Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Reflections on jealousy....

 Whether symbolized by a dark yellow, or a deep green, a rat, snake, or an over-looked and highly ambitious lieutenant, ((think Iago) in Shakespeare’s Othello,

jealousy is a paradoxical “real abstraction,” an attribute that has no known scent, colour, texture or audible sound. Nevertheless, like others of its peers, it lingers hidden, like the family canine wandering in the yard, until, suddenly, and without warning, it spots a magnetic ‘thing’ (robin, squirrel, chipmunk, snake, hawk) to and for which it erupts into the white heat that needs no match, no friction between two rocks, and requires no explanation.

There is no authentic justification of or for jealousy except we all know that it lurks within each of us, like a fabled, starving, emaciated and sylph-like energy, true to its root etymology: an imaginary elemental being that inhabits the air and is mortal but soulless.

It is that ‘soulless’ nature that is so bewitching and beguiling, seductive and untameable. And, in a culture that has reduced the vernacular to good or bad, right or wrong, left or right, sacred or evil, as if the binary gods have inflicted a successful scorched earth campaign against nuance, poetry, and the more ethereal, abstract and commanding forces in our collective unconscious, we rarely if even hear comments in public about the ferocity or ubiquity of this power.

Many of the advertising and propaganda messages we are served come from the rather trite and yet toxic notion that many people harbour jealousy and are thereby motivated to “beat” someone of whom they are jealous, without every declaring their combative intent. Acquiring and achieving whatever brass ring has been held out as “laudable” and worthy of emulation, like BMW, Mercedes, Lincoln, Cadillac, CEO, president, principal, bishop, is a fundamental of sociological and even ideological underpinning of capitalism. Doubtless, that competitive spirit has flooded the fields of academia, religion, politics and the military. For every four-star whatever (in whatever field) there are literally thousands if not millions outside the inner circle panting to climb into their ‘upper echelon’ of near perfection.

To be sure, there are also others who, simply in order to serve their own innate talents, without even a hint of jealousy, are ambitiously working their way to whatever pinnacle they envision for themselves.

From, we read:
(S)ociological analysis shows that jealousy and other emotions are shaped by social situations, social processes, and social forces. Micro-sociology reveals that jealousy is learned. Jealousy reflects the life experience of the individual. Meso-sociology reveals that jealousy is socially useful, indeed, indispensable to social order. Jealousy reflects the institution of marriage and the prohibition of adultery, Macro-sociology reveals that jealousy is shaped by society and culture…reflect(ing) the history and the values of a people—and the relevant values vary from time to time and place to place.

In we find these insights:

It is speculated that it was evolutionarily favorable for females to become jealous of potential sexual rivals, for if the male were to choose another mate, he would take the resources he provided with him. This would leave her with no means to take care of herself and any offspring she may have had. (For males) jealousy was a response to prospective threats to the continuance of their own genetic lineage….Cinderella is made to slave away for a jealous stepmother and stepsisters in the famous fairy tale…Protagonist Othello reacts to his jealousy with rage, which results in the death of the woman he loves (Desdemona) (and) later finds that she was not unfaithful, as he had long suspected…..In various studies, this strong emotion was found to have been one of the top three motives for non-accidental homicides where the motive is known. comments:

(E)volutionary psychologists regard it (jealousy) not as an emotion to be suppressed but as one to heed—as a signal or wake-up call that a valued relationship is in danger and that’s steps need to be taken to regain the affection of a mate or friend. As a result, it is seen as a necessary emotion, because it preserves social bonds and motivates people to engage in behaviors that maintain important relationships.

And while these insights are helpful, the emotion/force/demon of jealousy is not restricted to intimate, personal, private relationships.

Iago’s famous line (Act 3, Scene 2, Shakespeare’s Othello),

“O beware, my lord, of jealousy; It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on.” … especially ironic, given that it is Iago himself who has devised and injected the poison of Desdemona’s infidelity into Othello’s mind without Othello being aware of his chicanery.

Thwarted at not being appointed as Othello’s lieutenant, Iago seeks and wreaks his malignancy. And, too, in public life, those who have been thwarted and who feel the deep and consumptive anger and resentment at their having been passed over, for whatever reason, want ‘justice’.

