I first registered to vote in Ft. Fairfield, Maine. I won’t say how long ago that was, but I voted for a peanut farmer who turned out to not be the most exciting president we’ve ever had, but continues to be a really great statesman and peacemaker. My vote was every bit as good of investment as was the S&K socket set I bought in nearby Presque Isle before I left Maine. The socket set too is still serving well, although I’ve had the ratchet rebuilt once.
All of that is beside the point, really. The story I started out to tell was the one about leaving northern Maine not long after the elections with a dependable, fuel-efficient car, but only $135 to my name, no credit cards and a very limited number of contacts outside of Oregon and Maine. I had few tools aside from the shiny new socket set, a few clothes, 80 pounds of some of Maine’s finest potatoes in the trunk and a picture in my wallet of a pretty redhead who was waiting anxiously for me to get home to Oregon…I thought. I didn’t eat much on that trip, but incredibly, I drove 4500 miles (I thought the girl could wait a couple of extra days) on that $135 and had a little left over when I arrived! I have a few pictures from that trip, and even fewer memories, the girl hadn’t waited for me after all and a cold night somewhere along the way (it WAS Dec.!) froze the potatoes I’d hoped to share with family and friends, but it was an experience that set the tone for the rest of my life…a lesson in faith…although at that age, my faith was fairly blind! I guess it might have been more aptly referred to as “blissful ignorance!”
Jimmy Carter is still with us and I am still feeling blissful, but as I ready myself to head across our country once again…now the 6th time…with a less fuel-efficient vehicle, more tools, a bike, a bunch of tropical shirts, slightly more cash, $90 of credit left on my card, and no girls other than my mother waiting, I am a little less ignorant…I think.
Like Jimmy, I realize the world is full of turmoil and unconsciousness and I am trying to focus on what I can do to encourage peace. My faith is no longer blind and my bliss comes not from ignorance but from the realization that the peace we all seek in right here, inside me…inside all of us. It is our natural state! And I know now that if we let go, get out of the way and focus on what we can do to improve the world around us, all things we need will come to us.
Sure, I have moments when I wonder how far I might get on the funds I have and thoughts of breaking down or getting stranded with my pile of tools and too many tropical shirts in the middle of a late spring snowstorm somewhere…but I realize too that these are only thoughts that I can choose to entertain or just laugh at and let go. I am not completely hurling myself out there without a few safety measures in place, but I am very conscious of the fact that we can never stock up enough ammunition, food, water, or money to bring real peace or security, and that our egos can go on piling up supplies and taking precautions forever and never be satisfied or secure.
At some point, we all must realize the only real security we have is within us. It’s not in the stuff we gather about us, it’s not in armies, it’s not in wealth, it’s not in tools, it’s not in the pretty girls we carry pictures of in our wallets…it’s not even in learning to live sustainably! Real security, and the peace that accompanies it, comes through learning to live in this moment, the only one we ever have, and accepting whatever form it takes…through being present. It comes through letting go of our identification/obsession with the mind and finding the stillness that lies beyond. In that stillness is all we will ever need….all the peace, all the bliss, all the security, all the love. When we tap into it, problems–even the very large ones–tend to fade away.
I suspect Jimmy knows this. He travels the world arranging peace conferences and organizing agreements and talking politics because that’s what great statesmen do, but that’s all surface stuff. If you stop thinking about it and sense the love and kindness that emanate from him, I think you’ll see that he carries peace with him and, like John Chapman whose interest was in apples, he plants seeds wherever he goes…and that is how we will bring peace and security to our world. He may not have been the most flamboyant president, but he’s a great leader. I’m glad I voted for him.