I love how every once in a while you come across a book that shifts your view of reality. I recently read a book that did just that for me. The book Neither Wolf Nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads With An Indian Elder by Kent Nerburn shares the thoughts and insights of a Native American elder called Dan. My wife had been encouraging me to read it for months. “You’ll love it” she said. Wow was she right!
Here are a couple of my more important takeaways from the book on anger, the difference between a ruler and a leader, and the importance of being a keeper of the light. It gave me a different way to think about the political struggles taking place in our country as we move into the 2016 November elections.
Good Anger vs. Bad Anger / Leaders vs. Rulers
The Native American elder, Dan, speaks in the book about the difference between good anger and bad anger. He says bad anger happens when people on one or both sides of an issue are selfish and drunk with their own vision of the truth. Bad anger is born of the need to be right. He calls it “child’s anger”. Good anger comes from one’s ability for careful “seeing”….from the ability to “see” clearly. Good anger comes when one has learned to pay careful attention, and listen deeply to the truths present in every situation. He councils that one should not fear bad anger. Simply learn to be a keeper of the flame. To speak clearly about what you “see” and what you hear. And then become a leader that carries the flame and passes on the light.
He speaks about the difference between leaders and rulers. For Dan, rulers are only interested in amassing personal power and wealth. They are self-focused. They blame others for their own shortcomings. Rulers take control of our lives and they take away the rights and freedoms of the people. Leaders he says listen carefully to the needs of the people. They increase the people’s hope. They protect the rights and freedoms of all the people. They have deep character and honor their people. They lead, not rule.
Dan Speaks For Our Time
As I read this book, I couldn’t help but compare the people running for the office of President of the United States this coming November. Dan was speaking about his people and their historical leaders, but his counsel is sound and relevant for us in 2016. We need to “see” clearly and listen carefully. We need to pay careful attention to the kind of anger our candidates are manifesting. Are they self-focused rulers, or are they leaders? Do they carry the flame of light and truth? Do they speak for all of the people? Dan says the people will follow and respect leaders. They will walk away from rulers.
We are a representative democratic republic. Democracy is based on compromise. A democracy understands that no-one is smart enough to be right….or wrong….100% of the time. There is always truth to be found on both sides of every issue. In a functioning, healthy democracy we the people elect leaders who listen to us; not wealthy rulers. A functioning, healthy democracy listens to the truths on both sides of all issues and then finds a compromise position that blends those truths into what I call a democratic middlepath that represents all the people. Leaders walk on the middlepath. Rulers on the other hand almost always need to be right. They tend to emphatically embrace ideological extremes that reject any form of compromise. They refuse to honor the truths found on the other side of the issue.
Our nation is going into the 2016 elections split between the rigid political ideologies of the conservative right and the political ideologies of the conservative left. The result is gridlock, lack of compromise, and a very non-functional, unhealthy democracy; a democracy that is unable to intellectually or emotionally support leaders that represent all of the people.
Writer Kent Nerburn and the Native American elder Dan offer us deep wisdom as we move into the 2016 elections. In America, we the people get to vote on who we believe is a keeper of the flame, who we will follow….and who we will walk away from. Leaders are keepers of the flame. They carry the light. They walk the middlepath in search of the truths that are always found on both sides of every issue. They are capable of compromise. They listen carefully to the needs of all the people.
As we enter the voting booth in November, we need to vote for those we think will function best as middlepath leaders. We do not need ideologically inflexible rulers who are controlled by rigid ideological thinking, the ultra-wealthy, or the multi-national corporations….who are not “people” despite what the Supreme Court would have us believe. We do not need ideologically rigid rulers who are poor listeners, need to be right, and are unable to compromise. Rulers who would remove our freedoms and the values we hold sacred. We are a representative democracy…..we need to walk toward leaders who carry the flame of democracy, and away from those who would be rulers. We need to ignore bad anger.
I encourage my readers to read this book. It’s filled with wisdom and insight that I believe we need. There are many challenges facing us in the world today. We need all the wisdom and insight we can gather up if we are going to elect those who would be keepers of the flame of democracy in November. Leaders with the ability to listen to the needs of all of the people….and the wisdom to walk away from those who would be rulers.