In the fairytale of the American storyline, good-intentioned people who put themselves into play have a crack at finding what really matters. In the case of the ABC TV show The Bachelor, it's about following your heart to find love. In the case of politics, it's about taking a stand for values in service of the greater good. In the case of the law, it's about trusting in a system that will treat you fairly. In the case of the economy, it's about work hard and your contributions will be recognized.
I'm not completely naïve. In fact, faithful readers will discover my ever-deepening search for a more mature spirituality, large enough to embrace both the light and the shadow. I know that things aren't always fair; that particularly as we age, treasured illusions fall by the wayside. But still, when it comes to how I want to live my own life, I stubbornly insist that there are some basics in which I refuse to give up hope. In a nutshell, I'd rather take the risk that being as good a person as I can be, to pay heed to my heart, to live my values, to trust in the ultimate triumph of good over evil, does not just expose me as weak and foolish.
I've gritted my teeth through the Republican primaries, a couple of legal situations I've inadvertently (and innocently) stumbled into and all manner of discontinuities as of late. But when the Bachelor Ben picked Courtney, my suspicions were confirmed. The American storyline is broken.
I wanted to believe that Ben was worthy of finding true love and picked out a series of worthwhile matches for him amongst the contenders. But like the broken American storyline I've been denying, he acted out of the most shallow value set possible. In essence, from the moment he first set eyes on Courtney the mean-spirited model, the game was over. It was lust at first sight and from that point on, he merely acted as if he were open to exploring deeper aspects of relationship with the other women, who seemed to genuinely care for him. (How many times did he compliment or scold other contenders for his heart on the basis of their degree of confessions of vulnerability while ensuring that every part of his body and soul but one were totally shut down to them?) I can't say that he wasn't true to his values. It's just that I find his values seriously lacking.
So yes, the American storyline is broken. A small dog on a leash walking through a shopping center is attacked by a German Shepherd, one breath shy of being killed, and the small dog is accused by the big dog's lawyer owner of "having incited the situation." Politicians aim to impose their narrow values on the American public because they believe they know what's best in service of the greater good. Retirees who expected their whole lives to be taken care of in old age lose their pensions because of a loophole that allows the city to declare bankruptcy. Workers who expected to be at the peak of their careers are downsized because their higher salaries can be offset by younger workers who will do half the job at half the salary.
Of course, I know there's never been very much reality in reality shows. But I have been slow to let go of the American storyline, desperate to believe. So now, I am over The Bachelor. I will listen to classical music on Monday nights, instead. And I hope that between that, meditating, praying and long walks in nature, I will find a way to make peace with the broken narrative, while retaining my faith in, well, anything.
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