Victim Blaming 101.

A friend sent me a newspaper clip from the Guardian, ‘Therapy Wars’, all about the battle between traditional Psychoanalysis and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy…

for the hearts and minds of the people.

The article emphasises their differences…

”At their core is a fundamental disagreement about human nature – about why we suffer, and how, if ever, we can hope to find peace of mind.” O. Burkeman.

but there is a great similarity in the two schools of thought that binds them like blood brothers..

and makes them equally nasty.

They both think you are the author of your own misery.

You stupidly bought this all on yourself.

Its a myth that Psychoanalysis has you endlessly trawling through your childhood. You trawl endlessly through what you think is your childhood.

What you say can’t be true.

It’s a fantasy.

Likewise CBT, for less money and time to be sure, will flog you the same idea. You’re being irrational. What happened to you, or failed to happen to you, is irrelevant. Your belief systems are the problem.

You think wrong.

So there is a fundamental point of agreement behind all the sabre rattling.

The child you once were can’t be trusted.

What you say happened can’t be real.

And the reason these two factions are duking it out as front runners, despite their debasement of childhood and disregard for the unfolding soul of a person is because they mirror back to us our own prejudicial, narcissistic contempt for the innocent, for there being any meaning in life other than the treadmill of what car you drive, your next exotic location and that long unrealised bucket list threatening to choke of your windpipe.

”You can measure a society by the way it treats its weakest member.” M. Ghandi.

In our society the way we treat people who have been abused and neglected to the point of despair..

is not to believe them.

‘‘I was at last obliged to recognise these (abuses) had never taken place. They were only fantasies..’’ S. Freud.

and in the blue corner…

”People and things do not upset us, we upset ourselves by believing they upset us.” A. Ellis (father of CBT)

So if you have a problem with being abused/raped/neglected…..

that is your problem.

”We need to teach children how not to upset themselves.” ibid

The inner world of the child is no longer heeded. Of course, we say we are listening…

and we really are…

but we are not hearing.

And we have a good reason for not hearing.

It would interrupt the process of using children as repositories for all the foully perpertrated mank in our own lives….

that nobody heard..

or saw.

And so the imaginal space between adult and child becomes impoverished and tilled with alien seed.

An example will serve…

I spent weeks looking for an old fashioned bike pump for my boy. The shops don’t stock them anymore. Amazon won’t send you one unless you by something else with it. Eventually I ordered the nearest equivalent from a dealer over the phone.

Through wrapping that has you feeling it must be Christmas comes not a lowly bike pump but something Luke Skywalker might keep under his pillow, halfway between a dildo and an icepick.

With a little guagey bit because kids are too stupid to know when the job is done…

And a calisthenically approved, ergonomically designed, fold out handle that will break in a week,

but….

…specially for the young adolescent male (because girls don’t ride bikes) a name branded on the side to give everyone the impression that you are fleeing a horde of  angry, cuckolded barbarians.

Double action valve!

Such things are what Lacan calls ‘part-objects’, a term he borrowed and modified from Melanie Klien to indicate something that has a purpose or significance over and above its function…

the attribution of something unconscious to a person or thing that cannot be allowed into a narcissistic self-construct.

”drive material that has become radically lost in the real” Lacan.

The pump is not for the bike.

It is to contain, compensate and symbolise all the adventures, all the imaginitive time, all the garden frolics and muddy lanes, wet dogs, warm eyes, windy days, and hot chocolate with marshmellows that never happened, that are still in some cosmic suspended animation whilst we perfect being slave to the machine of  a depersonalised world in which children, and our own inner child, are seen and not heard.

 

 

 

Shadow of the Warrior King.

I went down to the shops for a loo roll and came back with half a sack of coal and a mandolin.

Life is random.

And barring emergencies, loo rolls can wait.

Too much order gets oppressive.

I know this because I’ve done Oppression to the max..

and carried a big gun…

and drove around in armoured trucks…

with big wheels..

and 4mm bullet proof glass over tiny little teensy weensy windows with a metal flap on a hinge you could lower over it for your additional comfort and security.

Martial law prevails. You are the law. You are the Warrior king.

And all you have to do to have all that power, is to oppress the creative spirit inside you that might come home with a mandolin.

You will be well compensated.

There will be no horror or regret…

afterwards..

and you know that sharing badges is greater than music and dancing…

but you will need a population of the not-so-special…

upon which to vent your hard on.

and shoulder any feelings of inferiority, of not being wanted…

any… niggles you might have…

We’re shown how to do this in a quaint rail spike of a story from the Old Testament, the story of Sodom and Gomorah. Its not just the prurient morality involved or the titillated fantasy more interested in what those people were up to exactly.

Nor is it the problem that Lot and his missus were allowed to escape simply on the basis of being family to Abraham who was negotiating the whole thing with God. Even though they were as guilty as those left behind to horribly die.

Nor even the dubious justice rendered on Lot’s wife who was killed as dead for an innocent glance as the rest for their supposed orgies of anal delight.

No, what gets me is Abraham’s lack of creative solutions.  He doesn’t opt to be the one good man. Man and God are both just going through the motions of trying to be fair, sending Abraham off on tours of fiendish scum he’s already decided to deal with in a very particular way once the PR visit is over and the cameramen gone home.

It’s a done deal..

just enough time for his sinful nephew and family to escape justice.

In order for Abraham to participate in the dark numen of the Warrior King he has to give up his mandolin, the creative inspiration that might save the day…

truth is, he prefers burning places down.

or, perhaps just watching.

And if he’d been some obscure, inconsequential chieftan in Outer Patagonia or some remote Pacific Island rather than the father of both Israel and Palestine I might not feel compelled to place some much needed context on a war that has been raging one way or another since that ancient time.

because his sons Isaac and Ishmael hated each other.

And it was his fault.

Over a hundred generations and their grandsons’ grandsons are ready for fresh bouts of  fraternal vengeance.

Three thousand years on…

Which makes Abraham’s lack of creative solutions a big deal.

The truth is he has a vested interest in Isaac and Ishmael being at each other’s throats.

His possession by the archetype of the Warrior King is inflating. He’s all the more prone to it because his ego has been weakened by the opportunity to regress by Yahweh. He has to undermine any alliance or friendship between the boys because he hasn’t sufficient faith in his own natural authority or belief that his sons would be loyal till death.

Abraham’s willingness to slit Isaac’s throat at Yahweh’s say so sends both boys a message about where they stand..

you can be slaughtered without notice at any time.

An’ Yahweh knows all about how Abraham is using his sons and fuelling their enmity for one another. How he keeps alive feelings of unworthiness that even the passage of centuries fail to heal so that his own unworthiness in amongst their effects can pass un-noticed.

An Yahweh say nuffin’.

And Yahweh sees Abraham put aside the spiritually motivated possibility of being ‘the one good man’ for Sodom and Gomorah, prefering instead unconsciousness and infant raging.

An Yahweh say nuffin’.

Because Abraham’s failings are in His Name.

A man who has not failed to notice that God can be manipulated..

and all it would cost him is his mandolin.

Everyone suffers.

Abe’s collusive relationship with God has a number of repercussions. He has to participate in the unconscious life of Yahweh who refuses to talk about his ex..

DON’T MENTION HER NAME..

… who was split into three and cast out. So it comes to him as fate instead in the shape of three wives who are divided by rank, age and cast.

destroying the containment of the women’s tent, of childhood and the rules of succession..

so that doubt and envy might pre-occupy the boys rather than their father’s crown.

Each believing that the other has their father’s love, that there must be some failing  in themselves, somehow, yet still run through with hateful jealousy of that which has to exist…

and therefor must be in the other’s filthy possession.

And what Isaac and Ishmael don’t realise is that they have both been manipulated and short changed.

Because anyone who can burn down a town rather than go live in it and bring out its best doesn’t have much time for kids.

When Agammenon sacrifices his daughter, Iphigenia, to Artemis for favourable winds to Troy, History gasps in horror at the loss of soul a man must suffer to be so possessed by the archetype of the Warrior King, to kill his own child for plunder.

And yet we’re quite happy to have as the prototypical king of our own marvellous civilisation someone who likes to watch towns burn and would slit his child’s throat…

for the plunder of God’s favour.

Today he would be incarcerated in deep lock up before you could say ‘satanic abuse…’

and yet he is our great prophet..

and theirs..

We faithful children of the Warrior King.

The Crane Wife.

There was a poor weaver who finally had so little that he could not even afford to buy thread for the loom. In despair he goes out into the woods to look for food where he finds an injured crane. He takes it home and nurses it back to health with what little he has left.

After he releases the crane, a woman appears at his doorstep with whom he falls in love and marries. His new wife offers to weave silk that they can sell at the market, but only if he agrees never to watch her at the loom.

The cloth is wonderous.

So they sell the mysterious silk at a great price and live a comfortable life. But he soon makes her weave more and more. The house rattles and shakes with the shuttling of the loom. He fails to notice his wife’s declining health. His greed increases. His curiosity and wanting…

to know..

get the better of him.

Eventually he peeks in to see what she is doing to make the amazing silk. He is shocked to find the crane plucking feathers from her own body and weaving them into the loom.

The crane, seeing him, flies away and never returns.

oops…

Like the western version of this story, ‘the Elves and the Shoemaker’, where the cobbler is likewise down to his last, at the end of his teather, but receives magical help from elves who make the finest shoes…

but make off when the people involved want to know to much.

Curiosity does not kill the cat.

Greed and narcissistic entitlement do that.

The weaver is not simply satisfying a whim, he’s betrayed a trust…

but why should the rule apply to him?

Narcissism is not at all the popularly construed puffing up of the ego, like some grandiose bag of wind though it can look like that..

Nature abhors a vacuum and what takes residence is not always home grown. We naturally take in the psychic undercurrents of family life along which pathways through the under-brush can run forced traffic.

This is why the term ‘Symbiotic Omnipotence’ (M. Kahn) is so useful in understanding narcissistic entitlement. The narcissist is one end of an invisible double act with an intrusive parent who trades off rental space in the child for the greater challenge of living their own life.

This smudgy ‘bond’ creates..

”an imbalance in the articulation  of the total ego-capacities. Mother’s selective sponsoring leads to (ego) retardation.” M. Kahn.

I an’ me not talking.

Jung gives the example of a girl from his village who became a prostitute. He knew the family scenario and helped her to see that she was living out the unconscious life of her profoundly prudish parents. She was being used as a vessel for the sexual shame in the family.

The girl got a a more ordinary job.

The internalised collusive parent lets us off the hook in respect of ordinary standards of behaviour. So the narcissist is really a kind of Gollem. Originally the Gollem were fashioned out of clay and made to do their master’s secret bidding. For all the cold clay of Narcissism the life being lived is not their own.

And so the peeking weaver is both above the law and a slave to the unmediated passions and restless spirits of a destiny not quite his own and out to spoil his experience.

He gets off lightly.

When Acteon  intrudes on Diana’s bath in Greek mythology she turns him into a stag and has his hounds tear him apart.

When Hippomenes ‘knows’ Atalanta in the sacred crypt the furious goddess Cybele..

”considered plunging both as they copulated into Styx, the tar pit of bubbling hell.

But that seemed insufficient to her.

Instead she dropped maned hides over their sweating backs. Hardened and hooked their clutching fingers into talons…

..their loathsome fangs obedient only to the bridle-bits of Cybele.” T Hughes.

Psyche fares slightly better when she intrudes upon the secret of Eros’ face whom she’s been forbidden to see.

Eros wakes from a wounding drop of hot oil from Psyche’s lamp and immediately leaves foreover…

a lover’s tiff that leads to much questing….

strangely rooted in the mud of betrayal and fear.

M L von Franz makes the brilliant observation that there is something lurking in all this, ‘wanting to know’.

”The real motive in this rational depreciation is fear.” M L von Franz.

And given all the gods and giant snakes and tentacled nightmares lurking in the  swamplands of  Psyche its hardly surprising..

In fact what do you expect…?

”Civilised man reacts to new ideas by errecting psychological barriers to protect himself from the shock of facing something new.” CG Jung.

and the stab of fear is the challenge, not just to your pride but to your ontological security. The new thing does not just add to your house..

it can tear it down.

And so the weaver sabotages his own good fortune in order to be rid of the uncanny running through his life, the mysterious and unknowable Other.

Out of fear and inner poverty of spirit he resorts to action designed to depersonalise and diminish, rather than be humbled by gratitude. The peeking is a defensive means to an end.

”Enlightenment is a destructive process. It is a crumbling away of untruth, seeing through the facade of pretense, the eradication of everything we imagine to be true.” Adyashanti

To be attended by your creative muse is to be riddled with perplexity, chaos and unknowing.

It’ll be ok.

The house can be rebuilt.

 

Sweet Porridge.

Once upon a time there was a very poor mother and daughter. They were so poor that the only had the clothes on their backs and a tiny, ramshackle cottage with a leaky roof.

They were hungry aaal the time.

”Baby bawled for mama -skull savaged it,

Death-hunger anger, the kissless trap-clamp.” Ted Hughes.

One day all the mother could give the girl was a single dry biscuit.

”Make it last”, she said.

The girl went out into the forest to see what she could find. There she met a very  old lady with a knapsack who knew of her plight.

”I haven’t eaten for three days,” sighed the old lady. ”Do you have anything to eat?”

And so the girl gave her that one biscuit she had.

”Baby bawled for mama -skeleton skelped it,

Clash of crockery knuckles, the shatter bottle bones.” ibid

”That was very kind”, said the old lady, ”and now I’m going to give you something.” And out of her knapsack she pulled out a small iron pot.

”This is a magical pot. It won’t work for me but it will work for you,” she explained. ”When you want to eat, say…

”Little pot, cook!

”And when you’ve had enough, say…’

”Little pot, enough!”

So the girl rushes in with the pot to show her mother. She sets it on the kitchen table and says…

”Little pot, cook!”

And before you know it the pot has filled up with porridge.

”Baby bawled for Mama, grave grinned, gripped it,

windowgap teeth and a flagfloor tongue…” ibid

They had three bowls each.

‘Little pot, enough!”

And they were never hungry again.

Then one day, mother got a bit peckish while the girl was out at play and thought she’d have a bowl or two of porridge seeing as there was such an endless supply an’ all……

….though it took her a couple of goes to remember exactly what to say to the pot…

”Cook, little pot…”

”Porridge, pot…”

”Little pot, cook…”

And when she got it right the little pot duly obliged till she’d had her fill.

‘Stop, little pot…’

”Little pot, stop…’

”Cease and desist, oh pot…”

But the magic words weren’t right and the pot kept making porridge till it started to pour off the table and onto the floor..

”Stop it, pot…”

”Frickin hey, pot..”

”Mama came, with her bull nostrils

Mama came in the skin of a weasel..” ibid

But the pot kept making porridge. It filled the kitchen till the door squeezed off it’s hinges. It squidged the roof off. It poured out into the street and down the hill. It porridged everything.

The girl was coming up the hill and saw the terrible oaty flood, guessing immediatley what had happened..

”Little pot, enough!”

And so the little pot stopped making its porridge…

but not without considerable damage to..

everything.

In a culture where the divine feminine is repressed, relatedness in general and mothering in particular are going to become impoverished. Having had her own sacred bedrock eroded and devalued, mother has less to pass on to her daughter than she might…

precious little to nourish her spiritual life.

A single dry biscuit.

It’s not her fault.

The systematic, unrelenting depracation of the sacred feminine through untold generations takes its toll in every generation, compounded with time, lived out as an unnameable loss, a vague unease, a sense of not belonging, lack of worth and emotional deprivation.

Life unravels where it cannot unfurl.

We pride ourselves on how evolved we are, so much so that its almost counter-intuitive to suggest that ours is a culture wrung through with emotional deprivation. After all, we have everything. And yet one wonders whether this fixation on having to have everything is not part of the problem, our way of trying to deal with it.

Consumer society takes in more than it actually needs in response to a deep undercurrent in the psyche that remains unfed despite the gorging. Likewise, the compulsion to provide the next generation with over and above what they need is a poverty based gesture that attempts to compensate the loss of relatedness endemic in Single System systems…

We will go to extraordinary lengths to deny this..

”People will do anything, no matter how absurd, to avoid facing their own souls. …” CG Jung.

We also do this collectively. We do it with aggressive, vehement determination. Our collective inner poverty and emptiness are projected onto nations and peoples in much the same way as the individual narcissist will use those about him to emotionally feed from and into whom he will deposit his waste.

The deprived child needs others, not for companionship (for that ship has already sailed) but as carriers of unbearable anguish. He is pragmatic in his priorities. A culture imbued with the gnawing hunger of this inner poverty will resort to similar strategies. A container must be found and preferably held behind razor wire.

or a nice 6m stone wall….

Having to give up your biscuit is too much cognitive dissonance for the dominant myth of what a pinnacle we are. We split ourselves to deal with it…

schooled in double-think…

and so we’re perfectly happy with the paradox of invading people for their own good and actually need the contradictions of food mountains alongside starving millions in order to be reassured that the madness is really only happening to some one else…

in far far away land.

We bring nations to their knees, militarily and materially, for reasons far greater than stealing their grain store. Or doing the right thing. We create economic systems of recurring famine so that we can have entire peoples to shoulder the projection of our unacknowledged collective hungering.

It’s certainly true that..

”every gun that is made is theft from those that hunger…” D Eisenhower.

but the full irony is that we then point those guns precisely at the Hungry in order to compell them to continue shouldering the starving shadow of the West.

while we help them….

develop

with contracts to fund the infrastructure needed to maintain the poverty we are ostensibly alleviating…

but cannot for that would be to face it in ourselves. The heroine of our story faces the reality of her situation. Her single biscuit cannot be denied.

So the girl has to go into the forest to find something that will feed her.

”If we don’t have what we need from our parents it may be necessary to go to the Great Mother and the Great Father.” Sylvia Brinton Perera.

The daughter gets what she needs from her ancient heritage. It is often the case that deprivation and loss are initiators in life, dark pits that press the youth to brave the wild forest and discover the true extent of her own inner depths.

She meets the Great Mother who tests her to see if her heart is still in the right place despite all her trials and suffering, to make sure that she has not become overly bitter, grasping or turned to self-pity.

The gift of the biscuit is a form of self-sacrifice, a gesture that acknowledges there is more to life than the satisfaction of need . She gives herself in service to a higher principle. Not to mention a brush with death, that great quickener of consciousness….

Its a kindness that cannot go unrewarded. Honouring the deep psyche has a way of making it’s treasures available to us. When you stop trying to bend Life into some prescribed shape before agreeing to live it to the full….

Life loves you back.

The magic pot is a vessel of transformation. Raw and indigestible experience is cooked until it becomes edible and nourishing.

But its important to remember whose pot it is.

Like many a mother whose potential has been hobbled, whose opportunities have been curtailed, the mother in our story unwittingly lives out her forgotten hopes for redemption, her own wholeness, through her child.

Its understandable.

The child,

“will arouse certain longings in the adult … longings which relate to the unfulfilled desires and needs of those parts of the personality which have been blotted out..” CG Jung

The problem is greater than deprivation. Nature abhors a vacuum and tends to fill it with porridge.

Other people’s porridge.

With bull nostril and weasel skin.

”the disturbing forces that lie below the level of conscious adult life are intuited by the unconscious of the child and give rise to vague fears, apprrehensive fantasies and disturbing dreams.” F. Wickes

and its left to the child concerned to put an end to it….

”an irrevocable loss for no new and finer comradeship takes place of the outgrown one….” ibid

all of which means, perhaps, that the greatest thing we can do for our kids is to find own porridge pot, to have gone looking in the woods ourselves and discovered meaning in life when they are not around.

The Magic Anthill.

I was once locked up in a Zambian jail for an irregularity in my passport, a stinking cell where three African brothers offered to share their single blanket and the newspaper sheets that served as their bed. I didn’t sleep a wink and as dawn broke I noticed a fourth man sitting apart from us. He had been utterly silent the whole night, curled into an upright foetal ball and balanced on his feet to avoid the cold floor. It was a posture that had the print of long practice stamped upon it.

I asked the others about him. In sufficient broken English to make himself understood one of the brothers explained to me that he had been here for many years. He tapped his temple meaningfully.

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Every day a family member dropped off a bag of peanuts and an orange for him at the charge desk. He received no visitors. No-one spoke to him. Even the brothers seemed to shun him. Over the several days that it took to negotiate my freedom I watched him carefully.

Initially I was afraid. After a while I got curious. He said nothing and rarely moved except to sun himself in the open corridor for the few hours of every day we were allowed out of our cell.
He’d perch himself in a corner, trousers rolled up, with his legs dangling out of the bars that ran down one side of the corridor. There he would meticulously shell his peanuts and build a perfect cone of the empty husks. He would attend to this in great detail, balancing each shell with great care.

If any shell tumbled down he’d retrieve and replace it with quiet urgency until the cone was complete. Then he would peel his orange. Each rind was used to decorate and surround the cone. Every last scrap of white pith was removed with infinite delicacy and used to crown his creation. Then he’d break open the orange with all the seriousness and ceremony of a priest presiding over communion.

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Each segment was savoured as if it was ambrosia. Deep pleasure and contentment etched his face as he lingered over every last morsel. When he was finished he leant his entire body against the bars of the prison in exhausted gratitude for several minutes before extracting an astonishingly clean handkerchief from an inner recess of his otherwise filthy clothes and carefully wiped the corners of his mouth. His sacrament was complete.

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On the third day, I was pacing up and down impatiently, waiting for word of my release. As I passed him he looked up at me with infinite kindness in his face and asked in impeccable English, ‘ Would you like a piece of my orange, Sir?’’

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How was it possible? This poor wretch had been imprisoned without charge in a filthy, stinking jail and yet he could still create his artistic cones and offer me some of his meagre rations with a loving smile! I was delighted but confused and humbled. He had evidently found something in his inner world to sustain him, something it would take me decades to discover myself.

Whilst we were all locked up for the remainder of the day I talked with the three brothers. The heat and stink was so great that we had to lay down on the floor to avoid it, noses to the crack under the door where a little fresh air blew in. We told stories to while away the hours. The one I remember best was a folk tale from that part of the world about a magic anthill, which the oldest brother told with theatrical embellishment, urged on and liberally corrected by the other two.

It concerned a young woman, Umushamwise, who refused all her father’s suggestions of marriage. One day as she was collecting water by the river a handsome stranger approached her. He was wounded and asked her to take him to her father’s house where he might rest and mend. She looked after him and gradually they fell in love.

The two were married and the young woman went with her new husband to his far off village as was the custom. Her younger sister was unhappy about this. She didn’t trust the handsome stanger and so she followed them, showing herself finally after the long journey.

Umushamwise was furious, especially whern she learned her reasons, but she was allowed to stay for the time being. Every day the husband went off and always returned with fresh meat. The young sister’s suspicions grew. One day she snuck after him and was shocked to see him climb up an anthill…

”find me fresh meat,’ he commanded.

The anthill magically took off across the open bush in pursuit of game. Even more amazingly the husband became transformed into a huge lion which easily pounced on his quarry.

The young sister rushed back and told Umushamwise the story but she didn’t believe her, scolding her for jealousy. That night the frightened youngster couldn’t sleep and so she was awake to hear the soft padding of great paws outside their hut in the graveyard hours. The lion/husband pushed the door open and was about to devour his bride when the girl let out a warning yell.

