One citizen says goodbye…
Today I found myself mourning the loss of Barack Obama as our President and Commander-in-Chief. It was not an intellectual experience, but an emotional one. As he spoke a farewell address to our military, I found myself recalling how many times I had been moved by this man’s great decency. As an American, I feel deeply grateful to him for eight years of service in which he played the difficult role of President with utmost honesty, dignity, concern, respect for the office, and respect for the American people.
A President, aside from his many practical duties, is also like a guardian angel for the nation. If he is kind and just, we feel protected. If he moves gracefully through the world, our nation feels at ease with the world.
I can never thank Barack Obama enough for the quality of personhood he brought to the office. He was a President that every American could be proud of, and I pray that he will remain active on the world scene. His presence is needed now more than ever.
At the same time that I feel tremendous gratitude to Barack Obama, I confess that I feel some fear for the future, as if a benign presence were being withdrawn.
When it is a question of character, intelligence, scholarship, humanity, and empathy, Barack Obama is a rare example of the best in American political leadership. We were lucky and blessed to get him for eight years, and I fear that we shall soon miss him more than we can ever imagine. May God bless his soul a thousand thousand times for being a courageous man and good-hearted.
Among a small circle of friends, I am known for sometimes writing poems or songs in the style of a man to whom I owe my life: the late Sri Chinmoy — the great and good spiritual Master who made America his home, and lived the better part of his life here until his death in 2007. He would have been so overjoyed and proud to see America elect its first black president.
Today, I would like to share with you a song I wrote about Barack Obama eight years ago when he was first elected. You can read the words below, and if you click on the PDF file, you can see the sheet music.
Always a oneness-satisfaction-sky.
Change we need!
A new flower growing
In God’s divinity-heart-garden.
A new soul flowing
Through America’s Grand Canyon.
Never a useless noise;
Always a strong self-offering
“Obama, Obama” sheet music here (PDF).
What is drama if not conflict? And what is the opposite of conflict? Oneness. So when I say of President Obama that he is “always a oneness-satisfaction-sky,” I mean that he gets satisfaction not from conflict but from oneness. He is far above other leaders in this respect. He is in the sky, while they are perhaps fighting in the dirt.
How did a kid named Barack get to be President of the Unites States? Some will say it was solely through personal effort. I will say he was chosen by God to play a special role, to spread harmony and be “a new flower growing in God’s divinity-heart-garden.”
The line “A new soul flowing through America’s Grand Canyon” has special significance. Here, “soul” is meant in both the spiritual sense and the African-American sense, and “Grand Canyon” signifies not just the physical landmark, but the grand canyon which has so long divided rich and poor, white and black in America. So the broader meaning is: a new person, a new soulfulness, and a new quality of black soul flowing through the old divide, bringing people together.
If you don’t read music, you can catch the tune from this simple YouTube:
It is oft said that if you visit a black church in America, you’ll see three pictures: Jesus Christ, Martin Luther King Jr., and Barack Obama. There are pop artists who’ve written songs about Barack, but those songs don’t always reflect the spiritual element which is so important. It’s my hope and dream that someday a congregation will sing this song for him, and that his qualities of oneness, soulfulness, and inner poise will be recognized as the qualities of a Godly man.
The views expressed are my own, and do not represent any other person or organization.
Sidebar: Barack Obama on Religion (interview excerpts)
I’m rooted in the Christian tradition. I believe that there are many paths to the same place, and that is a belief that there is a higher power, a belief that we are connected as a people. That there are values that transcend race or culture, that move us forward, and there’s an obligation for all of us individually as well as collectively to take responsibility to make those values lived.
My mother was a deeply spiritual person, and would spend a lot of time talking about values and give me books about the world’s religions, and talk to me about them. And I think always, her view always was that underlying these religions were a common set of beliefs about how you treat other people and how you aspire to act, not just for yourself but also for the greater good.
I find it hard to believe that my God would consign four-fifths of the world to hell. I can’t imagine that my God would allow some little Hindu kid in India who never interacts with the Christian faith to somehow burn for all eternity. That’s just not part of my religious makeup.
Part of the reason I think it’s always difficult for public figures to talk about this is that the nature of politics is that you want to have everybody like you and project the best possible traits onto you. Often times that’s by being as vague as possible, or appealing to the lowest common denominators. The more specific and detailed you are on issues as personal and fundamental as your faith, the more potentially dangerous it is.
I think that each of us when we walk into our church or mosque or synagogue are interpreting that experience in different ways, are reading scriptures in different ways and are arriving at our own understanding at different ways and in different phases.
When I tuck in my daughters at night and I feel like I’ve been a good father to them, and I see in them that I am transferring values that I got from my mother and that they’re kind people and that they’re honest people, and they’re curious people, that’s a little piece of heaven.
I think Gandhi is a great example of a profoundly spiritual man who acted and risked everything on behalf of those values but never slipped into intolerance or dogma. He seemed to always maintain an air of doubt about him.
I think Dr. King, and Lincoln. Those three are good examples for me of people who applied their faith to a larger canvas without allowing that faith to metastasize into something that is hurtful.
— Barack Obama on faith, from a 2004 interview conducted by Cathleen Falsani.
Sing the Obama song, it’s fun!
Of Further Interest
Jesus is Born–in a world of many faiths
Nelson Mandela Songs by Sri Chinmoy
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