I was one of the players in a micro-church drama, in which one individual who had been passed over for an appointment to a position she coveted and for which she felt entitled, that of priest’s warden, took somewhat eruptive umbrage at the first public opportunity to demonstrate her jealousy in the face of the woman who had been appointed. As I was the agent of the appointment, and I had serious and seriously considered reasons for my choice (borne out more explicitly and expressly in this little drama), I was very conscious of the vengeance that was being meted out to both the appointee and to me. Needless to say, the incident was never discussed public, as that would only have exacerbated the anger and the contempt from the ‘victim’ until, however, she was able to exact an even deeper act of vengeance through her manipulation of another somewhat innocent and vulnerable person under her spell.

David M. Buss, writing in the Los Angeles Times, February 14, 2007 writes this:

Jealousy is possibly the most destructive emotion housed int eh human brain. It’s the leading cause of spousal murder worldwide, according to analyses I did of data over the last century. And. statistics show, it’s the leading drive behind the killing of “mate poachers”—interlopers who attempt to lure away our partner….In one of my studies, 93% of American men and 82% of women said they had been the recipient of someone else’s attention while in a romantic relationship….Jealousy reminds us that we possess an ancient brain designed  for a world long forgotten…Is jealousy an antiquated emotion no longer serving the functions for which it was designed? Or does it still alert us to dangers and keep love alive, despite the destruction it causes when it spins out of control?

The motive of “jealously guarding” something, looking after it very carefully because you do not want anyone else to have it proliferates the corporate world, in and through the keeping of ‘state secrets’ (intelligence, and formulae, and in diplomacy state secrets and methods) and is regarded as a matter of extreme significance, and thereby is considered moral and political dogma that must not be shared or exposed in any way. This jealousy guarding, however, renders the concept conventional and even highly ethical, depending on the situation and the circumstance. And the organization/institution that enforces it is doing so in order to “protect” the secrets of their organization. Fearing both competition and the negative blow-back from exposure of information that might and likely would not shed a positive light on the organization, such organizations expect their executive functions to shield them from the potential of such exposure and potential exploitation.

From fear of exposure, fear of being less valued and less significant, and perhaps even less worthy, organizational jealousy, however, necessarily fosters and nurtures an attitude of insecurity that pervades the culture. And this insecurity, not only of the personal/domestic/intimate kind, but also of the corporate/political kind, denotes another undernoted and under-acknowledged vulnerability in our culture. It is conventional and normal to experience jealousy, and many times it is sanctioned and embraced by the very organizations for which we toil. And the list of those organizations includes the academic, the corporate, the ecclesial and the non-profit.

This is not a piece endorsing “open relationships” between men and women, and the potential for compersion, the opposite of jealousy, empathetic joy when a partner is flirting (or ?) with someone who is not their partner. Buddhist teachings detail numerous exercises to help individuals learn how to master compersion; those exercises are beyond the par grade of this scribe.

When the alarm bell of jealousy goes off in our head, it offers an alert to something that is likely to be disorienting and discomforting. Very often misperceptions, inevitably linked to our own insecurities, prove that the signal was a false alarm. However, without any normalizing of conversations about jealousy, and without any cultural acknowledgement of its ubiquitous prevalence, and potential risk, especially in those scenarios where one might expect to have it openly discussed, the culture is at risk of denying and thereby avoiding this unique emotional and chemical poison.

We are fixated of conversations about the LGBTQ+ rights and community, and the emotion of jealousy is just as applicable and relevant to their community as to the straight folks. It is an emotion and a tendency that, like the soot that burped from the smoke-stacks of factories and then covered the freshly washed clothes and bedding that hung on neighbourhood clotheslines, without a word of the danger being acknowledged by those factory operators, (similar to the lung cancers resulting from both primary and secondary smoke), “it” essentially has it way with us.

Physical fatigue, accompanied by its twin, emotional fatigue, and its sister, personal discontent, depression, without taking a clinical approach) are inevitably linked to the experience and the expression of jealousy, whether or not we are conscious of it in ourselves, or in our children.
Such epithets, from fellow pedagogues, as “You are far too close to the students!” is another subtle and cutting symptom of professional jealousy, although those who utter such phrases would be the last to acknowledge their jealousy. A similar, if not identical epithet from a bishop, “You are far too close to that congregation!” is an echo of the same administrative and professional judgement that is based at least partly, if not wholly on jealousy.

I actually believed then, and continue to believe all these decades later, that getting to know and to empathize and the commiserate with both students and parishioners was/is part of the unwritten job description, given that learning and spiritual growth are among if not the most ‘intimate’ of human experiences. And ‘being close’ while it requires a kind of boundary-consciousness, is one of the more relevant and appropriate of foundational relationships in both venues.

What I have yet to integrate is how to adjust to such professional judgements, given their source is a deep well of societal convention that is not about to go dry any time soon.

