AVAILABLE LIGHT: Peace in Times Like These
Whatever our disposition these days, most of us can agree on one thing: we’re stressed BIGTIME! So, that said and accepted as our opening assumption, (based on an ongoing survey of dozens and dozens of fellow Peet’s cafe dwellers this Media month) we’ll move on out of the weeds and words and into that more spacious, well-lite place (that sunny little sunny spot those sages often find) indicated by the title of this piece.
All these stresses – happening and apparently happening – leave one looking more frantically in the dark for some – for any – available light. Perhaps some of the following will help at least by offering a few perhaps unseen or untried perspectives that can and will ease the stress, kinda like a smile… 🙂
H G Wells got it right when he said: “The forceps of mind were clumsy forceps and they crushed the truth a little when grasping it” Indeed, that’s the story more and more of us are stumbling across in the darkness, in the half-light, in the shadowed ways we go about living our daily lives. It’s like we’re looking for a lost key somewhere, anywhere, everywhere but where we might possibly find it – inside, with our own light.
As J. Krishnamurti put it, it is incumbent on all of us to “be a lamp unto yourself.” And so, with this light motif, (and with a kind of reckless and random abandon), I’m going to stand here at the threshold of our darkened door, open a box of old wooden matches each about as long as my thumb, take out a few sticks and hand them to you tentatively, tenderly, without knowing why or even how they may inspire you as they did me, to explore, to penetrate into the darkness, like a car’s headlamps finding the way on a winding mountain road on a coal black night.
What’s the real question?
But before I hand you the box of matches to see what strikes you, let’s just take a moment to peer into that darkness we all face. Let’s also understand or at least accept the possibility that there’s no such thing as darkness. Darkness is only the absence of light. Indeed, light, like love, has no opposite. But more of that later. For now, let’s probe the apparent, seemingly dangerous, darkness. It is through that door we all must pass.
“We must begin very near to go far” said that old lamplighter J.Krishnamurti. So let’s start right where we live – here and now – and ask ourself the first of what may be several difficult questions, the main difficulty of which may be “what’s the real question we’re hiding from our self?” Could it be that we’re deeply, fundamentally, unhappy?
We see it in people’s eyes – the despair. The desperation. The fugue of fears we’ve nourished for years. The profound unsatisfactoryness of life with, or without, all the amenities. The years have not been kind. Indeed, we find very little kindness when we look about in this vague darkness. What do we really want when all’s said and done?
Well, perhaps we’ll find those questions by striking a few of these matches against a hardened surface of our mind! (Works for me!) Perhaps a few of these old fashioned igniters will add a little available light to help us see what lurks when we step through the door into that little shaded room we call our “life” This life. The one we know but think we don’t understand; the one we have that keeps escaping, drifting, disappearing, off into that fog of war we may call “my life.”
Here’s a few old matches on politics-but-not-really. See how they strike you and feel free to comment below.
We’ll continue with this illuminating piece thanks to another lamp-lighter: Deepak Chopra MD:
There’s a powerful way to explain the rise of Donald Trump that most commentators have missed entirely or undervalued. The standard line describes Trump as a bizarre anomaly. Beginning as an improbable celebrity candidate, he has defied all the conventional rules of politics, which should have been fatal. Instead Trump has swept all before him on the Republican side. Possessing a “genius” for grabbing the limelight, he continues to dominate the scene in ways no previous politician ever has in modern times–so the conventional view goes.
But in reality Trump isn’t bizarre or anomalous. He stands for something universal, something right before our eyes. It’s an aspect of the human psyche that we feel embarrassed and ashamed of, which makes it our collective secret. Going back a century in the field of depth psychology, the secret side of human nature acquired a special name: the shadow.
The shadow compounds all the dark impulses–hatred, aggression, sadism, selfishness, jealousy, resentment, sexual transgression–that are hidden out of sight. The name originated with Carl Jung, but its basic origin came from Freud’s insight that our psyches are dualistic, sharply divided between the conscious and unconscious. The rise of civilization is a tribute to how well we obey our conscious mind and suppress our unconscious side. But what hides in the shadows will out.
When it does, societies that look well-ordered and rational, fair and just, cultured and refined, suddenly erupt in horrible displays of everything they are not about: violence, prejudice, chaos, and ungovernable irrationality. In fact, the tragic irony is that the worst eruptions of the shadow occur in societies that on the surface have the least to worry about. This explains why all of Europe, at the height of settled, civilized behavior, threw itself into the inferno of World War I.
