The Dancer And Obama

A reader writes:

The dancer is a great optical illusion. To make it shift, don't stare at it directly. Look to the side, so that it only appears in your peripheral vision. It can also help to close one eye, to read some text, or to sweep your focus side to side across the page. The "illusion" is in fact mental, of course: it's in how your brain is interpreting the data its getting, not in anything 0567524700 physical/visual. At first, when the  "switch" happens it's just momentary - a split second - and then it shifts back. Only repeated switches will stabilize it in its new direction - after which you may not be able to make it switch BACK again! It's a very strange sensation when you get the first "switch". After some practice, you can make it switch directions at will.

There are lessons here, aren't there? Most of us are caught in left or right mode, absolutely sure that 1) we are right, 2) our opposite numbers are wrong, and 3) there's no other rational way to interpret the data: isn't it true that when you first watch the dancer - whether you think she's spinning left or right - you simply can't IMAGINE how anyone could rationally make the opposite interpretation? You can SEE she's going left - or right. There's absolutely no other option - until you see the shift. Then you realize both interpretations are right - and both are wrong. You realize it's not either/or - it's both/and.

Let's get philosophical for a moment. Either/or is dualistic. It depends on setting things against each other - left vs right, us vs them, good vs evil, gay vs straight, liberal vs conservative. It's inherently one-sided, and it always leads to conflict - or rather, it IS conflict itself. Taken into the realm of politics, we get the politicians and factions who live by division and trade on fear. It's a very popular and powerful system, and we've just had six Obama1timsloanafpgetty plus years of it under Bush and Rove and the neocons. It's been a real grad course in political philosophy for this country - "The Politics of Fear" (apparently Rudy's trying to teach the course next term). 

Ironically, as you may remember, this last term began with our professor - Professor Bush - proclaiming Jesus as his favorite political philosopher. Now, as I recall - and I believe you make this point in your book - the message of Jesus was "Be not afraid". Jesus pointed beyond dualism, conflict and fear to something higher, to that kind of patient, inclusive - dare I say loving - nondualism that comes from seeing that both left and right are both right and wrong.

And that, as I see it, is why you are really so enamored of Obama: he's the only one out there who seems willing to rise above the politics of division and fear, and reach for something better, something higher, something that can bring us all together - not just here in this country, but globally.

Obama is not yet a hero - but he may become one. Whether he does or not, he will remain a human being - just one of us. But he carries a meme of hope and unity and love - so completely different than Bush, with his fear and antagonism and scorn. In my book, it's Obama, and those like him, who can see beyond the illusions of dualism, and who hold the hope for the future.

That little dancer is worth contemplating.