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Ode to unknowing

 It is one thing to


             with a blade of grass

and quite another to be ‘had’

                   by an archetype or

            by several without


and then to look back and try to discern

                  the names of those previously

                               anonymous ‘friends'

     who never announced their

                           names or even their presence

and no imaginative forensic archeology

                                 will ever be sure

                 of their existence or their


as sylphs, nymphs, ghosts and goblin-gods

                 they have danced and plodded

                                     and sung and screamed

      and whispered and crept

                           through the hundreds of


                                       celebrating ancestors

                 competing with peers

without documented biographies or

                                       formal and scientific


Do they have names?

                    Can they be etherized on a wall for


as if they were metaphors in a poem?

                     Can they be robed in alb,

                                               or chasuble

                                                       or uniform

                                                               or squash shorts

                                                                         or bow-tie?

Or are they more likely to be slithering around in the

                                                   shadows inside the psyche

                                    waiting for their discovery

                                                        and their acknowledgement

and their time on stage?

                           Were they ever heard on radio-waves

                                                         or seen on local television?

                   Did they commit to ink and paper?

Did they ever go on dates, or dinners or vacations?

                                   Were they ever comfortable behind a

                                                                    lectern or a microphone?

Or were  they secretly shouldering the ‘imposter’ archetype

                                             as their hidden identity?


                          Who knows who or whom or when or where?....

                     The lyrical  rhythmical  life-force of unknowing…..

Who am I?


Am I kin to the white pine

                  erect and yet

     flexing in the south-west


Or am I more closely


                to the golden rod

whose flower emits pollen

                and allergic spores

       into sinus and eyes?

Is my family genetically

                    modified by

           detailed and diagnosed


         in order to prevent

                             social chaos?

Am I cousin to the flowering crab

                  uncle to the lilac

                               grandfather to the

            canine whose domain

                                 stretches as far as

                 his nose can range?

Or is my kin the gentle grass snake

                         whose presence evokes

          instant wariness and a deliberate

                                       step back for

           safety and comfort?

Or, after generations of lab research

                  am I morphing into a


for the convenience of any whose needs

                               demand my compliance?

Or, is there some new family

                           calling out for geriatrics

               still searching for a niche

                                beside a river

                                          under a pine

                                                      sitting with a furry friend?

Monday, August 29, 2022

Indigenous people...the canaries in our shared coal mine

 One of the more prominent features of living in North America is the degree to which our culture(s) (American and Canadian) have adopted the scientific view of the universe. As one who has struggled with the many intricate and complex implications of this “perspective,” I always wondered, when studying statistics, for example, whether and how and to what extent the finger-and-hand-print of the researchers, their attitudes, beliefs and perspectives, were indelibly imprinted on the shape of the questions that were being pursued in and through the research. For some time, however, we have known and publicly acknowledged, that there is no such thing as total objectivity, whether in science, or in historical research, or even in theology.

In beginning what I hope will be a protracted journey into the lands of both indigenous philosophy and spirituality and also into the even more expansive and mysterious lands of archetypal psychology, the scientific euro-world view is beginning to thaw.

In their 2002 work entitled, Aboriginal Education in Canada, A Plea for Integration., John W. Friesen and Virginia Lyons Friesen write these words:

The nonNative scientific view further allows an encourages the development of separate ‘hard-core’ academic disciplines which seek to identify and explain the various components of cosmic and material phenomena, such as biophysics, astrochemistry, biotechnology, nuclear mathemat5ics, social physiology, and so on. Although the proponents of each of these specialities will make sophisticated claims about interdisciplinary parallels and concerns, there is always an element of professional ethnocentricism involved in their scientific deliberations.

The delineation of disciplinary specialities is quite foreign to the First Nations way of thinking. Aboriginal People view the world as an interconnected series of only sometimes distinguishable or comprehensible elements. They experience no uneasiness at the thought of multiple realities simultaneously operant in the universe, and they do not differentiate among the varieties or qualities of entities, that is between material or spiritual elements. Their world-view allows for the possibility that a variety of ‘structurally-different’ elements may simultaneously be active in the process of holistic healing. This also explains why dreams, visions, and personal experiences comprise an important source of knowledge as scientifically-derived truths. I short, you never know where you might gain knowledge or where you might learn something. (Op.Cit. p 45-6)

As a further explication of this holistic perspective, Friesen and Friesen also quote David Suzuki’s, A Personal Foreword: The Value of Native Ecologies, Wisdom of the Elders, by Peter Knudtson and David Suzuki, Toronto ON: Stoddart, xxixxvi) on page 46 of Friesen and Friesen:

The land is not merely soil; it is a foundation of energy flowing through a circuit of souls, plants, and animals…As ethic to supplement and guide the economic relations to land presupposes the existence of some mental image of land as a biotic mechanism. We can be ethical only in relation to something we can see, feel, understand, love or otherwise have faith in. (quoted in Suzuki, 1997, 104)

Even the modest and essentially polite Euro-inference, in the last sentence, exceeds the native perspective, in that, unlike most of us who have been educated in euro-perspectives, First Nations people are not restricted to having to see, hear, feel and empirically experience something or an event to have faith in it.

To push the envelope ever further, Friesen and Friesen write:

Belief in the eternal mystique of the universe prohibits the idea of exploitation or domination. An unknowable and hallowed entity should not be approached  in any other manner but with respect, awe, and obeisance. One should not tamper with the elements or workings of the universe, but respect is modus operandi. As the mysterious but Divinely-controlled source of life and sustenance the earth’s power is enigmatic but reliable. To question or seek to tamper with its rhythms functions would be tantamount to playing God. (p. 48)

For some time, there have been numerous earnest attempts to graft native spirituality to Christian spirituality, most of which have been imagined and

                    designed from a euro-perspective. And while some grafting of cultures has always been a component of the ecclesial history in North America, it seems high time, if not past time, to take serious note of the dramatic and significant differences in perception, attitude, spirit and ethics.

Playing God, for example, with the universe, is proving to be a demonstrably dangerous concept, given the existential crisis humanity faces in the threat of global warming and climate change. The Genesis quote: Then God Said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’

A metaphoric, rather than a literal interpretation and application of this description, seems to have both evolved and evaded the minimal differentiation of human from animal creature. As an “piece of origin” writing, however, it is neither surprising nor discomfiting that a ‘conceived’ deity would seek to note a difference between humans and non-humans. One interpretation, likely an attempt to frame the quote into a notion compatible with another notion, holds that the Christian concept of God, is that the ‘expectation that humans would act as God’s representatives, by taking care’ as the ideal.

As the street vernacular would have it, “How is that ‘taking care’ working out for you?
Native peoples have consistently regarded the earth and all of the living things as sacred, not something over which/whom to have dominion. And herein lies a fundamental humility of the indigenous perspective; not treating/using/deploying as if in charge, but co-habiting with in unity. There is simply no “as if” in the indigenous perspective; it is not an abstraction, or a theoretical or a scientific or a mathematical or philosophic or a cognitive concept; they live, incarnate and embrace their unity with the earth and all of its bounty.

I feel awkward, as a descendent of a combined British, Scottish, Irish, and Dutch heritage, to be stepping into the waters of the indigenous world-view, not in an attempt to appropriate those waters but rather to try to embrace the dramatic and life-giving and life-affirming quality of those waters. There is so much of nuance, of imagination, of community, and of life-giving support in a world view that embraces the unity of all living things. Overlaid on this world view is a perspective of time as cyclical rather than sequential, flexible and shifting according to the needs of the people and what is taking place on the earth.


Bound by neither the need to take charge, rather than live in harmony with nature, and the linear concept of time, indigenous folks were/are more enlightened, mature and worthy of emulation and appreciation than original European settlers, with their world view, considered them to be.

Here is a little more from Friesen and Friesen:

The First Nations of North America see themselves as part of a great chain of existence that includes all aspects of creation; all elements in this natural chain are interrelated and interdependent. If any single element is subjected to undue attention or pressure or is tampered with, there will be repercussions in the grand scheme of things…..Traditionally, all tribal societies lived in tune with the cycles of nature. Living off the land and depending on its rhythms meant that nature dictated when things would happen…..The Aboriginal twist to the definition of sharing leans quite heavily toward the obligatory  component of the process, very much to the point that they who have, had better share.  (p. 51-2-3-4)

In the complex process of addressing the issue of the reconciliation process, indigenous peoples choose to “engage in an aggressive, yet reasonable campaign to acquaint their nonNative counterparts with the essence of Aboriginal philosophy (believing) First Nations will undoubtedly gain a great deal more public acceptance than they have in the last few decades.” (Friesen and Friesen op.cit. p 21-22) Other indigenous writers, however, blame Eurocentric thinking for all Aboriginal ills.

Quoting from James Henderson, Youngblood (2000) Postcolonial Ledger Drawing: Legal Reform. Protecting Indigenous Knowledge and Heritage, in Friesen and Friesen we read:

As a theory it (Eurocentric thought) postulates the superiority of European over non-Europeans. It is built on a set of assumptions and beliefs that educated and unusually unprejudiced Europeans and North Americans habitually accept as true as supported by ‘the facts,’ or as ‘reality.’

Friesen and Friesen reference Henderson and Battiste in this sentence: “According to these authors, North Americans have apparently never been able to release themselves from the grasp of European thought, despite the formulation of the American Declaration of Independence in 1776 or the founding of Canada as an independent nation in 1867.” (p. 22)

 Let’s take a closer look at the notion of colonialism:

“A theory that ‘we are superior to everyone else so that means that we have the right to take over their land and run it for our own benefit.”

Colonization is the sending of ‘our superior people’ out to physically take the land away from ‘their inferior people’ and run it for the benefit of our superior people while relegating their inferior people to subservient and secondary roles (if our superior people don’t’ simply kill off all of their inferior people.” ( George Thomas writing in

While Thomas’s definition is replete with sarcasm and even anger, the import of the definitions on both  those indigenous people who have been subjected to colonialism and on those who imposed their ‘superior’ wills on[ja1]  native peoples is still haunting North American culture and life, including the political and corporate cultures.

Superiority/inferiority lies at the heart of all hierarchies, based on any cluster of a number of asssumptions: expert knowledge, tradition, efficiency, the creation of order, the law, and an innate need for control among others. Superiority/inferiority, too, is implicit in all sorts of relationships dependent on the perceptions of individuals in those relationships. If anyone has experienced the abuse of power, regardless of when and where such abuse took place, one is especially sensitive to the dynamics of that scenario. Also, although much less discussed publicly if at all, for those who have abused power, they know intimately, if secretly, that they have abused their power. And one question that too often goes unspoken and thereby unresolved is whether or not those who have abused power come to the conscious realization and acknowledgement that they have responsibility for those abuses.

Too often in North American history, those who considered themselves and their views, dogma, theology, and positions as “protectors/rescuers/custodians/parents” of the individuals in their charge have used that position/view as justification of whatever practices and policies they deemed necessary. And that nefarious and heinous pattern was often implemented and imposed in the name of God. So, not only were there secular roles in schools and in group homes with inordinate power over both the children, directly, and indirectly over the parents from whom those children had been snatched, there was the over-bearing ‘veil’ of the sacred interceding as ethical endorsement and justification for the actions, policies and theories of the abusers


While not an indigenous person, I am familiar with the concept of the abuse of power from an early age. And it is not only the bruises and the physical pain that accompanies the abuse; it is even more importantly the shame, the guilt and the anger, married to the colonizing and militarizing of the secrecy about the abuse that is so lasting and so galling and so demeaning.

Keeping secrets inside a publicly-parading religious and self-righteous home, so that no public reputations of the parents are damaged, is a pattern from which one recovers slowly over time. The experiences, however, inform a world view that intuits bullshit, manipulation, deception, and especially cover-up attitudes and behaviours when and wherever they appear. Abused kids are implanted in a culture, with or without the will or the acknowledgment of the power structures of that society, as canaries in the wider coal mine of each institution and agency and corporation to which we become associated.

And while the abuse has ended, for many, the residue of that precipitate (the highly intuitive and extra-sensitive canary) in the bottom of the beaker of our consciousness and our unconsciousness remains and will not remain silent forever.

And, similarly, the indigenous peoples in North America are also, if we are prepared to acknowledge our reality, the sensitive, empathic, intuitive and conciliatory canaries in our shared coal mine.

Are we prepared to hear their song?


Friday, August 19, 2022

Reflections on time....

Yin is the symbol of earth, femaleness, darkness, passivity and absorption, present in even nYumbers, in valleys and streams where yang is conceived of as heaven, maleness, light, activity, and penetration. Both help to elucidate the Chinese belief in a cyclical theory of becoming and dissolution and an interdependence between the world of nature and human events.
The notion of the cyclical as opposed to the linear theory of time connotes a very different concept of time and our relationship to time….”The aboriginal concept of time differs from the Judeo-Christian perception of time in that aboriginal people do not perceive time as an exclusively linear category (i.e. past-present-future) and often place events in a ‘circular pattern of time in which an individual is in the centre of ‘time circles’ and event placed in time according to their relative importance for the individual and his or her community.” (from
“The reason why we see time as ‘linear’ is because of Christianity. The idea of Genesis (at the start) and Judgement Day (at the end) gives us a narrative- a linear view of time….Plato thought time was created by a Creator….Even his student, Aristotle, thought time wasn’t an independent thing but only a relational concept between objects. But Christians loved Plato…The early Christian Fathers quickly realized that their account of creation and the Biblical account of the Last Judgement could map really well onto this linear view of time….Not only was Judgement Day a balm to all (the) suffering, it also acted to structure the entire universe. Time was not some illusion, nor was it in infinite cycle. Rather, it was a deliberate narrative, written and overseen by God-our God. He had a plan, and ‘today’ is only one step along the way He laid out for us. The Church Fathers and various council that were charged with putting together the official orthodox Bible knew very well they were laying out a story like every other: It begins, the characters grow and change int eh middle, and it ends. The implications of this view—that God has created the universe with a narrative in mind—is that everything happens for a reason. It sets us up to believe there’s order in the madness and purpose in the chaos. This idea, called ‘Sacred Time,’ gave meaning to Christians and is something that still infuses how we see the world….(And yet) If you try to strip away all the ideological baggage with which we’re born, there’s not much that points toward linear time. The sun will rise and fall. Winter will pass and come back around with snowy regularity. History repeats itself. It’s why, across so much of human history, time is not viewed as a finite, closed line, but an infinite, repeating circle…..Of course, time is a hugely complex issue, an done which even today we’re having to unravel. But philosophically and phenomenologically*, Aristotle hit the nail on the head. As Carlo Rovelli explains in his book, ‘The Order of Time,’ ‘Time, as Aristotle suggested, is the measure of change; different variables can be chosen to measure that change, and none of these has all the characteristics of time as we experience it. But this does not alter the fact that the world I sin a ceaseless process of change.….(a brief history of time by Jonny Thomson, philosophy instructor at Oxford…from Thomson’s Instagram account is called Mini Philosophy @philosophyminis. His first book is Mini Philosophy: A Small Book of Big Ideas)


Our deeply embedded culture, in the concept of linear time, however noble and honourable, and even potentially theologically arguable, poses many serious issues, none of them likely about to be exposed in open, serious and warranted public debate.

Our shared capacity to manage, control and depend upon the micro-dissection, exposure and implementation of linear time came abruptly into our mailbox a few weeks back. Inside was an envelope with a provincial government address; it put a slight frown of interest and questioning on my face, until I opened it. Inside were two pieces of paper: one with photos of our vehicle in the middle of an intersection with a red light also in the photo. As the driver of the car, I had taken .5 seconds into that red light, after the light changed from orange to red. The camera was apparently posted high on a metal post with a capacity to shoot such aberrant driving behaviour. Naturally, we paid the considerable fine, and then were left with the lingering impression that, while no one ‘wants’ to ‘run a red light’ and while this is not something I have ever been charged with previously, the manner of the investigation, documentation and conviction, (with the opportunity to appeal), based on technology I did not “know” was there, opens a host of questions.

There are times, of course, when a split second can mean the difference between moving through an intersection safely and colliding with another vehicle. Some drivers turn right into traffic thereby cutting that traffic off, without a camera to document the risk. Others pass on double solid lines on inclines when oncoming traffic cannot be visible; others drive so ponderously that, on two-lane highways, they generate a back-log of several vehicles each of which have an increasingly frustrated driver, without a camera’s witness.

Another implicit and seemingly now tolerated, and even embraced implication of the linear concept of time is chanted by American politicians in their normal political rhetoric…we are working toward a ‘more-perfect union’. As if….and the implication, from Christianity, that, after all the pain and suffering of a life on earth, the world is promised an afterlife of painless security, at least for those who ‘believe’. And that promise, while it ostensibly offers that ‘prize in the cracker-jack box of life’ of a place in heaven for eternity, nevertheless entraps many of those propagating that theology and those drinking that hope, into a state of mind and heart that, apparently would not evoke, generate and produce “good behaviour” without that carrot.

Pavlov’s dogs, salivating at the sound of that ‘bell’, however, we are not. And the Christian notion of a form of classical conditioning, complete with the sanctions of an afterlife of purgatory and/or Hell, seem to embed a deeply troubling concept of the nature of human beings as depraved, and dependent on the saving of the grace of God. And, while the Bible begins in a garden and ends in heaven, and thereby provides a template or a typology that suggests, metaphorically, that the human story is generally envisioned as the journey from the garden to the city on the hill, the very metaphor that helped elect presidents, (think especially Ronald Regan, famous for repeating the image).

