Having lunch at a coffee shop, I overheard an angry man raging at the woman he was with, calling her a “Gestapo” because she asked him a question. It seemed that she had caught him in a lie, and was quietly looking to have a conversation with him. She told him she was hurt. His discomfort exploded in a volcano of expletives and insults. He hurled words at her like sticks of dynamite and seemed to delight in lighting the fuse….
Gestapo? The Gestapo, the Nazi secret police, exerted a torturous and murdering force over innocent men, women, and children. Their brutality was devoid of humanity.
If I had to give an account of what I witnessed, he was the oppressor: he shamed and humiliated. He was the one wielding the power and force. Everything he said was loud and menacing, inappropriate, poisonous, contemptuous, controlling. Every time she tried to speak, he’d bully her, and tell her to shut up. There was no empathy, or acknowledgement of her discomfort, only his. Though he was caught in a lie he couldn’t deny, he was “explaining” what was wrong with her, and how “distorted” her thinking was. He told her that he was sick of her behavior, and that he was the one who was hurt.
She wasn’t reactive — she did not fight him or insult him, she did ask for an apology. He refused.
Her discomfort, in fact, seemed to fuel his rage. He demanded that she apologize to him — and take responsibility for causing his fury: he said it was her fault. Perhaps what was most disturbing was that once he finished his self-absorbed rant, he was composed. He insisted she not ruin another outing with her “negativity”. He insisted she stop pouting, and “let it go”. They were, he reminded her, out for a relaxing lunch together.
Though there was no physical confrontation, or argument, it was one of the ugliest examples of verbal and emotional abuse I’ve witnessed.
What do you think?
Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
Cheshire Cat: That depends on where you want to get to.
Alice: I don’t care much where…
Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn’t matter which was you go.
Alice: …So long as I get get somewhere.
Cheshire Cat: Oh, you’re sure to do that, if you only walk long enough.
Maybe you’ve encountered a rift in the earth. One tectonic plate sinks beneath another. It’s not the kind of ground breaking you had in mind.
Or the way might be flooded and you can’t get through. It’s not the image you had of yourself, rising up from the sea foam like Poseidon, or Aphrodite on the half shell.
Or maybe you are trapped, mesmerized by the reflection of your own image in the floodwater. It’s not what others meant by staying fluid. You might be like poor Echo, pining away watching someone else watch their reflection in the water.
Even simpler, maybe the compass rose has lost its petals and you realize you are traveling in the wrong direction.
Have you ever found yourself lost like this? Are you lost, right now, like this? Does it feel like the intersection of blood and guts? Which way do you go?
Go this way, and it’s the blood of the walking wounded, or the sacrificial lamb. Maybe that lost little lamb is you. Or maybe you will be the one to hurt someone else down the road. It’s the easier path to take. No apologies necessary. Losses cut. The escape route.
Or go that way, with guts – it’s taking the long, winding road. Perseverance. Compassion. All options and consequences considered. A harder path to walk.
None of it’s easy. Free will? It’s a bitch.
Maybe the journey takes us along all of the paths. The road is filled with seekers, navigating blood and guts. May the rose ride up to meet you, may the wind be at your back… We are Whitman wanderers walking towards a glowing inner light*.
(*Don McLean, Homeless Brother. If you aren’t familiar with his work, you should get acquainted – Don McLean)
While walking through Brooklyn’s Williamsburg, I came across this poem written on a window that had been cemented over. Even though it is not English (it’s Italian), it evokes a dark mood, with its sloping black S words on a cement wall. The alliteration creates a snaky hissing sound, and the words seem to reveal dreams with the weight of a serpent, writing, eschewing vanity (smiling monkeys “spit on mirrors”), vulgarity and its slippery steps, slinking and sinking into the night’s moon…and silence. Is this a dream of awakening — an uncoiling spiral of kundalini energy? A anxious, sexual dream filled with innuendo? What significance does this hold for the writer? What compelled him to write his dream on the wall?
I also read author and blogger, Dr. Jean Raffa’s post on the significance of dreams. It’s a exploration in brilliant decoding, explaining the meaning and symbols a particular dream revealed to her. These are the things that propel us towards spirit, their unfolding and synchronicity plug us in to a deeper awareness. But, they require an intimate relationship between our consciousness and our attention. In today’s world, we wade through information overload and a pull towards material possessions. Information is not knowledge. Objects are not symbols. They distracts us from tapping into discovery of the self. In the truth of that discovery, even when it’s painful, we have a better sense of the world and our relationship to it.
Both the wall poetry and Dr. Raffa’s blog reminded me of Paul Simon’s tune, Sound of Silence, with its recounting of a dark and moody dream. The image and symbolism remain with him when he wakes up. The song, written by Simon when he was only 21, is a cautionary tale of how our distraction, apathy and materialism point us in the wrong direction. Lack of awareness is isolating, and ultimately leads to a breakdown in communication. That kind of silence is never golden and a neon sign can never supplant our divine spark.
How about you? Do you focus on symbols, or objects? Are you brave enough to decipher and share share your dreams?
Sing with me, sing for the years,
Sing for the laughter, sing for the tears…
Steve Tyler‘s song has always haunted me. How could someone so young instinctively understand the arc of our human life in all of its mystery, and express it with such mature perspective? What? This rambunctious rock and roller?
“I know nobody knows, where it comes and where it goes….” The words takes us into the depth of our mortality; life and time are ephemeral. That wake up call comes to us at a tender age, when we lose a pet, a friend, or a parent: you means this all ends?
The mortal coil winds into our awareness, spiraling around us in our knowing, and, in our not knowing. While we are here, we seek a meaningful experience. We want to make some sense of the mystery. Sunrise, sunset.
Max Frisch said, “Time does not change us, it unfolds us.” Our life lessons are experiential, and they are book taught: they keep us grounded. Our dreams house our spirit, our mythology, our creativity, our divinity. Even in uncertain skies, our dreams teach us to fly.
We are rocking the mortal coil.
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The moon orbits the spinning earth, and in its phases and cycles, seemingly shows us aspects of itself: new, crescent, quarter, full. Although it appears to be changing shape on its journey, the moon is actually reflecting the light from the sun. It is always moving, intact, whole. In truth, the moon is always full.
Sometimes in our search for meaning, we tend to take concepts and symbols apart, and then focus on the parts, and not the whole. A symbol we are all familiar with is the Taoist symbol of the yin yang. The image is a static version of its wholeness. Life is always in motion, always in a process of becoming, and changing. Like the moon, the yin yang is a symbol for change, for motion, for the play of light and shadow. We think of it in halves, and opposites — but it is not day or night, fall and winter. It is all things: day becoming night, fall becoming winter, growth and decay. It is always moving, intact, whole. This is time.
In the richness of Jungian psychology, this concept and its symbols are understood, and utilized, as the anime and animus. The anima is the female aspect present in the collective unconscious of men, and the animus is the male aspect present in the collective unconscious of women. But this energy is not static, neither halves or opposites — male or female, logic or compassion, conscious or unconscious, light or shadow. It is always moving, intact whole. This is being.
Yeats said, “It takes more courage to examine the dark corners of your own soul than it does for a soldier to fight on the battlefield.” Our life path is to realize the self. Not merely to explore and reconcile our light and our shadow, but to awaken what already resides within us. Like the moon, we are reflecting light, serving as mirrors for one another, not static, but reflective, responsive. This is transcendence.
In truth, like the moon, we are always moving, intact, whole, and full.