The Call in the Time of Trump

The “normal” state of mind of most human beings contains a strong element of what we might call dysfunction or even madness. The collective manifestations of the insanity that lies at the heart of the human condition constitute the greater part of human history. It is to a large extent a history of madness. Eckhart Tolle in A New Earth.


In 1994, I said yes to an intense calling: I set out to be my own learning laboratory. I wanted to learn how to live from a new world view: a view of the world as an alive, engaged, interwoven and interdependent living system where the human spirit mattered. I joined a movement to change how we lead, follow and work in organizations.

I completed a Ph.D. in Leadership and Organizational Change; began to write essays; and consulted with leaders and organizations. I hoped to be a catalyst to help them learn and grow as people and leaders.

The movement I joined with such excitement in 1994 did not change the organizational world as I had hoped. Occasionally leaders with insight and great hearts would elevate an organization to high levels of engagement, involvement and business results but when the leader left, the group would fall backwards. Often the decline went not back to the original starting point but a fall backwards of many generations of leadership. I retired after 13 years, my heart and soul worn out from the resistance to meaningful change. People wanted to feel better at work: most didn’t want to do the hard work to feel alive.

I now fear the same type of regression for America.

America elected a new president—an unconscious ego-driven man replaces a conscious and spiritual man. Desperate for change, even as they complained of too much rapid change, the Trump voters selected a president knowing he’s unfit for the job. In doing so, they put everyone at risk.

Many of us fear that America, having sat balanced precariously on the precipice of decline for some time now, chose in this election to return to previous states—personally and collectively–that may have seemed to work at an earlier time in our history—a more immature and unconscious time. And this choice will, many of us fear, take America into a deep and dark decline, which will threaten our well-being and our democracy.

On the edge of old age, part of me would like to drop out and live out my life in peace. But I cannot. I’ve been on my intentional personal journey in life since 1974 when I spent a month in a tough alcohol treatment center and had my first awakening.

Running away has not been my nature; going forward into the scary and often painful unknown has been my path. So I will do what I can and continue my efforts to bring some sanity to our mad world through my small contributions. Feeling alive comes from striving to achieve noble objectives. Living true to myself matters more than peace or success.

Many feel upset about the election and moved instantly into an attack mode at anything Trump or Republican related. I think most Republican approaches deserve strong criticism as so many cause human suffering. But I think we would be wise to pause and reflect on this election, how we feel about it and what we can do in positive and thoughtful response. Otherwise we will miss the opportunity for our own growth that resides in the pain we feel.

Trump is not the root problem: he is a symbol and a symptom. The human spirit suffers. Our human madness in how we live is the root problem. The suffering intensifies when demagogues convince people they will feel better by harming others. They will not. We should focus our efforts on fighting for the human spirit everywhere in whatever way aligns with our purpose and values.

If you feel great loss over this fundamental shift in America, take time to ponder what life calls you to do. Our primary purpose in life concerns the kind of person we become. Eckhart Tolle wrote in A New Earth that every human being shares a common purpose: To Awaken. Awakening brings a shift in consciousness from which we see life through new eyes. We also have our own unique personal purpose for how we use our unique talents in the world. Perhaps in our personal reflections, we can bring forth greater consciousness in ourselves.

The Roman philosopher Tacitus observed: “the desire for safety stands against every great and noble enterprise.” Tolle wrote: “If uncertainty is unacceptable to you, it turns into fear. If it [uncertainty] is perfectly acceptable, it turns into increased aliveness, alertness, and creativity.” We can feel alive by putting uncertainty aside and pursuing noble goals of our choosing.

If, under great pressure to conform to the madness of the world, we stay true to our deepest values and purpose for our lives and take purposeful actions, we will feel alive and together we will model a new and evolved consciousness to others.


Maturity begins with the capacity to sense and, in good time and without defensiveness, admit to our own craziness. If we are not regularly deeply embarrassed by who we are, the journey to self-knowledge hasn’t begun. Alain De Botton

Melanie and I had a good laugh when our 80-year-old neighbor chuckled as he described himself as an “aging superstar in the twilight of a mediocre career.”