Idealism, of course, is the stuff of the American psyche, and much of it has been constructed on the footings of the Christian faith. The linear concept of time, however, is clearly not only not the only or the bet or the most ethical notion of time in the universe.

Einstein’s theory of relativity in which rates of time run differently depending on relative motion, and space and time are merged into spacetime, where we live on a world line rather than a timeline. In this view, time is a coordinate. Time is neither linear or circular. It does not flow or move but allows others to do so. So, the cycles we observe have nothing to do with time, except that time will enable them to exist. (Wikipedia)

In quantum mechanics, time is understood as an external (’Classical’) concept.  So it is assumed, as in classical physics, to exist as a controller of all motion--either as absolute time or in the form of proper times defined by a classical spacetime metric (, in a piece by Dan Falk, July 19, 2016, reads this way:

According to our best theories of physics, the universe is a fixed block where time only appear to pass. Yet a number of physicisit hope to replace this ‘block universe’ with a physical theory of time….Einstein’s masterpiece, the general theory of relativity, and the ‘Standard Model of particle physics. The laws that underlie these theories are time-symmetric—that is, the physics they describe is the same, regardless of whether the variable called ‘time’ increases or decreases. Moreover, they say nothing at all about the point we call ‘now’- a special moment (or so it appear) for us, but seemingly undefined when we talk about the universe at large. The resulting timeless cosmos is sometimes called a ‘block universe’- a static block of space-time in which any flow of time, or passage through it must presumably be a mental construct or other illusion….(Other physicists think)  the universe is not static. The passage time is physical. ‘I’m sick and tired of this block universe,’ said Avshalom Elitzur, a physicist and philosopher formerly of Bar Ilan University. “I don’t think that next Thursday has the same footing as this Thursday. The future does not exist. It does not! Ontologically#, it’s not there.’

Whether or not the question of ‘time’ is amenable to some equation, or even metaphor, that encompasses reason, intuition, imagination and theology, as well as unique cultural/historical/indigenous notions, seems to be a question far beyond the ‘pay-grade’ of this scribe.

Nevertheless, how we perceive the time we ‘live’ and the time before and the time after, have had, continue to have, and will undoubtedly continue to have a significant impact on our lives, whether we are conscious of that impact or not. And, for simple minds like this scribe’s, the issue of satiety/scarcity/abundance is one that we can each grasp intellectually as well as emotionally. And how we ‘spend’ (even if the concept is not empirically measurable and verifiable) our moments, our hours, days, weeks and decades is a matter of considerable significance.

Linearity, however, seems to be a concept that warrants considered scepticism, whether from a scientific or a psychological or a spiritual or a religious perspective. And, even beginning the release of the apparent constrictions that linearity implies/implicates, is a start to a more free, and free-association with our ancestors, and those who come after us. We really are all part of the river that flows from the earliest known living things until whenever….

And that, for this scribe, is a rather considerable and momentous notion to be integrated into one’s life.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Reflections on the implications of enantiadromia....beyond the church

 This week we read, in Al Jazeera, that the neutrality of Austria ‘is not up for public debate’ according to leaders of mainline political parties. Having been divided by various ‘world powers’ after European conflicts, there is a strong public the commitment to neutrality. And, in the middle of Russian invasion of Ukraine, although previously the Austrians purchased 80% of their natural gas from Russia, they have now reduced that to 50%. So, there has to be some kind of at least minor in the official ‘thinking’ in Vienna. Attempting to serve as potential broker in and when there might be a peace negotiation to end the conflict, seems now to be kind of ‘wishful hope’ rather than a legitimate expectation.

Back in the1950’s James M. Minifie wrote a book entitled, “Canada: Peacemaker or Powder Monkey,” in which he concluded that Canada was a “powder-monkey in that the U.S. could launch acts of aggression against other world states and Canada would follow. And that has largely been the pattern.” (

Jean Chretien, as Prime Minister, must have been fully conscious of this theme in Canadian history when, in 2003, he declared that Canada would not join the United States in its declared war against Iraq. Canada did however join the U.S. conflict in Afghanistan in one of the longest wars in U.S. history.

The question of neutrality/engagement/choosing sides, however, is one that faces each individual, as well as each family, community, church, and government on various levels at different times. And at the centre of that tension is the question of the relationship between duty and public expectation and identity, belief, conviction and ego reality. The first, duty etc. can be referenced as the ‘mask’ or the public face that one puts on in order to ‘facilitate’ the daily and hourly encounters, in a kind of seemingly ‘scripted’ performance. The second is more closely integrated with the authentic feelings, perceptions, attitudes, beliefs and core benchmarks of one’s identity.

