Comments on the Second Presidential Debates: 8/7/08

The debate tonight was an inspiring experience for me, and I have found it, maybe out of a sense of perversity, to be a largely uninspiring period of time. It’s been so long that I’ve heard any public issue addressed in a reasonable, honest way, that when it happens I want to slap my hands and thank whoever is responsible for having the simple courage to say what is true.

This is the most important lesson to be learned. That it is possible to say things that are true, and that anybody can say them. Truth has its contexts, and it has its nuances, and neither the world of politics and business-the macro world-nor the even larger and more finely nuanced world of personal life-the micro world-can be helped by anything but a fire to accomplish something good.

The problem with saying something like that is that you, the reader, and myself, the writer, both immediately question ourselves, saying “Is that naïve? Do I have any fire to accomplish something good?”

You create effects of quality in all moments of your life. You experience the world-its breakups, its defeats, its sunrises and snowfalls-as good and bad. This simple acknowledgment, of the universality of complicated experience, signifies in any of us willing to step forward a fire to accomplish good.

Maayan told me about seeking “balance” in the visual design of her magazine. Visual balance pervades her existence; she carries it home with her, injects it into those simple tasks like organizing household objects, writing notes to herself, that many of us accidentally ignore. She brings quality to everyday experience, for no other reason than that it can-and therefore should-be done.

In every person is an experience of quality, and the longing toward that new, greater quality is a source of great inspiration.

Before tonight, I was not much inspired. I had my beliefs, but they were technical beliefs, statements of confidence in certain practices and institutions over others. Tonight it’s different. I will have to use an anecdote.


Two Scandinavian adventurers, having recently completed an unsupported expedition to walk across Antarctica-a hugely expensive and difficult venture, risking many forms of suicide, including psychological, financial, and literal-commented, when asked why they’d done it, “Because we believe in the power of truth.”


It struck me as insane when I heard it. Truth, I thought, had nothing to do with a physical trek across a wasteland. But it does. Truth, first and above all, consists of the acknowledgment of things as they stand. I think of the two men, pulling heaps of food and fuel across an endless tundra. This experience is real, as is everything else we experience. It is our duty to acknowledge the real, and these two Scandinavians were willing to risk everything to do it. This is a humbling experience, as was their trek, as every other worthwhile thing has been. To seek greatness requires great humility and sacrifice.


Maayan, when she makes a drawing, or organizes text and pictures, does it with a sense of purpose and even of righteousness. It is a simple Good, and she can make it real; therefore she must. There is no going back to anything-only our senses of justice and truth can lift us up. 


One response to “Comments on the Second Presidential Debates: 8/7/08

  1. I almost couldn’t believe I was hearing a candidate say that Bush missed an opportunity after 9/11 when he told Americans to go out and shop instead of pull together and sacrifice. The first day I heard him talk in 2004 at the Convention, I knew he’d run for president someday — I’d hoped it was then, but I’m glad it’s now. …You were talking about Obama, right?

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