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14 November 2002


Yesterday, I suddenly found a new way to look at what's been giving me stress and inspiration and joy and despair and uncertainty for, oh, forever. (Or maybe just the last couple of years.) It's not that I didn't understand it before, but something just clicked last night on how to see it and how to describe it.

Basically, what I have is a heart, a spirit, a will, completely committed to trying to make people's lives better, to make the world a better place. It's a simple and clear thing inside of me, an insistent voice that drives me. It makes it impossible for me to see my life spent doing anything that's not in the service of people. It's the emotion that surges up every time I see or hear about suffering. It's the energy that keeps telling me over and over again to keep going. It's the feeling that I will never be happy with myself as a human being unless I am working for positive change.

That's all well and good. But the problem, you see, is in my head. It's very easy to have the will to make the world a better place. It's hard to figure out how to do it. That confusion is what drives me insane with frustration about what I'm going to do with my life, how to figure out how I can possibly make as much difference as I want to make.

The cynicism, the depression, the hopelessness, that's in my head too. Oh, it's something I very much feel, but it stems from ways of thinking. As heartsick as I get from seeing pain and suffering and injustice, that would only drive my heart on all the more were it not for my head endlessly analyzing, "That's never going to get better. People are cruel, and it's too huge a problem for you to have any impact."

It's the thoughts and the interpretations and the analyzing that are my politics. As heart-driven as all of my political views are, they have to essentially come from the head. As my head wavers around, furiously debating the benefits of liberalism versus radicalism, of what policies can do the most good and what strategies can best get there, of what society is ideal, the way I feel never changes. I just get stressed out and frustrated when my head can't figure out the right thing to do as easily as my heart feels it should. People who have the same heart's-goal of doing good for others can come to different political answers. There are people who care about people who are radical leftists, and liberals, and moderates, and conservatives. I think that you're much more likely to find people without that sort of commitment and love on the right than you are on the left, but that doesn't mean there aren't people who want to make the world a better place and decide using their heads that conservative policies are the way to go.

(Sometimes I wish that there was some way to definitively weed out the people working for self-interest or for the good of a select few. If, say, we could tell which Republicans support welfare reform because they feel that it will genuinely do people good, as opposed to those who just think that people who don't work don't deserve other people's money. Because then we could actually argue things, and we'd have a much better and purer debate that might help us figure out what's actually best for people. Instead, people who really don't care about the good of the whole come up with right-wing arguments and say that they're doing things on principle because they can't come out and say that they could care less about the real people whose lives they hurt. But they're loud, and they influence the debate, and their rationales influence people who take them at face value.)

It's that heart-drive that Paul Wellstone had, and it's what people who are on target have appealed to in honoring his memory. He loved people, and his heart was devoted to making people's lives better, and he used his head to figure out how to do it. He had no other motivation to be a senator but to serve people, and it was beautiful. When Colin asked last night, "How is Paul calling you?" and Tom Daschle said that we should enlarge ourselves so that Paul lives on in us, that's what they meant. The choices are in the head, and I disagreed with Paul on some of the decisions he made with his head and agreed with him on many others. But above all, his heart was full to overflowing with the love and drive to work and fight for humanity.

If I can get my heart big enough to hold half of that spirit, it would be amazing. That's what I'm trying to take from all of this. That love that was the soul of who he was has left a giant hole for all of us, a cold emptiness that hurts. But if somehow the rest of us can add to the love in our own hearts, to do with whatever our head chooses, then as sad as this continues to be, it can't have been in vain. I need to keep his memory with me to feed that fire, to keep me going every time my head stumbles or discourages me. He found beautiful ways to use that passion and energy, and my head needs to think about why he lived his life the way he did and what I can learn from that. But even if I decide all his choices are not for me, I can think of no better goal for all of my life than to aspire to a heart like his.




 

Last updated 15 November, 2002

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Intellectual Property Rights denounced by Britt Gordon-McKeon, 2002