I had it all down. I knew what I wanted to write to you today—and I will still fulfill my goal. However, I keep getting sidetracked by my inbox. New York Times emails bleat about Hillary not going quietly into that good night. And the Financial Times is laying out a graphic map of a global Ragnarock for the 21st century. Methinks we are all a bit on edge. I will not venture near The Guardian newspaper for fear its dire prophecy might trigger a cranial calamity.
I took a walk by the lake today. It was a solitary path in the autumn red gold leaf blue smooth-as-glass lake, no wind, just a waft or two. Waning burst of sunlight. Boats all gone home. The archery field hosted two men kinda dancing with rakes in the distance behind the colored rings of the straw target thingies, a slurry of foreign languages in the air as pretty people returned bikes to the rental shop.
I thought: I have to do this now. Walk no matter the weather… as I used to. Breathe deeply. Sing a song, remember the lyrics. No more unh-huh-huh to fill in the forgotten bits. I have to remember poetry. The words. The distilled meaning behind a word. I think this is self-care. I think we all need to have the chutzpah to do self-care. Right?
I used to walk by the lake every morning at dawn when I lived at Park Place. I’d sing a note out loud. No one was around to hear. I’d sing a note and let it go out into the sky. I knew the actual sound would never reach the horizon slowly gleaming red. An arch. Like an archer’s bow. The sun was getting strung and soon it was a-comin’. I’d sing single notes to that event, clearing my lungs for long days in the chair, listening. Giving them, the purses of my spirit, recognition for the stillness I would soon bring to them so I could hear faint nuances, the stuff my client was not saying. I hoped something in the resonance of my voice– my little voice would reach, like a ripple of intention– would reach the horizon – maybe.
I remember when I was four years-old. My mother entered the butcher’s shop. I did not go in. I stood in the alcove in front of the door. The hard shiny windows rested on white tiled abutments on each side of me. I took deep breaths and yelled as loud as I could to hear how loud my voice was. It wasn’t very. And I knew I was just four and that was that.
Maybe that’s how we all feel now. We have been hit hard by a tremor of intention that has been growing unnoticed for a terribly long time. Something big is coming to our horizon as a people- even if it all turns out in the end to be necessary and even good in some way or another, it is disturbing to recognize. So the question is. What do we do, now that our world is teetering on the edge of a new unknown?
Dearest All~ We need to understand ourselves with conscious affection. Compassion is understanding with an open and generous mind. But having compassion does not mean you are a patsy. It means you take stock. You wait for a moment and gather your senses about you. You accept what Is. And then, when understanding comes in a right and balanced way, you will know what to do. When I read the sound and fury in all my lovely newspapers I see two things. This is an amazing time to be living in- This is the same, or similar, ruckus that occurred when Medieval thought met the Renaissance in Europe, which in turn, met the Age of Enlightenment… and so on. Though our November may feel more like the Middle Ages gobsmacking the Enlightenment.
Heads were lopped off in France, there was the American Revolution, King George III was unfortunately the inheritor of Porphyria and history changed. Americans and the English think that was for the better. Slavery increased to prop up part of the American economy. Go see Hamilton for the rest of that story. We render it now in hip-hop – a language of the streets that originated amongst African-Americans who still languish in today’s prisons. Hosannas to poetry as a soul release.
Welcome to the new era that your great-grand-children will read about in their classrooms on another planet circa fifty years from now where they will discompassionately discuss our behavior and our choices with their teachers. We will have long passed through the pearly gates and our actions will be under their scrupulously innocent scrutiny. We hope their world is governed by a passion for truth.
Meanwhile, this is what I meant to talk with you about today. We are all dolts. Like the characters in Groundhog Day, we keep repeating the march into the doomy side of life. So here’s the antidote. Let us all pop our bubble domes and greet each other. I have the privilege of working with print journalists and photojournalists, ER medical professionals, and artists. They are trained to ask questions and observe detail and contextualize it all in broad mindscapes so they can Understand! I know two artists who drive taxis just so they can conduct their inquiries– they also earn a little money.
There is nothing new under the sun.
Firstly, rational thinking is a good thing but when the emotional temperature rises to boiling point, reason has no grasp. Instead slogans and unrealistic wish fantasies result in a sort of collective possession which can then turn into a psychic epidemic. Going viral, as we say, no offense to viruses. CG Jung does a very effective job of explaining this phenomenon in his 1957 essay The Undiscovered Self. See paragraph 490.
Secondly, all the thoughts, feelings, fantasies, beliefs, biases, and fears like paranoia, that have been tolerated as asocial now surface as acceptable. Those who are latently disturbed or even insane are triggered into agitation. Their affective judgments and wish-fantasies can over-rule their more reasonable selves. Amongst them, those who truly needy of change, who are fighting to have their voices heard, are in danger of having their legitimate points of view drowned out.
Most of us in our socially adapted bubble domes were aghast when Mr. Trump agitated his constituency by loudly channelling their fears and beliefs. A common emotional language voiced a lowered common denominator binding his constituents. He fanned the fire of indignation that would galvanize a fanatical insurgency. His words, gestures, vocal dynamics, and offstage strategies lit the dry straw of resentment, as catalogued in Clinton’s “deplorable” -isms and -phobias. Eventually the fever spread under the guise of slogans posing as policies. The collective psychic rage– including rejection of a black president and a woman taking his place– took root because he reflected back to the people what they felt and thought they knew about themselves. The tragedy is that Trump knows so little of himself. Did you see how lost he looked when he won?
So where does this leave all the citizens of the United States? Actually, in a very interesting position. The questions that rise in the aftershock of Mr. Trump’s win are priceless. We have the opportunity to inquire about what global change really means. How does it affect free trade, freedom to cross borders, principled business, affordable education, open communication, responsible technology, responsive healthcare, environmental health, climate change, and war? It is our duty to discern our values as citizens, as we insecurely seek footing on the cusp of this momentous wave of change. There is nothing new in change itself. What is new is its enormity. Right now we, a portion of eligible voters, have elected a president who speaks for change and he is going to need all the help he can get to make sound choices. That’s where we citizens come in.
To begin the very slow process of survivable change we must cultivate a working understanding of how our thinking works. Many psychologists and psychiatrists agree that human beings tend to slide back and forth on a spectrum between hope and despair. Each end of the spectrum may also be called this or that because each question, each event has two poles. If we are not aware of these dualities, we can be easily catapulted by some force, inner or outer, into a thought chute like a shiny unmindful orb in a pinball machine. If we fail to ponder the pathways our thinking takes us, and the possible outcomes of making choices based on that thinking, then we will muddle through life willy-nilly. We will bounce about in the pinball machine of life buffeted by forces we don’t recognize or understand. Tilt!
So, Mother Nature gave us a few gifts that we can use to avoid wrong-headed thinking. One gift I want to talk about today is a function in our minds that is called the trickster archetype. We all have a rascal in us that lies dormant in our thoughts until awakened by an inner event or one out there in the world. The penchant for mischief has been around since people came into being. The principle goal of the trickster archetype is there to stir us to self-knowledge. Now, we can choose to listen to the lesson the trickster teaches- or not. Will Mr. Trump elicit the trickster archetype in us? Clearly he’s triggered other psychic forces in the country. Will we experience the awakened trickster within? We will have to see how that story unfolds.
I will tell a series of delightful stories that come from our own and other cultures. Today there are two. One is from Nigeria, and it is about a trick that Anansi the Spider plays on God. The other is from India. It is about King Janaka, who was the greatest king of all Bengal and how he tricked himself into penury and ignominy.
Your loving friend, -Peggy