His words captured the ego all of us have combined with the realizations age may bring: nothing is forever and none of us are all that significant in the greater cosmos. If anyone has any doubt of their insignificance, go to a dark and remote place on a clear night, lay on the ground and look up at the sky: what you experience will humble you.

Most of us spend a significant portion of our lives proving ourselves to others and collecting what Eckhart Tolle in The New Earth called identity enhancers: status, money, promotions, possessions, being right and being seen as at least as successful as others and preferably a bigger winner than other people. We believe we are our identity enhancers, derive our self-worth from them and feel secretly superior. We may show off, seek to stand out and want to be the center of attention.

Our satisfaction from each enhancer lasts only briefly so we must continue what can be addictive behavior to feel more than we are. We can be driven by an unconscious craziness terrified to think of ourselves as insignificant or as ordinary, everyday people. While an identity based on what we possess or stories we tell ourselves instead of who we are beyond ego is a profound mistake, it is the American way.

I spent my career in organizations: the federal government, the newspaper industry and as a consultant to organizations. The organizational culture appeals, in insidious ways, to our egos and desire to elevate ourselves. If our need for self-importance gets out of control, we can lose our connection with our values, sell our souls and think our power, control and influence and the roles we play are who we are and will continue forever. But they never last forever and identifying with them only adds to our suffering in life.

We should keep our human condition in perspective:

Eckhart Tolle in A New Earth:

The ego isn’t wrong; it’s just unconscious. When you observe the ego in yourself, you are beginning to go beyond it. Don’t take the ego too seriously. When you detect egoic behavior in yourself, smile. At times you may even laugh. How could humanity have been taken in by this for so long?  

I hope everyone has achievements they feel proud of. Being proud of our accomplishments and caring about our possessions is not bad. It becomes dysfunctional when we are unconscious of the ego’s drive to define ourselves through material things or fleeting emotional states.

We may resist the call to evolve beyond ego and remain driven by our ego needs in different ways until the end. Or, maybe we stop the madness within us and spend the rest of our lives on a more unique and authentic journey to greater awareness and our own peculiar, passionate and conscious development as human beings of noble purpose.

It’s okay to be an “aging superstar in the twilight of a mediocre career” like me and our neighbor. We are okay being who we are. We can surrender to our ordinariness and find aliveness and greater happiness through our conscious evolution–as embarrassing as self-awareness can be at times.

Thoughts on Consciousness

From A New Earth, by Elkhart Tolle:

  • Any life-form can be said to undergo “enlightenment.” It is, however, an extremely rare occurrence since it is more than an evolutionary progression: It also implies a discontinuity in its development, a leap to an entirely different level of Being and, most important, a lessening of materiality.
  • To sin means to miss the point of human existence. To live unskillfully, blindly, and thus to suffer and cause suffering.
  • When faced with a radical crisis, when the old ways of being in the world, of interacting with each other and with the realm of nature doesn’t work anymore, when survival is threatened by seemingly insurmountable problems, an individual life-fore-or a species-will either die or become extinct or rise above the limitations of its condition through an evolutionary leap.
  • If the structures of the human mind remain unchanged, we will always end up re-creating fundamentally the same world, the same evils, the same dysfunction.
  • Suffering has a noble purpose: the evolution of consciousness and the burning up of ego.
  • My enemies were doing the best they knew how to do at the time. I did the best I knew how to do at the time.
  • The monster within: realize you have it; be aware when it surfaces; do not identify with it. The monster is not you; turn it into fuel for consciousness.
  • I am never upset for the reason I think.
  • With the grace of awakening comes responsibility. You can either try to go on as if nothing has happened, or you can see its significance and recognize the arising of awareness as the most important thing that can happen to you. Opening yourself to the emerging consciousness and bringing its light into the world then becomes the primary purpose of your life.
  • As I age, my responsibility and influence to the outer world declines and re responsibility to my inner world increases.
  • Old age is the time for the flowering of consciousness. Let go of external possessions, acknowledgement, status, and symbols of success in the material world.