If Trump is the latest expression of the shadow, he isn’t a bizarre anomaly, which would be true if normal, rational values are your only standard of measure. Turn the coin over, making the unconscious your standard of measure, and he is absolutely typical. When the shadow breaks out, what’s wrong is right. Being transgressive feels like a relief, because suddenly the collective psyche can gambol in forbidden fields. When Trump indulges in rampant bad behavior and at the same time says to his riotous audiences, “This is fun, isn’t it?” he’s expressing in public our ashamed impulse to stop obeying the rules.
But the fun of world War I, which almost gleefully sent young men off to fight, quickly turned to horror, and the shadow closed an insidious trap. Once released, it is very hard to force the shadow back into its underground bunker. The Republican party has kept the shadow on a slow simmer for decades, ever since Nixon discovered how to make hay form Southern racism, law-and-order aggression against minorities, and us-versus-them attitudes to the Vietnam anti-war movement. In order to make themselves feel unashamed, the good people on the right found figureheads after Nixon who exuded respectability. The irony is that as with civilized societies that seem the least likely to allow the shadow to run free, the more benign a Reagan or Bush acted, the stronger the shadow became behind the facade.
Trump has stripped away the facade, intoxicated by the “fun” of letting his demons run and discovering to his surprise (much as Nixon did) that millions of people roared with approval. Yet by comparison, Nixon retained relative control over the forces he unleashed, while Trump may be riding a tiger–that part of the story has yet to play itself out.
If the shadow refuses to go back underground, which is always the case, what outcomes can we anticipate over the next six months? The present situation finds us trapped between denial and disaster. Denial is when you ignore the shadow; disaster is when you totally surrender to it. Without being at either extreme, right now many Americans feel the unsettling symptom of being out of control. Trump glorifies being out of control, and until this outbreak runs its course–which no one can predict–he will remain immune to all the normal constraints.
What to do in the meantime? A few things come to mind.
1. See Trumpism for what it is, a confrontation with the shadow.
2. Instead of demonizing him, acknowledge that the shadow is in everyone and always has been.
3. At the same time, realize that the shadow never wins in the end.
4. Find every opening to reinforce the value of returning to right and reason in your own life.
5. Don’t fight the shadow with the shadow, which means not stooping to play by Trump’s nihilistic rules–he will always be willing to go lower than you are willing to go.
America has been fortunate in our ability to let off steam and recognize that we have demons. In the Great Depression bank robbers became folk heroes, but nobody suggested electing Bonnie and Clyde president. The rational constraints that allow for human evolution have been successful for millennia, as the higher brain became dominant over the lower brain. That dominance still holds good, no matter how close we flirt with the primitive areas of the mind. Trump represents something authentic in human nature, and in troubled times he’s the bad boy who becomes a folk hero. No one can predict if his Wrong=Right stance will carry him to the White House. The contest with our own shadow isn’t over yet.
…and finally, by way of commentary, my short letter to Tom, the sender of the above, :
That Chopra article sheds a little relative-if-not-absolute light on our collective condition; on humanities “shadow” wherein is buried our conditioned shame and blame, cultured fears and socialized prejudices that make up the US ‘pain body’ often referenced by Eckhart Tolle .
The good news is at least it’s coming into the light of our collective consciousness (and, for a much smaller segment of the population, the ‘awareness’ of this consciousness) This darkness will have to be peered into, seen and recognized for what it really is. And only then, through this suffering, we can see that all our suffering arises from thinking we are separate.
“The total number of minds
in the universe is one.”
That seeing will be difficult and painful, but – like an enema – it will cleanse the body politic! At the end of the day, reality, including mankind’s innate goodness, will prevail…how long that takes, and how painful this take down process will be is unknown, but love will bring healing with more and more light to dispel first our individual, and then our collective, shadows.
This transformation all starts right here at home in our individual recognition of our own conflicted minds and our deep need for, and acceptance of, our inherent natural peace and well-being. This happens first within our self, and then in our relationships with all our family, friends and neighbors…worldwide and beyond…
Love and be-well!
MORE STRESS BUSTERS!
* Gently choose whatever is happening.
* Ease up on the resistance, and have a nice day!
* Celebrate little things obvious to a child: Hooray! It’s today!
Got a match too, and want to give us a light? James @ firstname.lastname@example.org