A Tale of Two Cults
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Here it is – this is the post I’ve been waiting for. The complement to #BITFD. I predict that this is where you lose the fair-weather friends who have come for the burning, not for the building. The jackasses who just want to kick down the barn, not the good (and amateur but willing) carpenters who are ready to craft the new one.
Everyone would happily have fought against slavery, had they been in Lincoln’s place. Much harder to follow Lincoln’s example in promoting former enemies – Seward, Chase, and Bates – to his cabinet. I hope that the Epsilon Theory pack (and beyond) can embrace that level of citizenship – putting aside the thrill of lording over a former opponent to instead join hands in building something better.
Exactly right Rusty. We can’t move forward without mercy. Well written!
Thanks, Daniel! You are totally right that the fire brings in some audience more than others, but interestingly, outside of social media channels (i.e. Twitter), our most widely circulated notes actually tend to be of the BITFU variety. It surprised me, too, but I found it more than a little bit encouraging.
Thank you, Laurie!
Thank you Rusty, I needed to hear that today. I love the idea of all sides believing that they are right, yet granting mercy to all. It sounds like a wonderful world, but one that will probably destroy Twitter. I hope Ben’s ok with that.
It hit me after I posted my previous comment that our way forward is a so called “Circle of Mercy”, a positive feedback loop if you will… I don’t care who thinks they are right, I want to be involved in a Circle of Mercy, and today it starts with me. Thank you Rusty, I needed a reason to try and let go of my election angst, and you gave me a wonderful roadmap to my first step.
I’ve actually been a bit turned off by the phrase BITFD (not the ideas behind it), so this one felt like ET oxygen to me as I can’t wait for BIBU.
Rusty is spot on as it will take mercy to build it back up as does any damaged relationship. The victory dance feels good and can even be justified, but fair or not, it won’t lead to repair. The “no taunt” rule in football is a version of this (forced mercy, if you will) as the NFL wants to keep the game, season and league going forward.
And great writing Rusty - the stories were engaging and, by the time you got there, your conclusion had already achieved reader buy-in because of them.
Piety is a fickle friend.
fascinating. Your family’s campfire stories had to be pretty interesting growing up.
When judgement day comes , in this world or the next , what is it we all want? Judgment or Mercy?
I have not met a soul yet you wants judgement.
Maybe the Lords prayer is correct and we must first extend mercy-- before we can, in good faith, ask for it.
The only way to go Rusty
Thank you Rusty,
I’ve found that people on both sides of the widening gyre passionately believe in their positions. They feel they are right, just and moral in expressing their views.
As they scream in my face, I’ve found that I have to respect that. I learned that from my daughter 40 years ago, during her terrible twos. For some reason, fortunately, I didn’t scream back. I calmly said, “You’re right, it’s not fair, but…”
BITFU is the way with respect and mercy.
Rusty - your last question is the key. I admit to becoming jaded and perpetually angry at the sorry state of our country, so I pray I can find it in me. Your emphasis on mercy being key brought up a fond memory. A friend & former co-worker, Dr. V, raised his family in Lincoln NE. About 25 years ago we were discussing this same subject, and he told me that in his home there was signage in most every room that said “No put-downs - this is a safe place.” The kids in the neighborhood didn’t call it the V’s house - they would tell their parents that they were going over to ‘the safe place’ to play. That is a great reminder that I can & should carry that safe space with me; not for me but for those I come in contact with. Thanks again for the memory, and a reminder of what can be done to build people up. Dr. V, if you are reading this, I miss your family Christmas letters. Blessings.
I’ve been reading Ben’s stuff since July 22, 2014. This is the post that convinced me to spend $20. So, if there’s some sort of bragging rights or office pool, you guys know who gets credit.
“Show Mercy” the mirror image of “Turn the Other Cheek.” And it’s the only way to change the Competition Game back into the Cooperation Game. The opponent will exploit that at first. It will make us look and feel foolish on occasion. It will be a certain special kind of anguish sorting out those who are dead set on always taking advantage of that mercy from those who can learn to play the Cooperation Game again. It will take time, effort and pain, but it’s the price we will have to pay.
Excellent post Rusty!
This is a trivial question, but did everyone on Johnny Carson agree that Uri Geller actually bent the spoon a little bit? I’ve heard about Uri’s failure on Carson before, but today I actually watched the clip and I was surprised that it didn’t seem to be a total failure. Of course, I don’t believe he could actually bend spoons, but it seems like he pulled off some kind of an illusion there.
