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November 18, 2018


“He says he is winning all the time. Who are you when you don’t win?”

Says Doris Kerns Goodwin on the “Morning Joe” TV. Show this week, speaking of President Trump.

Forget about politics. No trolling, snarking, self-righteousness allowed. Every one of us in our youth has been told with every “A” on a paper, and every “D” on a test that we are either validated or outed as completely worthless. These are not the small victories or disappointments of a loving and loved place in our family or culture – they are hard judgments because we are young.

But later, for many of us, maybe most, who have defined ourselves not by love but by demonstrating being lovable, failure is guaranteed. If perfection is the standard of lovability, you are doomed to an unloved life. If the world that defines you is limited to this very time, the actual evidence, the measurables, then the impossibility of living up to expectations – others’, yours’, the cultures’ – is inevitable.

We are judged by every bit of facts we encounter. Every paycheck, every gift, every look from a stranger conveys more than the moment, but is completely confined to it.

You could be fired in a minute, get cancer, lose a loved one: and if, like every President, every act is judged as evidentiary of a greater reality of who you are, then any break in your script, any flubbed line or wardrobe malfunction reveals that you just suck.

And others do like that. Because all of us register our place by the place of others – it is called jealousy or schadenfreude – and that confirmation of fear and hope is as shallow as we are, every day.

If the world conspires to reveal our worth or confirm our legitimacy or just celebrate or value, it can also display out terminal inability to perform. And it is terminal. The base line performance of life will inevitably get the “F”. Opportunity is not above validation or judgment – it is what you have been given to aspire for.

The last generation has exponentially increased all the measurables in our lives. We know the bits of our bodies that inevitably degrade, no matter how hard we work or how fortunate our circumstances. So the mocking, goading, reveling is all performed on a sinking ship of mortality. All the anger, joy, hate and devotions of the moment, of the Internet, are momentary.

There are but two constants, gravity and God – the rest is human judgment. And anything human is brewed in impossible subjectivity.

The hardest thing for anyone to swallow, especially Donald Trump, or you, or me, is that we are loved. Born in love. Loved in our essential reality. Not judged, abandoned, or because we are lauded or affirmed. In all the extreme complexity being discovered by science every minute of every day, there is no base reality revealed. The incomprehensible love of God evidenced by imponderable complexity is insane, and seemingly, for me, impossible to accept.

The noise of our passions, our grotesqueries, our follies is, in the end, meaningless. It is that undeserved, irrational love based on nothing but itself that Doris Kearns Goodwin discovered by the latest drama of current events.

If you live for winning, you will always fail. What then?

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