In my last column I wrote that politics are nothing more than a means to fulfill the human need to connect to a group. I said issues and rants and causes become lost in the poli-babble they represent and we end up more alienated than we started. While I do maintain most causes are silly sewing circles, I have decided I am quite political, believe it or not. Whether this makes me a member of any given group, my point is I aspire to live and talk in a way that helps me live wholly, and perhaps some of that will rub off. However, I haven’t learned the language of politics, nor should I want to. But this does not mean I am not political or I don’t give a dang. It means I am better at telling stories than standing in front of a box and blaming my mother for why the country is falling apart. I’ve tried that; it’s futile.
Given that, I am prompted to tell my own Sen. Paul Wellstone story.
Yesterday, a co-worker told me a story about an interview he did with Wellstone years ago. Following the interview, my co-worker stood to wrap things up and was immediately met with a genuine look of surprise from Wellstone.
“Aren’t you staying for dinner? You came all this way,” he said.
What this and other stories move in me is difficult to say, other than showing us that what we do off-stage is what counts – that sense of integrity that separates those who talk from those who walk. I didn’t know much about Wellstone, but the gist seems to be that he was a genuine good guy and that he showed his beliefs by living them.
It seems he was one in a rare breed who lives life to be with others authentically. What he said and did was not so much about popularity but about sharing life’s best-kept secret: We can live however we want to live, regardless of who votes for us. His attitude seemed to say: The way to live is not to sail the biggest ship so you can be all alone in the middle of the ocean. Rather, the way to live is to hang out for a while in the dinghy and get to know who’s rocking the boat and why.
It’s not so much about knowing everything and preaching how it is, but it’s sharing what you know and listening to the stories that tell us what we do not. He had nothing to prove or nothing to defend in the choices he made because that’s how he lived.
This seems to be a story that is relayed with no words at all but rather in the apparent love and respect shown by many to this man. We see it in the green lawn signs pressed into the community plot of hope. We see it in those who aspire to walk beside someone and not behind him. We see it in the many mourners who showed up for Tuesday’s service. We see the endurance of the human heart as being connected to the survival of the company it keeps. We see that life’s rewards are not in how much stuff, land or deities we can stack in the closet but rather in those we can share them with. We see that any struggle we are up against should work to preserve that which is human, not he who can pretend best like he is not.