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Pavel Somov, Ph.D. Headshot

Un-Sentimentally Progressive

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Reality is progressive. And mercilessly so. A non-stop unfolding of what is, reality waits for no political throw-back to lick its ego-wounds. Reality is frivolously anti-conservative: it saves no past solutions. It doesn't have to: unpredictably spontaneous, reality constantly reinvents itself. It takes nothing less than the courage of realism and the non-attachment to status-quo of a zen mind to survive the batting cage of reality's curveballs. Sentimentalists that choke up at the first sign of change need not apply for stewardship.

As a literary device, sentimentality is easy to spot: its syrupy drama-queen hyper-sappiness is like an over-sweetened mocha frappuccino - its intensity eclipses the very taste it means to amplify (just like this very sentence, for example). Sentimentality, as a device of literary manipulation, substitutes a plot-development with an excess of emotional tenderness. No wonder that sentimentality, as a framing device that hijacks attention like a sappy-nasty Jerry Springer show, is making such a scene in the American political media.

Sentimentality and political conservatism are ancient bedfellows. Sentimentality - psychologically - is a form of intensely emotional clinging to the past, an intense dwelling on a loss, a grievous resentment of change and a righteous desire to turn the arrow of reality back. This kind of adamant insistence on restoring the status quo of the good old days - in politics - often times takes the form of nationalist paranoia. It is hardly surprising that Hitler, for example, was a sentimental softie, not unknown to easily tear up about items of personal significance. Former Attorney General John Ashcroft's anthem, "Let the Eagle Soar," (that, parenthetically-speaking, blows my gaskets of measure and moderation, like a Fiat 500 trying to plow 2010 snow) is a prime example of political sentimentality. You can see how excessive political emotionality eventually disintegrates into "us v. them" nationalism and partisanship.

Here's my political craving: I want somebody emotionally-competent at the helm, someone who doesn't have to get drunk or nationalistic to feel, somebody whose political eagle soars without getting hawkish. I want a leader who is unabashedly un-sentimental, someone who can face the progress of reality without choking up in reminiscence, someone who knows how to breathe through the loss of status quo. In other words, I want a political Zen master - a leader in synch with reality, unafraid to let go, to apologize, a leader who doesn't hoard outdated loyalties, a leader who understands that a political promise is not a guarantee of a particular version of future but merely a statement of intent.

But wait, we already have a political zen-monk in the office - the Obamalama!

Hmm, I guess what we then need is for the voting sangha to spend some time in zazen in order to face the fact of impermanence and to outgrow their sentimental attachments to what no longer is. Reality is a bitch of progressive dialectics, a non-stop game-changer - sentimental saps and male histrionics that can't deal better hit the bar to self-medicate or become political bards.

The political choice - just as the psychological choice - is always the same: either face the traumatic novelty of what is or keep looking back at the good old days. Either breathe in the new world in real time or have a tantrum of cultural reminiscence about what no longer is. Pivot your consciousness foreword or be regressively out of synch.

Too sincerely,

Pavel Somov, your histrionic sentimental male-sap, who's trying to keep his own political attachments in check with a meditation practice, and who only votes for change that follows the ever-progressive vector of reality, and never for change that tries to turn back time (time is one-way, you know)