Friday, July 07, 2006

Knowing your limits

Humility is doubly difficult to muster in those who have risen to a place in society where it is they who must muster others to communal effort. But it is critical. It separates leaders from demagogues and mere politicians.

Think of Jimmy Carter. This man came through his presidency with a voice we still trust, and the world still trusts. Think of the difference between the way Jimmy Carter holds his faith and the way George Bush holds his. In Carter, as Madelaine Albright has written, faith was a bridge he could he could use to use to meet Jews and Muslims half way. For Bush it has been a barrier to conceiving any kind of Israeli roles and boundries that aren't biblical. Both men could pray at the same church, so what separates them?

I am reading William James' The Varieties of Religious Experience. Its dated in some ways yet still as good and honest an attempt to achieve perspective if not understanding on the assumed universality of personally longing for deity and relationship to deity. He is careful to confine his considerations to the human and interior experiences and avoids actual theology and explicitly eschews the institutional. Enduring what I consider his assumptions for the sake of the rest of his interesting deliberations, I begin to get a hunch that the religious urge wells up from the incompleteness of consciousness , a raw edge of the mind, a hunger that turns some toward god. I guess for some folks, the gap between wholeness we can imagine and the uneven patchwork of our experience, i.e. the limits of what we can know, is just unbearable. It helps but I don't know that you necessarily need a god to tell you that YOU aren't god...especially since some people aren't really listening even though they claim they hear voices. Leadership is not the exercise of command by way of facing fewer limits...that is power, naked and ugly. The great leaders lead in spite of and through limits. They share their own limitations and the limitations of those they lead by knowing their limits and facing them squarely.

No comments: