Thursday, April 11, 2019

Reflections on the victim archetype


“At seven or eight, I wanted to be an anthropologist; both mother and father told me that was not a profession for a woman!”
“At fifteen, I wanted to be an engineer; both mother and father told me that was not a profession for a woman!”
“When I decided to be a dentist, I told no one, and became one!”
Those were the words of an immigrant dentist, yesterday, while I was sitting in her patient chair.

This story was followed by others, especially endemic to Canada, about a young, vigorous young man from Northern Ontario, Sudbury, to be specific, who, upon telling his parents he wanted to be a medical doctor, heard these words from his mother: “You cannot do that; we are not that kind of people or family!”
Another brief sketch emerged in the same conversation.

“I once dated a young woman then a nursing student, the daughter of a radiologist. When she offered that she wanted to ‘get serious’ about the relationship, after much deliberation, I rejected her invitation believing that I was not of that social class, and would not be able to keep up!”

Inferiority, as enmeshment in the victim archetype, slithers along the baseboards of our kitchens, lurks under the beds of our children, slides unobtrusively into the most innocuous conversations about the most important topics in our personal and our public lives. It wears a very seductive and deeply engrained historical mask, false humility, false modesty.

And in Canada, it also flags another of our least healthy traits: we will do anything to avoid being American. If an American (and the country by inference) is perceived, stereotypically, as a braggard, a self-promoter, a determined hero, a military behemoth, a corporate elephant, a loud-mouthed bully, then, living just north of that perceived “monster,” Canada has veered widely to the other side of the road, risking the ditch on the other side.

Victims inherently blame others for their fate, thereby avoiding even a modicum of responsibility. Victims seek out and lance, undermine, attack, defame, and pull down those who appear to succeed in climbing their own ‘mountain’ of achievement in whatever arena. Victims are also inextricably and dangerously enmeshed in the historic reasons for their victimhood, the attitudes and behaviour of their ancestors, their parents, teachers, bosses, partners and even peers.

Historically, in Canada, the “west” blames the “east” establishment for their alienation. Previously in Quebec, francophones blamed anglophones for their inferior status in the governance of the country. Provinces, traditionally and predictably, blame the federal government (as Ford-Morneau demonstrate again), rural citizens blame urban dwellers (now the vast majority) for their lack of government services. Many in therapy adopt the focus on “family of origin” issues for their own complexities and deficiencies.

Yet, if and when a primary national archetype is ‘victim’ whether of the barren wilderness, of the climate, of the hardships of removing the impeding rocks from a potential hay field, of the lack of human services because of distance and transportation facilities, it is only natural that individuals will gravitate to the ‘victim’ myth as a metaphor that, like the kaleidoscope’s turn, brings the coloured disks into clear focus. Interesting and intimate dialogue frequently turns to “past life” incidents, statements, judgements, betrayals, abandonments, divorces, deaths, accidents, bankruptcies, heavily tilting the scales of our unique perceived victimhood’s constellation of influences. At the same time, especially noticeable in Canada, (as compared with the U.S.) we discreetly and deliberately minimize/avoid/deny/disavow/brush off any references to significant accomplishments, unless and until the party conversations reach a turning point where bragging competitively becomes a kind of game.

Political promises, in so many cases, ring hollow, given our deeply ingrained distrust of such dream-like visions, on top of our subconscious (unconscious?) enmeshment in our own condition (mostly characterized by our “less than”) when silently and privately compared to the status of those seeking political office. “Ordinary” backgrounds, of course, continue to be resurrected as the “life story” of any aspiring political candidate, as his/her way of identifying with the ordinary citizen voter.

Not so insignificantly, nor imperceptibly lurking under, inside and through the fibres of this carpet of “the victim” is the manner in which Canadians “wear” their wealth. Mostly secretly, and yet very consciously defining the ‘upper class’ in each and every organization, including every political party, and every neighbourhood, classroom, church, and even social service agency/club, those with wealth, the status of office, and especially the status of “legacy” (having been around for a long time), there is a top layer of “elite”….often patronizing others, perhaps even unconsciously, given how ingrained its permanence and dependability and usefulness this status has proven throughout their lives.

On guard, suspicious, distrusting, sceptical, even fractious and rebellious, the lower classes continue to grope through the fog of classism, racism, ageism, sexism and the permanent, if imperceptible, reredos that segregates the upper class from the rest of the world. The tensions that this divide generate provide the marketing gurus with the datapoints they need to frame their sales pitch to their respective niche markets. Price points, hired shill-actors, packaging, music, camera angles, lighting and sound effects, including even the choice of animated cartoon or animal character are all subject to the manipulation of the mind-manipulators who have climbed to the top of the advertising/marketing/messaging corporate ladder.

There may be no intentionality or design among many elites to defame those below. And there is, unfortunately, another kind of reverse snobbery among the lower class that smears contempt on the public faces of the upper classes. There is also, unfortunately, a kind of symbiosis in this class divide: the rich often depict the poor as worthless, lazy, undisciplined, drunks, drug-addicts, homeless. We do not, in Canada, use the term “caste” to designate the upper class; however, its imprint can be found in every restaurant, every hotel, every classroom, every church sanctuary, within social and political and corporate organizations.

How we become conscious of the role the “victim” archetype in our lives merits a national conversation, a serious look at the language we use in our public discourse, the language used by our teachers and principals, our parents and athletic coaches. Martin Luther King used to dream that all people would be judged by the quality of their character, not the color of their skin. Clearly a noble aspiration!

And yet, the quality of one’s character is not mirrored by the medals of their winnings, the size of their investment accounts, the brand of vehicle they drive, the corner office (title) they occupy (wear), nor the length of their service, just as it indisputably is not a function of the colour of their skin or their ethnicity, or their religion (in spite of the blatant claims of many faith communities to be the “right” religion!)

How many other conversations are occurring right now that imitate the conversation in the dentist’s office? How many reputed “leaders” role models, mentors, coaches, parents, teachers, and religious practitioners are currently engaged in conversations that betray their implicit bias, their implicit imposition of their victim/bully on their colleagues? At the same time, how many of those who are wearing the “charges” of impropriety, injustice, inequality, abuse of power, the twisting of the facts, the distortion of reality to suit their personal agenda are even open to giving serious consideration to reflect on their part in the circumstance for which their opponents are judging them?

Margaret Atwood wrote eloquently about the “dialogue of the deaf” when referring to the former sovereignty debates between Quebec and Canada in the not so distant past. Are we witnessing a different variant of that theme, (dialogue of the deaf) between, among and around the relationship (?) tension, conflict, between factions, individuals, ideologies, interest groups, classes, men v.women, Liberal v.Conservative, Republican-Democratic, trump v. world?

Is the victim-blame game the best we can attain in our public and our private discourse? Have we deferred to a model of discourse linked to a mind-set that would/might be more appropriate among pre-teens? Are we doomed, (sentenced? hard-wired? programmed?) to repeat, and repeat the dialogue of the deaf between the bully and the victim?

Are those who defer from this model of reflection and discourse, relation-building and alienation to be considered “outliers” for being “different” or “outcasts” or iconoclasts or “too complex” and “too complicated”?

Falling into a trap that has already demonstrated its capacity to sabotage those of us who used it, as Canadians, as victims, as “not American,” surely is not an expression of our better angels.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

We each need both a sword and a harp


Romantic love is the single greatest energy system in the Western Psyche. In our culture it has supplanted religion as the arena in which men and women seek meaning, transcendence, wholeness and ecstasy….Romantic love doesn’t just mean loving someone; it means being “in love.” This is a psychological phenomenon that is very specific. When we are “in love” we believe we have found the ultimate meaning of life, revealed in another human being. We feel we are finally completed, that we have found the missing parts of ourselves. Life suddenly seems to have a wholeness, a superhuman intensity that lifts us high above the ordinary plain of existence….This psychological package includes an unconscious demand that our lover or spouse always provide us with this feeling of ecstasy and intensity….Despite our ecstasy when we are “in love,” we spend much of our time with a deep sense of loneliness, alienation and frustration over our inability to make genuinely loving and committed relationships. Usually we blame other people for failing us; it doesn’t occur to us that perhaps it is we who need to change our own unconscious attitudes—the expectations and demands we impose on our5 relationships and on other people…This is the great wound in the Western culture. It is the primary psychological problem of our Western culture. Carl Jung said that if you find the psychic would in an individual or a people, there you also find their path to consciousness. For it is in the healing of our psychic wounds that we come to know ourselves. (Robert A. Johnson, We, Understanding the psychology of Romantic Love, p. vii, xii)

Greeks, ever the professional parsers of definitions, discerned and expounded four different types of love: eros, storge, philia, and agape, whose respective realms are:
Romantic and sexual (Eros), family (Storge), friendships (Philia), divine love that comes from God (Agape).

The Christian tradition of carving out the Eros, romantic love, as the problem because of what they considered rampant promiscuity in the time of the Apostle Paul, poured the concrete footings of a theological belief and practice of ministry that precludes sexual relationships outside of their “sacred” and exclusive access to marriage (and that between a man and a woman only). For the most part of western history and cultural development, storge, philia and agape have been sidelined at best or ignored/denied at worst. Occasionally, some cleric will use the word “agape” as an ideal modelled on the gift of God’s love that we might emulate in our relationships with others. Nevertheless, the western culture is fundamentally unfamiliar (ignorant, “ignosco,” I do not know) with the three various forms of love, different from eros, romantic love. The Christian church’s claim on how individuals should (must, in order to avoid excommunication, and must in order to please God) engage in Eros, has unfortunately resulted in some of the major chasms of ethics and morality both within and outside the institution. Celibacy, for both men and women “of God” is only one of such divisions of “holiness” and spiritual “status” inside the church, as possibly in the secular community as well. The complications of annulment, divorce, separation, also flow from this tradition.

Also, the attribution of “red letter” social exclusion, alienation and character defamation for those “caught” in the conundrum of an unexpected/unwanted pregnancy, is a direct consequence of the church’s exclusive appropriation of human sexual behaviour. Flowing out of this tradition, too, is the violent, and vehement culture “war” against abortion, regardless of the specific “term” designated in a specific legal framework. So, from the paradoxical “ministry” focus of the Christian church, to give voice to the voiceless, to comfort the infirm and to provide discomfort for the “comfortable,” this laser focus on sex sabotages the ministry attempts needed and expected by imperfect and non-compliant adherents. This microscopic (and it says here, anal) focus on an attempt to manage, control, manipulate and ironically and paradoxically sacralise sexual activity among parishoners, also puts the church outside the legitimate attempts to integrate the human psyche, and outside the natural world’s hard wiring.

Especially if biology (the sexual ‘shiver’) and human ethical behaviour imprinted in our gregariousness are inextricably linked, the Christian tradition needs a re-think, and not a merely superficial, public relations re-boot.

Lionel Tiger’s The Manufacture of Evil, is cogent here:

It is possible we have been systematically misled about our morality from the very beginning. Why should God have interfered eith Eden as he did, evidently for the dual offences of sexual awareness…and empirical skepticism, that forbidden fruit. And why blame poor Adam, whom after all God made? And why was what happened in Eden the “Fall”? And why were Adam and Eve so harshly and disproportionately ridiculed for their sexual frisson? Were not those perplexingly pleasureable nerve endings in their genitals there for a purpose? Was orgasm an accidental spasm, which happened to be so mightily pleasing that (later on when churches got going) its occurrence or not could be held up as a measure of obedience to God?...This is mad. No wonder practitioners of the morality trades have so enthusiastically separated man from animal, culture from nature, devotion from innocence. If morality is natural, then you don’t need priests as much as you’re likely to enjoy being informed by scientists. If morality is a biological phenomenon, then it is merely insulting to harass mankind for its current condition because of an historic Fall in the past and an putative Heaven in the future. When spirituality became as special flavor and ceased being fun, when mystical congregation and speculation became instead a matter of bare knees on cold stone and varying renunciations; when involvement with the seasons and the other subtle rhythms of nature became formalized into arbitrary rituals governed by functionaries, then the classical impulse for moral affiliation became translated into something else: into a calculation of ethical profit and loss supervised by an accountant Church and a demanding God. A new tax was born, The Tithe. Ten percent for the first agents. (Lionel Tiger, op. cit. p.32-33)

Regardless of whether one considers the Genesis story a “literal history” or a mythical representation of a “beginning story of humankind” written by inspired humans, one is compelled to take note of the different interpretations and implications. Karen Armstrong’s The Case for God, recently reminded us (see ‘Suffocating on the altar of logos,’ previously in this space) of the significant difference between logos (rationality) and mythos, a story that underlies the human condition, repeated throughout the centuries in various cultures, a kind of psychology of religion and faith.

The relationship between faith and culture, both positively and negatively, have rarely been able to be segregated. They impinge on each other often imperceptibly, yet rarely without significance. Early religions teachings, dogma, tradition and ultimately foundations were necessarily and inevitably linked to the available best knowledge from the best thinkers, poets, shamans and prophets. And one of the existential points of discernment among religious thinkers is the question of whether “revelation” (from God) is a once or a continual, ever-present dynamic. For us, the latter is the only reasonable, relevant and credible response.

And, contemporary consciousness has to include thinkers and prophets like Carl Jung, whose insights can and would afford a small flicker of a candle of hope, light and new life through the coming to consciousness of how humans have become entrapped in the distortion between romantic love and the fullness of love. The imposition of our expectations on others, including our intimate partners, that would more appropriately be assigned to, attributed to  and acknowledged by each of us, as a core energy of our spiritual growth and development, including our relationship to God, offers what Jung considers an optimum opportunity for healing our shared psychic wound and finding our path to consciousness. By potentially learning about the limits of romantic love, we might thereby encounter a new level of consciousness, having shed what had previously remained in our unconscious.

Johnson (op. cit.) posits: As a society we have not yet learned to handle the tremendous power of romantic love. We turn it into tragedy and alienation more often than into enduring human relationships. ( p. xiv)

And, so long as romantic love is encased in the Christian church’s intellectual, moral, ethical and “sacred” vault, humans living in what is commonly called a Christian culture are both metaphorically and literally excluded (even forbidden) from a consideration of their sexual lives as an integral and primary component of their spiritual lives. From a common sense perspective, a ‘natural law’ perspective, a legal perspective, and an ethical/moral perspective, this separation makes no sense. Whether it is a precipitate left over from multiple Manicheanisms, or not, seems less relevant than consideration of the potential paths to a renewal of Christian theology, emblematic of the original Resurrection, to New Life.

This space has persistently clung to the potential incarnated in the word mystery, in matters linked to faith, to spirituality and to divinity. Here, mystery seems to apply to the spark of the divine that is an integral “part” of each of us. At this time in our pilgrimage through history and meta-history, we can legitimately link our unconscious to the unknown, accessible through new patience, new insights, new experiences and new openings in our closed, anxious apprehensions and anxieties.

“Things” or “notions” that persist in separating things from each other, while perhaps appropriate for intellectual and academic inspection, tend to elevate the empirical above the mystical. Power attached to one or the other “notion”  generates inevitably a “power-imbalance” for all. Maleness, for example, cannot any longer be considered more important than femaleness. The power structures, including  the narrow and limiting theologies that emanate from masculine lltheologies and academic disciplines, themselves are also no longer applicable and relevant. Andrognyny, the healthy balance of masculinity  (sword) and femininity (harp) is a psychic, as well as a spiritual state to which we can all aspire, about which we can dream, and toward which we can begin to walk. Organizations that are built on premises that emerge from masculine parameters, by definition, limit the scope, appreciation and promise of the feminine. Similarly, relationships that are built on masculine power myths, focussing on the conscious as more important than the unconscious, also limit the potential for the enhanced androgyny to which both men and women are “hard-wired” if Jung is even partially credible. So long as we enmesh ourselves in stereotypical injunctions, definitions, expectations and rules that render as permanent and nature, the perceived inequality between men and women (another of those “warm fuzzies”) that attend and attempt to address what appears to be a permanent power imbalance, we risk the denial of the complementarity of each gender to the other.

Men, as exemplified by Johnson by the sword (the use of power) are different from women (represented by the harp) who innately comport to compassion, community, nurture, poetry and harmony and these differences need each other for the kind of balance to which all healthy, mature and integrated persons aspire. And what else would any God worthy of the name and the appropriate honour and praise want?
If the Christian church can and will begin to shed the mouldy skins of the self-and-other-sabotaging premises around human sexuality that both inhibit and even prelude the full development of both clergy and laity to a state of the integration of what up to now has been the segregated unconscious from the conscious, perhaps then our so-called Christian culture can come out of the cave of human denial, avoidance, alienation and life-defying constrictions.

Barring human intimate relationships, of any kind, including between clergy and parishioner, or between men and men, or women and women,  for the purpose of serving the immediate power-equalization needs of any group, for example, only digs these stereotypes further into the unconscious of both individuals and the culture generally. It is the premise of natural inequality, including the power imbalance that favours the male hegemony, that needs to be re-thought, re-examined and over-turned. And only through a revisiting of the innate equality and moral goodness of both genders can this process even begin.

Is such a “Resurrection” of the ecclesial body, mind and spirit even conceivable? Can we put a harp in those clinging to their swords and a sword in the hands of those clinging to their harps?

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Suffocating on the altar of logos


(The) rationalized interpretation of religion has resulted in two distinctively modern phenomena: fundamentalism and atheism. The two are related. The defensive piety popularly known as fundamentalism erupted in almost every major faith during the twentieth century. In their desire to produce a wholly rational, scientific faith that abolished mythos in favour of logos, Christian fundamentalists have interpreted scripture with a literalism that is unparalleled in the history of religion. In the United States, Protestant fundamentalists have evolved an ideology known as “creation science” that regards the mythoi of the Bible as scientifically accurate. They have, therefore, campaigned against the teaching of evolution in the public schools, because it contradicts the creation story in the first chapter of Genesis.

Historically, atheism has rarely been a blanket denial of the sacred per se but has nearly always rejected a particular conception of the divine. At an early stage of their history, Christians and Muslims were both called “atheists” by their pagan contemporaries, not because they denied the reality of God but because4 their ind conception of divinity was so different that it seemed blasphemous. Atheism is therefore parasitically dependent on the form of theism it seeks to eliminate and becomes its reverse mirror image. (Karen Armstrong, The Case for God, p. xv-xvi)

In most premodern cultures, there were two recognized ways of thinking, speaking and acquiring knowledge. The Greeks called them mythos and logos. Both were essential and neither was considered superior to the other; they were not in conflict but complementary. Each has its own sphere of competence, and it was considered unwise to mix the two. Logos (“reason”) was the pragmatic mode of thought that enabled people to functions effectively in the world. It had, therefore, to correspond accurately to external reality. People have always needed logos to make an efficient weapon, organize their societies, or plan an expedition. Logos was forward looking, continually on the lookout for new ways of controlling their environment, improving old insights, or inventing something fresh. Logos was essential to the survival of our species. But it has its limitations; it could not assuage human grief or find ultimate meaning in life’s struggles. For that people turned to mythos or myth…..

Myths may have told stories about the gods, but they were focused on the more elusive, puzzling and tragic aspects of the human predicament that lay outside the remit of logos. Myth has been called a primitive form of psychology. When a myth described heroes threading their way through labyrinths, descending into the underworld, or fighting monsters, these were not understood as primarily factual stories. They were designed to help people negotiate the obscure regions of the psyche, which are difficult to access but which profoundly influence our thought and behaviour….A myth was never intended as an accurate account of a historical event; it was something that had in some sense happened once but that also happens all the time…..
Today we live in a society of scientific logos, and myth has fallen into disrepute. (Ibid, p. xi)

Of course, digital drives vacuum mountains of “data” overwhelming our more balanced perspective of the universe. Dollars, bank accounts, bills, scores, test scores, bond ratings, blood pressure numbers, heart rates, chemical/blood scores for various illnesses, temperature declines, GDP, jobs numbers….these are all sought, measured, compared and deployed as bases for a plethora of decisions of a personal, organizational, political, psychological and even “definitions of success/failure.

Today, emerging from the scandal around the illicit admission of college students based on the manipulation of SAT scores, and the payment of millions to scam artists to manipulate applications, many American colleges are dropping the SAT score as a litmus test for admission. Not incidentally, we also learned today that many university bond ratings are dependent on SAT scores. Just the last hour, we received a letter from our insurer that credit rating scores will now be accessed (in what they call a “soft” inquiry that will not impact the credit rating) to better provide data for the companies to determine policy premiums. Refusal to grant permission will not deny coverage but could preclude “best price” options.

Many of the scurrilous headlines about “touching, kissing,” are founded on the notion that such behaviour is either “a violation” or evidence of being a dunderhead, out of touch with the current mores surrounding male-female relations. Two options, either-or, is the base from which we make many decisions without paying attention to the multiple positions that invariably exist between the two options, especially with respect to human thoughts, motivations, attitudes and beliefs. So, we have not only become dependent on the collection and evaluation and interpretation of objective, empirical verifiable pieces of information; we have also reduced things like meaning, purpose, belief and relationship to the universals to the binary template that defies the clarity we obsessively demand. God, gods, Allah, Dao…all faces of divinity, however, categorically refuse to be contained in our micro-data-points.

In fact, they all elude such imprisonment, whether we like their defiance or not. And when we reduce our faith expectations to a belief/denial of a dogmatic epigram, we defame the very notion of faith, as well as the notion of divinity, as well as our potential relationship to the mysteries of the divine.

And if this fracture or erosion of the human-divine relationship results from our binary exclusivity, so too then does it become even more likely and prevalent for us to reduce our potential relationships with other humans to a digit of political advocacy:

·        for or opposed to a woman’s choice,
·        for or opposed to the protection of the climate,
·        for or against the construction of pipelines for crude,
·        for or against the imposition of carbon taxes,
·        for or against the building of a phoney wall
·        for or against the extension of public health care
·        for or against the establishment of pharmacare
·        for or against Brexit, NATO, UN, WHO,
·        for or against open borders to refugees, immigrants, asylum seekers

Talking, reporting, reflecting only in terms of black/white, either/or, right/wrong, ethical/immoral, fundamentalism/atheism…and then accepting public policy based on the most elemental, bones of an argument, (lacking the political, philosophical, ethical, archetypal, cultural “meat”) is a rapid and sabotaging race to the bottom of all arguments.

It is not only the demise of the nuances of myth, (mythos) and the elimination of the multiple positions between and among all extremes that is leaving us all exhausted. We are exhausted not only by the volume and the sheer ratings-based repetition of the coverage; we are also exhausted by the failure of the political culture to achieve compromise simply because to compromise would be, in fact, an acknowledgement that the other side has some significant value to their position. And since such a position is counter-intuitive to “winning” and sustaining public support and esteem, (both of which are among the most fickle and ephemeral of human expressions), we refuse to risk even the slightest modicum of failure in the public eye, ironically an eye blinded by the very obsession with the extremes, which themselves deny the scientific reality they purport to express.

It used to be said that the public had endowed the medical profession with an inordinate  degree of power and influence, based on their “scientific diagnosis” that either was or was not amenable to treatment, surgery, prescriptions, therapies or some combination. Not only was that a failure to accept our individual responsibility for the preservation and protection of our own personal health; it was also a failure by imposing inordinate pressure to perform and to deliver super-human outcomes.

Ironically, that model of inordinate power and influence being attributed to a profession has been extended to various forms of publicly expressed opinion especially by those serving as elected officials. And with that wave of co-dependence on the model among the political class has come its extension to offices like Supreme Court Justices, with recent and projected appointees expressing extreme ideological positions, thereby sacrificing their intellectual independence, and modelling their serf status to the person/ideology in power.

While correcting all of the gerrymandering, voter-repression, voter-manipulation through social media campaigns and the buying of both advertising space and on  their personal acolytes are all noble and worthwhile political goals, as a way to preserving (or rescuing democracy) for the future, the very application of the lines from Paul Simon’s lyric, My Little Town, to the epic issues facing the people of the planet, as well as the issues and public discourse that frames each of the issues, including especially the paralysis that encases each of them in concrete, the cement of blind hubris and denial:

My Little Town     (Simon and Garfunkel, © Universal Music Publishing Group)
In my little town
I grew up believing
God keeps his eye on us all
And he used to lean upon me
As I pledged allegiance to the wall
Lord, I recall my little town
Coming home after school
Flying my bike past the gates of the factories
My mom doing the laundry
Hanging out shirts in the dirty breeze
And after it rains there’s a rainbow
And all of the colours are black
It’s not that the colours aren’t there
It’s just imagination they lack
Everything’s the same back in my little town
My little town, my little town
Nothing but the dead and dying back in my little town
In my little town
I never meant nothing, I was just my father’s son
Saving my money
Dreamin’ of glory
Twitching like a finger on a trigger of a gun
Really nothing by the dead and dying back in my little town…


Thursday, March 28, 2019

Reconciliation




led by acolytes firmly seizing
                                       his elbows
  into a bright and airy loft
                                            mid-way up the
mountain
                 he shuffled, head down, eyes only
              partly open
scheduled for his final
                                     hearing,
                                                  before the
                                                                  Grand Panjandram
      seated on a canvas director’s              
                                                     chair
                                                             draped in hemp shirt,
with open sandals, and cotton shorts
                                                 hair and beard
                                                                         neatly trimmed
                            unexpectedly contemporary
the antithesis of those cheap, cliché paintings
                                                                     that project
a sad and off-putting cement
                                                   image
                                                                 of disdainful power
he rose and extended a hand
                                              and a warm welcoming smile
“So…..tell me the whole story, as best you can;
                                                 I welcome you to this time and space
                        where we are now alone and
                                                                    accompanied by the mountain stream!”
well……I…I…am a little taken aback
                                                            I expected a throne, several court reporters
                                            cameras and lie detectors and a robe…..
 I hear that every time someone comes to tell their story
I can easily imagine
So….I am still eager to hear your story
                                        Well, it is a lot like a river that sometimes
               flows, sometimes stagnates in little eddies
                                                            and frequently crashes over
                                 rocks I never suspected and
                                                 never really prepared to ride
I have heard that picture many times….and I often wonder about the
                           foresight and the intuition of the story-tellers…Have they
             not read or heard about their ancestors crashing over the same kinds of
cataracts ?
the plays and histories
                                   the movies and the poems are
                                                                                 filled with warnings
                   yet we seem to think they must be
                                                                      about all the others, and not me
  It does make me sad to hear how unconscious everyone seems to be
                                                      of the real questions needing address
so…..it seems this story began near water, winds, rocks, trees and small
                                                                                                               houses
                                          with fenced dreams and aspirations
                                                                                  and neighbourhood dogs
                      barking when anyone jumped, climbed or kicked down
                                                                                those fences
mostly men with collars, badges, robes, pills or chalk or whistles
                                              hovered around the fences,
                   watching and waiting for the inevitable iconoclast
  …..in order to remind him of his most minute infraction…
fascinated with their duty to rescue the miscreant from the bottom of the
                                                                               water fall
                                          they designed plans, strategies, tactics and retributions
                  based, they said, on something they called scripture
unfortunately, they probably looked at scripture as fixed, literal and their
                              view included selected epithets?

                        Chafing at many of these interventions
 I struggled with their fences and their rationale
                                                            so that a there seemed to be a
                          scarlet branded “T” on my forehead….
                                                         I quickly learned it meant “truant”
and emitted waves to all others of some kind of danger or apprehension
                                                               as soon as they caught a glimpse

whether and how I added to the ‘myth’ is the focus of
                                              much of my reading and reflecting….
                              No doubt I did!
only later did I meet kindred spirits:
                                                       Heathcliff, Jane Eyre, Hagar Shipley,
                                   Hillman, Birney, Pratt, Layton, Graham and Green
and tripped over, kicked down, took a fist to fences, walls, silences and
                                                                          betrayals
                 that attempted to thwart this river
                                                                        by damming its current
seeming desperate for tenderness,
                                                       at each bend in the river
                             I wondered if there might be another
                                                                                    longing for love
only to be greeted by others escaping, fleeing, drowning their pain or
                                                                   seeking vengeance
                                  and in succession barely escaped
                  drowning, being captured, mis-led, and the
swamp of improbable bribes, deceptions, faux commitments and
                                           even ecclesial courts
Have you ever read that little piece entitled, Footprints?
                      Finally, I think I might be “getting it”
                                       those narrow escapes were the times when
I was being carried across the highest and the most dangerous
                                                                             cliffs
                                 unaware that I was the perpetual self-saboteur
                       repeating, re-inventing, re-creating and re-imagining
all those early
                                       dark nights with the
               .22, the 12 gauge, the canoe, the psych ward, the pills,
                 the cellar wailing wall,
                                                                 and the trauma
that my story was never sought
                                               prior to decisions to exclude, alienate, and dismiss
Please, accept my hand of welcome, acceptance and love,
                                                it was there all along,
                           if only you could have seen it……