It's been a bit of a frustrating business, watching the US election from the far side of the Atlantic: knowing how important the outcome is but not having a vote! I think many Americans would be surprised to learn how closely the election has been followed by Europeans, but the world is so interconnected these days that our fortunes are very much bound up together. So many of the issues which face us, such as the economic crisis, climate change, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are shared by us all. It could be argued that the result of the US poll has as much impact on life here in Britain as that of our own elections.
But if yesterday was a nervous night for us, I guess it must have been even more stressful for those of you who actually live in the USA. It was interesting, for instance, to watch this video of Neale Donald Walsch (of Conversations With God fame) urging people to vote. He doesn't mention a specific candidate but most of us could take a pretty good guess who he's rooting for. And it seems to me that the Neale in this video sounds not like Neale Donald Walsch at all but like someone who is attached to an outcome! I make that comment with great affection and respect for the man: just to illustrate how much we have all invested in this.
Before I go on, I feel I should acknowledge the fact that, in spite of what I've written above, I'm looking at events in America from a long way away, so I hope that my US readers will indulge me if I write about the way things seem to me.
As you may perhaps expect, I was rooting for Barack Obama, and I woke this morning to hear news of his victory with a sense not of elation but of relief. It would have been just so depressing if he hadn't won - not because John McCain is such a 'bad' man (which I don't think he is) but because it seems to me that a great opportunity for change would have been lost to us.
Watching the faces of those who were gathered in Chicago to hear Obama's victory speech, I found myself being moved by the light in their eyes: full of expectation for that change, full of gratitude and even disbelief at the miracle which has occurred, that a black man has risen to be the leader of the most powerful country in the world. This in itself is surely a cause for celebration, sending as it does a message of unity to the world. And better still, the man is Barack Obama, a bridge builder, a healer, and a great orator, whose choice of words is every bit as resonant as the timbre of his voice. As I watched, it seemed to me that this would be viewed as an iconic moment ten, twenty, even fifty years from now. It seemed too good to be true. It was like a movie.
And oh, the weight of expectation in those eyes. Can it really be good to expect so much from any one man? Does Barack Obama really have it in him to make that change, to deliver so much?
To attempt at an answer, I'd like to go back to something which almost derailed Obama's campaign in its early stages: his relationship with the controversial Minister, Jeremiah Wright. It may seem contrary to revisit this now, but I believe it points to an understanding which Obama has, and which is vital not only for him but for all of us.
I probably don't need to remind you that Wright made some very outspoken comments about racism in America, comments which were made in the church which Obama attended.
It seemed to me that Obama knew exactly where Wright was coming from when he made those comments. He understood - and how could he not? - all the long years of genuine grievance and discrimination which fed the roots of the preacher's invective. He understood the reasons for Wright's outspoken anger, which was why he was so slow to distance himself from the preacher. Yet he also understood that the anger was part of the past. If genuine change was to come, it was not to come through bearing grudges. It would be through a spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation. It was not that everything the preacher said was wrong. It was that he had failed to let go of the past.
As regular readers of The Secret Of Life will know, I believe that we all have to come to a similar realization: to let go of our past grievances, the stored emotions which keep us apart from each other and separated from our true nature. Only in leaving the past behind can we come together as one and solve the many problems our world is facing. This is true on a personal level and also internationally.
Can Obama do this for us?
The answer of course is 'no'. We have to do it ourselves. But it helps to have a leader who is coming from the same place, who shares an understanding of what is needed.
So I don't look to Obama with a heavy weight of expectation, but I do look on with hope.
George Bush thought in terms of 'us' and 'them'. Obama thinks in terms of 'us', of consensus, of coming together. And that is a start.
What will Obama do? What will he deliver? The answer to those questions is uncertain. Which perhaps is for the best, for only from uncertainty can genuine change arise. Perhaps now is a good time for us to facilitate that change, to imagine the kind of world we wish to see. Not to look with expectation at one man, and wait for him to succeed or fail, but to search inside ourselves and bring forth the imagination of hope. Not the usual kind of hope, the kind of hope we pin on this or that and is often disappointed, but enduring hope, resilient hope, audacious hope for the future.