect, I now realize that we were standing by a wall that separated us from a bar next door, which must have been filled with progressives -- or people who’d been drinking enough to cheer for anything.)
So there we are, wandering up and down the bottom floors of a building where we had a lot of faith -- for no good reason, but that’s how faith works, irrationally -- that we were so close to a wonderful experience.
Given how long we’d waited to celebrate a Democrat winning the presidency again, the party we were looking for was the political equivalent of heaven for us.
We damn well weren’t going to give up on this dream easily. Eventually, though, reality began to break through. It dawned on us that not only was there no way to the third floor, we might not have remembered where the party was.
Back to the car. Off to another location, a few blocks away. The Grand Theatre building, which also has a ballroom on the third floor.
Unlocked doors. Music and cheering definitely coming from above. We walked in just in time to see Obama’s acceptance speech projected on a large screen. Deeply moving. It was great to share the moment with like-minded people.
Here’s the lesson I learned from the evening, which naturally wasn’t the first time life had taught me this: when you’re really, really sure you’re right, but there’s no solid evidence of it, stop and ask yourself, “Why am I so sure about my belief?”
Laurel and I kept on looking for a party in the wrong place for a lot longer than a reasonable person would have.
The reason: each of us had faith that we knew where to go, and since we agreed that it was the place we were at, our erroneous beliefs supported each other -- even when we began to have some doubts.
“Are you sure the invitation said Reed Opera House?”
“Yeah, I am. I read the email just this afternoon.”
“OK. That’s what I remember also. Let’s keep looking for an unlocked door.”
If we’d been on a religious quest, our commitment to what we thought was true would have earned us high faith marks.
We didn’t let minor details like no evidence of an election night party, which would have attracted hundreds of noisy, enthusiastic progressives, stand in the way of our repeatedly trying to get past locked doors that led to the third floor.
For quite a while we banished any thought of “I could be wrong” from our minds. We were reluctant to stop searching and ask a simple question: What makes us think we’re right?
We believed we were right! A firm belief repels skeptical questioning.
In the end, we ended up at the party we’d been looking for. It just turned out to be in a different location from where we first confidently thought it was.
If we hadn’t changed our minds, acknowledging the crystal clear evidence of No Party Here, we’d still be wandering floors that led nowhere.
Moral: if following your religion or philosophy hasn’t gotten you to the place you want to be, change direction. The party could be next door, and you shouldn’t miss it.