”What’s the matter?” asked the husband quickly resuming his human form.

‘Nothing, I just have a stone in my bed.’

Come morning she told Umushamwise what happened. Again she scolded her young sister, so the next night the resourceful youngster tied a thread to her older sister’s finger and when the lion/husband came in she tugged on it and Umushamwise woke up. Her screams chased the lion/husband away and they both fled into the night.

”What shall we do?” cried Umushamwise.

”I know”, said the girl and he rushed over to the magic anthill. ”Carry us home,” she commanded. And so the anthill took off leaving the lion/husband roaming the bush forever in search of them.

Over the years I have reflected upon how this story so well described how the other prisoner in our midst that day could maintain such dignity and how poetically it used cultural symbols to pinpoint the dangers of the creative process.

In order to live  creatively we must metaphorically leave home. Consciousness has to be greater than the product of mere collective ideals represented by Umushamwise’ father’s choice of suitors. She chooses the wounded stranger, the unknown inner man, the’ suffering servant’ which initiates consciousness on the path of individuation.

The creative possibility is now a real prospect though full of trepidation personified by the fretful young sister who fears for the heroine’s safety since ego consciousness is fragile and easily overwhelmed by the Unconscious.

The ambiguous nature of our creative impulses soon appears as the shapeshifting lion/husband who comes stealing into the hut at night.

”The sacred marriage is both desired and dreaded. From a distance it is the source of all yearning. But knocking at the door it is an object of terror.” E. Edinger.

Umushamwise is understandably reluctant to realise what she has let herself in for..

”Pray you never step upon the path, for once there you cannot get off.”Zen proverb.

Drawing upon the wellsprings of creativity deep in the Unconscious is a risky business and she has to become allies with her dark sister, her shadow, that follows her and tells her what she doesn’t want to hear in order to get out in one piece.

This encounter with the devouring aspect of the Unconscious personified by the lion/husband is a necessary precursor to the realisation of the creative self symbolised by the dynamic anthill. Ethologist Eugene Marais’ brilliant work, ‘the Soul of the White Ant’, observes that the Anthill is a single organism. As such it is,  like the Self,  unity in multiplicity, a paradox that requires the sisters be singing from the same hymn sheet in order not to be dismembered.

When threatened by unconscious forces…

”there is still something which can rescue one. The unconscious is not only chaos but also order…’ ML von Franz.

Speaking of the role played by the ants as agents of the Self in the story of Psyche and Eros von Franz says..

”The ants have mysterious unexplored qualities, they just collaborate.” ibid

but only in the wake of a brush with death.

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Creativity is not the same as making things. It is not even a precondition for it.
We confine creativity..

‘’to certain conventional areas of human endeavour, unconsciously assuming that any painter, any poet, any composer, was leading a creative life.’’Maslow 

It is not so. Nor is it so that anyone deprived of paint, clay, wood or ink cannot be creative.

The problem is that..

‘’he who begats something which is alive must dive down into the primeval depths in which the forces of life dwell. And when he rises to the surface there is a gleam of madness in his eyes because in those depths life lives cheek by jowl with death’’. W. Otto.

Creating is akin to dying.

‘’As often as life engenders itself anew, the wall which separates itself from death is momentarily destroyed.’’ (ibid).

The outer world is equally unforgiving. Creative people are invariably sanctioned for their pains, sometimes killed or imprisoned for their vision whether they be playing on the world stage like Ghandi, Kennedy and Mandela or like the nameless sage in an isolated jail who offered me some of his orange.

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If we are to remain truly creative we have to refrain from certainty and the illusion of ‘knowing’. Creativity requires the kind of tension between opposites that threaten to pull us apart like wild horses.

Creativity demands internal diversity, but identity depends upon our inner landscapes remaining fairly static. To be clear about who I am means to be one thing or another. To be neither is just a big mess, not to mention the brush with death that constitutes that first crack opening up between consciousness and its contents.

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The creative moment requires a letting go of the dominant way of knowing ourselves. It is “the ‘sacrificium’ ,

“Where everything is neither thinking, nor feeling, nor sensation, nor intuition. Something new comes up, a completely different and new attitude towards life.” von Franz.

And so, when you feel ‘stuck’, or have some frustrating creative block, you would do well to remind yourself that the lion/husband is breathing down your neck and that what will save the day is not more effort on your part but the shadow sister tugging on your finger.

Healing the Anxious Heart.

We live in what W.H. Auden calls, ‘the Age of Anxiety.’
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“We would rather be ruined than changed
We would rather die in our dread
Than climb the cross of the moment
And let our illusions die.”  W.H. Auden.
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Like no other, our era is suffused with a nameless trepidation that trawls our inner landscapes…
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”like droves of cattle, like soldiers marching, or big flakes of foam on a flooded river pushing on through the brain.” P. Kennedy.
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It is also true that never has so much time and effort been spared to counteract anxiety. We spend billions on therapy and medication to little avail. In fact our efforts seem so fruitless that one cannot help but ponder at the possibility that our remedies are part of the problem.
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The fact is that…
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”nothing goes away until it teaches us what we need to know.” Pema Chodron.
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Do we have something to learn from anxiety?
Could it be there for a reason?
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Our age is also one, as never before, that is rooted in material values and aspirations. We pursue comfort and security as if it were the Holy Grail. Our collective goals are not betterment or growth or being part of something, but relaxation, having the kind of life that has as the index of its success being able to lie by the pool.
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We work, not to contribute or to rise to a challenge, but so that we can be protected from tomorrow. Our hopes and dreams are circumscribed by palm trees, white sand and secure investments.
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We veiw pain and suffering as a malevolent force to be defended against at all costs, almost as if it were a sacred duty.
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This polarisation of life restricts us…
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”Consciousness must involve both pleasure and pain. The more we struggle for pleasure (only) the more we are actually killing what we love.” A. Watts.
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Because we can’t or won’t find meaning in anxiety, opting rather for the search and destroy scenario, so to are we compelled to eradicate the pleasures of life and fail to be replenished by them.
Wanting only half the pie we get none of it.
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The Western cult of consciousness leads us to believe that we really can have one without the other. We then suppress and project our anxiety onto unfortunate others, raising razor wire between our successful selves and those who seem to have lost their protective amulets. Like any projection, this exerts a fascination over us and so we sit compulsively glued to the endless newscasts depicting their misery.
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But anxiety is part of life. Material ruin, environmental disaster and the machinations of evil regimes are but a few of Anxiety’s playing fields.
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One of Nobel Prize winner A. Solzhenitsyn’s great insights is that blows of fate are not to be avoided or eschewed as meaningless. He refers to his own imprisonment as ‘concentrated living.’
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”It is extremely important to recognise that the uncontrollable caprice of fate await everyone. Illness, catastrophe, accidents and death are only another form of arrest, trial, prison and punishment camp.” A. Weatherall.
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The more we try to avoid it the worse it gets.
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”The desire for security and the feeling of insecurity are the same thing.” A.Watts.
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Despite our antipathies Anxiety’s roots are given considerable room to spread from the very start of life in Western culture. The suppression of the Divine Feminine does more than undermine the inner life of women. It undermines us all.
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”In emotional development, the precursor of the mirror is the Mother’s face. What a child sees (there) is…. themselves. What she looks like is what baby takes itself for.” Whitmont
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Regardless of mother’s devotion to her baby, the deprivation of access to the sacred mysteries of her sex, the lived experience of the Great Mother, is bound to leave her inner life anxiously uprooted. These cracks in life’s mirror..
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”interrupt (baby’s) going-on-being and give rise to threats of annihilation.” D Winnicott.
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So we have more than our fair share of anxiety from the start. Yet even this is an Ariadne’s thread to return us to the truth of Christendom’s inner impoverishment and longing that is the legacy of the lost Goddess.
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Moreover, life really is short, nasty and brutish. Our fragility, impermanence and mortality is something to be anxious about. Those who are not anxious in the face of such ontological givens are either sages or psychopaths. The former are liberated only by the paradox of accepting anxiety for what it is and the latter are hardly role models.
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Our issue is not simply that we are suffused with anxiety and continuously at war with it but that..
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”we have forgotten how to be anxious about the right thing.” S Kierkegaard.
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After all,  there is a sense in which the unconscious holds us in the palm of its hand.
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”Something unknown is doing I don’t know what.” E. Ramirez.
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The cult of consciousness dismisses these archetypal stratae of the psyche at its anxious peril. Rather we ought…
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”to experience these forces anew and not wait for our moods, nervous states and delusions to make it clear in the most painful way that we are not masters of our own houses.” C.G. Jung
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Our situation is not unlike the protagonist in ‘the life of Pi’, who finds himself on a small boat with a tiger, except that in our case we never quite get around to really acknowledging the fact and only ever concede to catching the swish of its tail out of the corner of our eye, giving rise to nameless apprehension rather than awe and cautious wonder.
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”Heart, alone in the night, beat.
Beat for all you are worth.
Be the night’s pulse,
Be the blackbird about to sing.
Somewhere under the earth the waters break.” J. Moat
 

The Pearl that Shone in the Dark.

The Dragon King of the Eastern Ocean was keen to find a suitor for his beautiful and clever daughter but she would have none of it, turning every one of them away.

”I don’t want a rich man or high official,” she said, ”just someone who is kind and brave.”

The king’s ministers soon ran out of ideas until Lobster remembered that there was just such a boy called A-er who lived nearby in a poor fishing village by the bay. He sent the boy a dream to come down to the shore that night. A-er woke, but as he was getting dressed he made the mistake of telling his greedy brother who followed him down to the shore.

The princess was there to meet A-er but she became confused by the sudden appearance of two young men both wanting to be her husband, so she said…

”I’ll have the one who can bring me the pearl that shines in the dark. You can find it in my father’s palace.”

She gave them both a silver hair pin that would part the waters of the stormiest sea so that they could find their way and then she disappeared back beneath the waves.

The greedy brother borrowed a neighbour’s horse and galloped off. A-er made his way slowly on foot.

It was a long way.

Eventually the greedy brother, who was far ahead, came to a flooded village. When the villagers discovered he was on his way to the Dragon King they begged him to bring back the Golden Pumpkin that was kept in the palace, the only thing that could stem the flood.

But the greedy brother had other things on his mind.

When A-er arrived they asked him for help as well.

‘I’ll see what I can do.’

When they arrived the Dragon King was waiting.

‘I have been expecting you,’ he said, ‘you may pick what you please from my storehouse, but only one piece of treasure.’

The storehouse was magnificent. The walls were inlaid with precious stones, the floor was of jade and the roof of gold. Treasure was mounted up in heaps and topping them all, the shining pearl.

A-er sighed, he thought of the princess and then of the flooded villagers. He stood in the middle of all the treasure and listened intently to the Deep Silence. Then he pulled out the Golden Pumpkin from under a pile of diamonds.

”Allow me this, oh mighty king.”

The greedy brother had meanwhile seized the pearl and hurriedly departed.

When the greedy brother reached the flooded village they asked,

”do you have the Golden Pumpkin?”

”No, the king wouldn’t give it to me.”

And he rode on.

When A-er arrived he showed the despairing villagers what he had bought and they were overjoyed. The flood waters dried up in an instant.

Someone noticed a shell that the waters had left behind. Inside was a dull black pearl which they gave to A-er out of gratitude. It seemed worthless but it warmed his heart so he tucked it in his tunic and trudged home.

Meanwhile, night had fallen.

The greedy brother arrived back at the bay.

‘I have bought the pearl!’ he shouted to the Princess who was waiting. ”Take it and become my wife.’

He pulled out the pearl, but it had lost all of its radiant glow….

‘Impossible..!’

He held it higher but it burst in his hand leaving behind only a drop of muddy water…

A-er arrived some days later…

‘I’m sorry, Princess. I failed. I was unable to bring back the pearl.

‘What do you have in your tunic?’

He pulled out the muddy black pearl the villagers had given him and held it out to her. As he did so it began to glow, shining all around, brighter than the moon and bathing the beach in  mysterious light.

She threw it up into the air where a great mansion suddenly appeared, the pearl fixed to the highest point as if to light the way.

The Princess took his hand.

‘That is the glow of your kind and brave soul,’ she said quietly…

and led him inside.

This ancient story from China exemplifies one of life’s greatest spiritual truths and the power of heeding one’s inmost voice which, though not a part of the physical world, still has the power to affect it.

We often think of the inner voice as Conscience, like Pinnochio’s Jiminy Cricket. But it is much more than that.
When we listen to the inner voice we are doing something quite miraculous, something more than a merely moral choice, something the alchemical tradition calls ‘contra naturam’, against nature or at least against our own nature, against our own self interests.
”The inner voice is the voice of a fuller life, of a wider, more comprehensive consciousness. Carl Jung.
The quiet inner voice is the calling of Soul itself, which not only has a greater perspective than the ego but also has the capacity to bring about unforseen events. We may resist this calling because what it suggests seems beyond our abilities or compells us to painfully reinvent ourselves.
The inner voice can bring us into conflict with what we want, or think we want. It makes demands of us that have a way of contradicting intentions, that may seem destructive or just plain stupid.
Nevertheless…
”He who obeys that voice, which deep in his soul, is subject to no rational control, then roads open up to him of their own accord which lead not only to the the preserving of what he thought he had given up by obeying this mysterious inner compass, but also to the fulfillment of his most secret wishes.” A Weatherall.
If, despite our own needs for self preservation, we have the courage to get behind the promptings from within…
 ”a whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no-one could have dreamed would have come his way.” Goethe
Such synchronicities are testimony to the fact that you are on the right track and should take heart from the tough road you have chosen to follow. Even though you may feel without resources or support at the time.
”It seems impossible until it is done.” N Mandela
If you can traverse the difficulties involved despite some seemingly counter-intuitive choices that have to be made en route, then not only will character be built but you may also gain the very things you imagine you have renounced.

The Secret of Sacrifice.

Carry me, carry me.

We’d been dropped by chopper onto the edges of a firefight in deep brush with orders to set up an ambush along the most likely escape route from the main punchup 800 yards further up a narrow valley.

Carry me, carry me.

We were feeling bullish,

in the mood.

Only, the Ops room doesn’t always get it right.

Information can be sketchy….

and that day they had missed a piece of the jigsaw in the shape of a lone RPD gunner safely ensconced somewhere up on one of the granite ‘kopjes’ that lay in a great semi circle around us, ancient hills worn to the bone.

And he was there first.

As soon as the gunship was out of sight he raked us with automatic fire.

Carry me, carry me.

D—- was caught out in the open. He went down screaming. I had a low boulder to flatten myself behind 10 yards to his right. D—- was totally exposed. On his back now, broken arms flopping over his chest, trying to push himself to safety with his heels.

He wasn’t going to make it.

Carry me, carry me.

I was a gunner myself…big ‘ol MAG 762, way heavier and clumsier than the weapon currently making short work of us. I put it down on its bipod and went across to where D—– lay bleeding. The ground beneath my feet erupted with gunfire, just like in the movies. Dust everywhere. Crack and thump blurred into a roar of sound. When they are very close they go… zzzip. ZZzzipp. ZZzipppp.

Carry me, carry me.

I grabbed D—- and swung him over my shoulder. By now it was more Chinese New Year than Fourth of July. He was a small guy. Only seventeen the day before. Light as a feather.

Bookies would have given me slim odds on coming out unscathed. Had the even bet played out there would have been a short ceremony, some fluttering ribbon, bowed heads; my Commanding Officer would have spoken movingly about the ultimate sacrifice. Shots would have been fired over the coffin.

‘Greater love hath no man…’

Which is nice an’ all…

but that was not my experience.

I wasn’t risking my life for his at all.

Hell, I hardly knew the guy.

The important thing was that my life was not at risk at all.

I was already dead.

And I was good with that.

So there was no fear to overcome. No laudable gesture made above and beyond the call of Duty. No trait worth pinning a medal on.

Au contraire…

Because being dead already meant that the ten yards to D—-‘s blood soaked frame was the closest I’d ever come to religious experience.

Which was new…

My purpose was not to engage the enemy.

It was to fight and die.

To throw myself gloriously into the arms of Death.

And so I was entirely calm. I was one with my purpose. Calm enveloped me, ran through my veins like cool silk.

I was going home.

Carry me, carry me.

And so you see PTSD is not just about the shock of blood and guts. It is also about the confusion that you are still alive, that your mission is incomplete and that the liquid calm is felt in absence like an exiled lover.

A contemporary idiom for this phenomenon is the lead character Walter White from the hugely successful TV hit ‘Breaking Bad’, whose entire purpose is self-sacrifice, who feels he’s lived too long and whose response to his cancer being in remission is, ‘Why me?’

Macro lens. In ancient times people made sacrifices to their Gods, acts of propitiation and atonement…

“The ritual acts of man are an answer and a reaction to the action of God upon man”. CG Jung

carry me, carry me.

It seems that our own culture has less need of such things, or that we have risen above such heathen nonsense..

apparently..

that we have no need to participate in such foolishness..

not consciously anyway.

and a timeless tradition just… evaporated in the light of reason..

at least that’s how it seems.

Carry me, carry me.

until the gnostic gospels surfaced at Nag Hammadi and cast the kind of light on millenial events that prompted the Church to rebury many of them in the bowels of the Vatican as fast as they surfaced.

Lines like these from the apocryphal book of Thomas….

”if you bring out what is inside you then what is inside you will save you. If you do not bring out what is inside you will kill you.” Gospel of Thomas.

These lines are like plague virus to religious authorities. They obviate the need for church and place the responsibility for redemption firmly back in our own hands….

But its the gospel of Judas that is the platinum shocker. Jesus says..

”Truly [I] say to you, Judas… you will exceed all of them. For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me. Already your horn has been raised, your wrath has been kindled, your star has shone brightly, and your heart has [been hardened…][11]

allegedly…

OOoooo….

So, no betrayal or dying so that others might live or atoning for the sins of Humanity. And its not the authenticity of the document that counts as much as the vehemence of Church denounciation, the lip quivering…

‘HOW VERY DARE YOU?’

So what is it that is so worth hiding for 2000 years?

on pain of…

well, whatever makes folk bury stuff in a hurry.

We know very well that in the psychology of the individual what we resist persists and that denied material manifests symptomatically. So too, whatever is cast out of the Collective Psyche will manifest in some form of mass compulsion instead.

If we consider the new twist given by Judas to the whole question of what might be meant by the ‘Immitation of Christ’ we might also reflect on what’s happened to the tradition of sacrifice in Western tradition.

Try to chuck it out and it will just go underground.

You are the sacrifice.

You don’t appease Yahweh just by obeying. Something has to be given. Something valuable, something to be made sacred. The brightest and the best. Like the protagonists from the movie, ”Chariots of Fire” going as one ‘over the top’ of their battle trenches and running gracefully towards the enemy machine guns..

already dead.

Carry me, carry me.

Its a tragedy of course,

senseless..

but no-one asks,

‘what are they doing exactly?’

and try to make sense of it.

… sacrifices of light..

for the Dark face of God.

Mega macro lens. The problem with a system built upon the polarisation of good and evil is not just the issue of shadow projections onto a suitably handy enemy. Without all kinds of internal dialogue there isn’t a strong enough ego structure to stick in the throat of unfolding archetypal drama, let alone those now relegated to Vaudeville.

Which means we give ourselves far too much credit with the idea that the ontological security of ancient traditions has been a worthwhile loss for the boon of ego development. Ego is still a rare beast and mostly what we mean by ‘egotistical’ is someone with only one functioning corner of themselves rather than four, who has run up a flag to boot and whose puffed up sense of self is easily overun by archetypal forces.

Carry me, carry me.

This single standpoint is fragile, vulnerable, open to being swamped by archetypal contents, particularily those split off and denied by God, the divine feminine, the dark brother, rapturously self-immolating Dionysus/Attis who, given the revelations of Judas, are cultural variants of the god/man Jesus.

When these suppressed aspects of the Collective join forces, instead of Christendom doing what it says on the tin, we have a distorted deification of Mater instead, the cult of consummerism, the devouring of time and the destruction of individuality.

Its not just on the battlefield that life is sacrificed for the sake of propitiating the apocryphal face of Yahweh. The living out of merely collective ideals, becoming slaves to the dollar, mortgaging ourselves to the hilt, sacrificing ourselves to a narcissistic partner, starving ouselves to skin and bone or feeding addiction; all these things are also acts of self-immolation commensurate with the story, embeded deep in our psyches, of the self-dismembering god.

Carry me, carry me.

Without a strong ego the narcissistic child of Christendom..

”becomes collectivised from within.. he becomes (identified with) an archetype. The greater the identification with the youthful god the less individual he is and yet he feels so special.” ML von Franz.

Childhood deprived of the Great Mother, drycleaned of the less than salubrious sides of the Gods, has the same effect as parents who keep themselves apart from their kids, who have dark secrets and prefer rosier versions of the truth.

The kids are raised deprived of real contact..

with the sacred feminine, the dark masculine…

and so act out their ancient stories and throw themselves on millenial pyres instead.

”We are dominated by whatever it is with which we are unconsciously identified.” C. Schwartz.

Imagine then, the state of mind of those first proponents of martial self-sacrifice, the Crusaders, who cantered about the Holy Land for Centuries with this prayer on their lips..

“Hearken we beseech Thee, O Lord, to our prayers, and deign to bless with the right hand of Thy Majesty this sword with which They servant desires to be girded that it may be the terror and dread of all….” Oath of the Crusaders

Unfortunatly…

there is a hidden clause in any contract that allows you to charge a five foot steel spike with divine power..

that’s right…

No-one is going home.

Seen to by Phillip (the fair) of France who happily burned 3,000 of them at the stake..

but they were on the same side…

That’s how it works….

Carry me, carry me.

The ancient Greeks had a better sense of  things in this respect because the symbol of self-sacrifice was consciously recognised. You could talk about it in a way that wouldn’t get you killed.

And so it turns out that Ares/Dionysus, gods of War and Chaos, are more readily propitiated when you admit that they are in the room. The impulse to sacrifice oneself to a cause can find more constructive expression. In fact these forces could even be invoked for peace…

“Ares, stay furious contests, and avenging strife, whose works with woe embitter human life; to lovely Kyrpis [Aphrodite] and to Lyaios [Dionysos] yield, for arms exchange the labours of the field;  encourage peace, to gentle works inclined,  and give abundance, with benignant mind.” Orphic fragment.

The problem is not the fact of Chaos or Self-destructive impulses but of the degree to which they are allowed conscious and therefore safe expression.

Ecstatically throwing yourself at the enemies’ bayonets is just one of a number of ways you can go. There are options. You can also live out someone else’s idea of what life should look like.

if you want.

Or devote yourself to the sacred task of being the family scapegoat.

if you like.

But sacrifice can also be expressed through service to the community, a parent’s devotion to a child, heeding an unexpected opportunity that was not part of the official plan…letting creativity have its way with you, giving up how life has to be.

but best of all is the self-sacrifice that offers up the unrealised cloth-head we once thought it so fine to be. To be chastened by it. To see our pride in how evolved we are as just one more piece of spiritual materialism, to witness the breast beating loner in his/her beflagged corner with some compassion, and to realise that if there is to be peace in the world then we must begin with the zealot within.

Carry me, carry me.