Yes, Uri talks about that one a lot (I think his website mentions it specifically in a defensive sort of way), and I think Ricardo has publicly attested to it as well. By all accounts, he really is/was a proficient illusionist. The truth in service to the lie, as it were.
Change is hard, very hard. Mercy is hard, very hard. I want to believe we can get there. The problem with getting there though, is it usually takes catastrophic events to catalyze that type of change. Pandemic doesn’t appear to be the catalyst, maybe it’s another 9/11 type event, maybe homegrown terrorism, possibly war. My fear, is death, as usual, will have to be what teaches us about life. Hopefully, it doesn’t get to that point, but it’s been my experience that most people never truly change. 22 years ago, and 2 days after my 1st daughter was born, my catalyst was a 3-story fall through a roof resulting in C4/5 spinal cord injury (quadriplegic), next 180 days on a ventilator with collapsed lungs and the last 22 years learning to live again. I don’t tell that story for sympathy, just not real sure I would’ve ever experienced true change and true contentment without the accident. Funny how the closer to death you get, the more precious life becomes. Hopefully, the rest of the world is literally not as hardheaded as I am and it won’t take that kind of catalyst to see truth and have mercy. As usual, after I read here, I’m always ready to run for President!
Rusty, thanks for this wonderful piece and I believe we will watch what you are discussing play out very soon. I think we will get a Blue Wave and then the Dems will be faced with a choice of how to treat Republicans: Forgive them their sins and delusions (personified by Trump) and welcome them Home (to the True Party) or Pack the Court and really stick it to them.
If the Biden wing prevails I believe they choose mercy and effectively put an end to the Republican Party as a viable national force. Think post-Pete Wilson California. If the pressing question for public policy is whether to print $2 trillion to bail out people/small business/airlines/etc. impacted by Covid or print $7 trillion to bail out everybody (Cook County/student debt/medical debt/most of New Jersey/etc.), who needs a Republican perspective anyway?
Mercy, forbearance, putting yourself in another person’s shoes is certainly necessary to prevent the widening of the gyre. If we can’t summon it up in ourselves then the second stanza of The Second Coming may come into play. …The darkness drops again: but now I know That twenty centuries of stony sleep Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle, And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethleham to be born?
Thank you, Joseph, and thank you for putting it that way. It’s that exceedingly rare thing we actually do have some control over.
Thanks, Mark! Although after seeing that Nyheim Hines celebration on Sunday, I’ll admit that I’m partial to the occasional good-spirited taunt.
Haha you’d think, but actually most have no idea about any of this. Family moved a couple hundred miles north and did the 'ol sweep it under the rug and pretend it never happened routine.
Thank you, Jim. Still learning it from my 4YO TBH.
Like Tony, this was the tipping post that levered out my wallet. The anarchy of BITFD had / has to be met with creative “crearchy” of BITFU.
The reason we’re in the fix we’re in is that parties (political and otherwise) cannot creatively and compellingly execute on a cooperative and attractive vision for the future.
And whatever future we’re slouching toward, the response has always got to be forgiveness, mercy and love.
All the better that extending mercy also has the effect of making our present world eminently more livable, I say.
I admit to the same, and I absolutely love that memory. May we all find more Dr. V in us.
Just so. It is the willingness to signal in the meta-game that you will lose games, lose credibility, lose “points” to pursue the return to coordination and cooperation. It will look like a loser until it works.
Carl, thank you for sharing that. It’s a powerful story of how catalysts CAN be the thing to change our minds. Just like in your experience, most of those catalysts in our social and political worlds would be traumatic. I am hopeful that we can achieve something - maybe not the whole hog, as it were, but something - without the need for that kind of catalyst.
But that last question I ask is really the question of my heart. I really don’t know the answer. I don’t know if we can. I don’t know if I can.
I suppose we shall see! My brain says that this has to be bottom-up, that the Widening Gyre has made all of our institutions incapable of expressing the citizen’s desire for mercy and grace. But my brain has been wrong before.
Certainly, the history of resolution of Widening Gyres is not one of gentle transition. Even if we can’t prevent that path through bottom-up action, the good we do for one another in the meantime still matters, I think.
Tony, Thank you on multiple dimensions. I’m so grateful that we’ve been on this journey together so long.
I wrote a piece in 2017 (Before and After the Storm) that tried to articulate much of what I think you’ve said here. A willingness to lose respect, credibility, standing and “points” in our game of culture, society and politics is a prerequisite for breaking the cycle. And it’s so, so hard to do.
Ed, I’m so grateful that you’re here.
I love the way you characterized the problem: “cannot creatively and compellingly execute on a cooperative and attractive vision for the future.” The key word is cannot. Not will not. Cannot. That’s the problem of the Widening Gyre. We have made it suicidal to cooperate and collaborate toward that vision.
I’m not sure what the critical mass of personal action is to change that at a macro level, but for my part, I’m content that the micro results are enough to justify it.
The good we do for one another does matter. It matters greatly.
Best article yet. Like someone else already said, Mercy starts with me. Today. I needed this. Thank you Rusty!
I have always found that allowing forbearance to flow through you is more satisfying than allowing the negative stuff to just pop and sputter in its own grease.
However, for those who have been horrified by the sociopathic malignant narcissist, the biggest challenge will be not to gloat. The temptation is huge. The payoff, transient.
The word “mercy” conjures up (apologies to the Amazing Randi) visions of the powerful showing empathetic kindness to the powerless. And, if that was as far as it went, it would be fine.
But human nature being what it is, once the rules of the game were changed into complete competition, then the gloating becomes a knee-jerk response on one side or the other.
But, unlike basketball, where you have to play a three-point strategy these days, in politics, you don’t have to participate in the emotionally charge competition. This is where quiet forbearance comes into play. And, I emphasize the word “quiet.”
Mercy, tempered with few words. Forbearance, patience, and mostly silence is the right thing to do here.
Of course there’s no forgetting. But there is forgiving and forbearance. And these things are hard to do without practice. So, you’ve got to practice this stuff on a daily basis. In the workplace. In the family. With friends. And especially with “opponents.” It can be trying, but it’s the only way to master the difficult art of forbearance and forgiveness.
It’s like the virtue of humility. As soon as you crow about being humble, you’ve broken the humility glass that can’t be glued back together without all the cracks showing.
I second Tony (and the whole ET community) that the long-game is not just a reaction against today’s malaise, but a movement for a better America.
I was fortunate that Rusty and Ben gave me a free membership for a year because of my work in post-ISIL territory in Iraq. I have served 6 years in Iraq. If I get promoted (rather than losing my job), then I pledge to join Tony as a paying member of ET.
Keep up the great work.
I read this for the first time on Wednesday morning after election day , and it is consistent with my faith in the Pack - not as a thing, a structure or an institution but as a community of flesh and blood and soul. We can change the world, we can BITFU, through the heart. Love mercy. Act justly. Walk humbly.
Great & Timely message, Rusty. Thanks for the re-frame.
BiBU is something we must do in our hearts and minds first.
Forgiveness and Mercy will be needed when we get around to our own Truth & Reconciliation movement. Aaaaany time now.
Brings to mind the efforts to heal Rwanda after the genocide. Forgiveness Councils and the Forgiveness Project. Lot’s of other things to be concerned about in that country but the recognition that a societal abuse cycle of division, retribution and hatred cannot heal itself and in fact stands to destroy a people is, by my view, something to take note of.
Interesting article, lots of ET words used. https://www.wsj.com/articles/charles-koch-says-his-partisanship-was-a-mistake-11605286893
Definitely interesting. I admire several things that the Kochs have done. I think Ben would have a bone or two to pick around the political power their financial empire affords them, among other things.
A coalition built around reducing foreign intervention, making immigration fairer and easier, and decriminalizing many drugs at the federal level is a very attractive intersection point IMO.
Imagine being the legacy of William de Tracy. The tour guide shunned me on my admission.
In my current situation, it’s extremely hard to gauge the point where some parties are ready for cooperation, beyond returning to their old ways, and before the fire #BITFD is so out of control that it destroys the necessary seeds of #BITFU. A win would take little effort, and be nearly certain, but is seems guaranteed to change nothing. Taking a loss seems like the only means to leave enough foundation to make it possible to #BITFU, but burn enough so that’s the only option. Giving up a tunic and a cloak leaves a person naked. And it takes a lot of faith, trust, and mercy to believe that the person holding your clothes will acknowledge the systemic failures and their role and the needed change instead of just laughing at your nakedness as The Widening Gyre is prone to do.
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