Public performance versus a private reality is a theme that runs through literature, all of the biographies of all of the major world figures whose lives have touched their writers and their readers, and certainly throughout the oceans of fiction that have been published.

Yesterday, this space mentioned the concept of enantiadromia, the place, condition in which the person/organization/government/corporation/church/nation flips into a state in which it (we, they) become so extreme that they turn into their opposite. Jung adds that ‘this characteristic phenomenon practically always occurs when an extreme, one-sided tendency dominates conscious life; in time an equally powerful counter-position is built up which first inhibits the conscious performance and subsequently breaks through the conscious control.” ( At the personal level, when the ”mask” (Persona) of the performance in a role subsumes the identity of the individual, the individual loses ‘sight’ of or consciousness of his/her inner identity, then the individual flips intro that state described by Margaret Laurence in The Stone Angel, “Pride was my wilderness and the demon that led me there was fear.”

A similar principle is articulated in the Chinese Yin-Yang, in that yang lines become yin when they have reached their extreme, and vice versa. Yin (dark on the right) is the receptive and yang (light on the left) the active principle. This duality, in Taoism is not an either-or but an indivisible whole. In Confucianism, however, a moral dimension is added to both yin and yang.

I first met this concept in a piece of research on a life ended tragically when I discovered the extreme of the ‘persona’ (the mask) having fused with the ego (the identity) and the individual had succumbed, at least in my interpretation to the extreme demands of his professional role which drowned his sense of his ego and left him no perceived hope. So the fusion of the mask and the ego, as the initial meeting with this concept has impacted much of my subsequent thought, feeling and perceptions.

There is, undoubtedly, a kind of either-or aspect to this kind of thinking. And yet, given that there are forces, energies, winds, and seasons, including masculine and feminine genders at work, the thinking behind these various iterations of the concept do not reduce to Manicheanism, whereby everything is either good or bad. It would seem reasonable to observer that perhaps there has been a fusion of the two ideas, in North America, whereby “Good and Bad” have gone to war, as if the forces on one side of the political ‘aisle’ see themselves as ‘good’ and that those forces on the other side of the aisle can be and are only bad. And that frozenness, (call it stubbornness, fossilized, frozen, intransigent or ….) seems to have burned the concept of nuance out of the potential for public debate. We seem to have turned to a form of extreme Confucianism and neglected the Tao. Whether that has been a collective unconscious cultural shift, or whether it has taken place at a conscious collective level, seems worthy of more study and thought.

The church (taken generally as the Christian church) has positioned itself as force dedicated to the relationship between humans and God, whereas the secular society, the economy, the political institutions and the business world sees itself as the agency (collectively) that manages the public need. And while there has been an implicit divide, (“Caesar v God”), and some theologians have written that there is no real separation between the things of the world and the things of the spirit, the religious institutions have traditionally taken a different lens, theory, modus operandi and purpose: to help humans orient to a different attitude, perception, value system, belief and praxis than that of the “street”.

As these ideas percolate, one cannot help but acknowledge that the whole notion of  “divide” whether of self, or between those aspects of human existence that we consider sacred from those aspects we consider secular, is itself a deeply “European” notion. Some are becoming familiar with the distinctions between, for example, the indigenous and the European world view. From the website, (Indigenous Corporate Training Inc.) we find these words:

Eight differences between indigenous and western worldviews:

1.   I (Indigenous) Spiritually oriented society, system based on belief and spiritual world.

W (Worldview) Scientific skeptical, requiring proof as basis of belief

2.   I –There can be many truths; truths area dependent upon individual experiences

W-There is only one truth, based on science or Western style law.


3.   I- Society operates in a state of relatedness. Everything and everyone is related. There is real belief  that people, objects and the environment are all connected. Law kindship and spirituality reinforce this connectedness. Identity comes from connections.

W- Compartmentalized society, becoming more so.


4.   I- The land is sacred and usually given by a creator or supreme being.

W- The land and its resources should be available for development and extraction for the benefit of humans.


5.   I- Time is non-linear, cyclical in nature. Time is measured in cyclical events. The seasons are central to this concept.

W- Time is usually linearly structured and future orientated. The framework of months, years, days etc. reinforces the linear structure.


6.   I- Feeling comfortable is measured by the quality of your relationships with people.

W- Feeling comfortable is related to how successful you feel you have been in achieving your goals.


7.   I- Human beings are not the most important in the world.

W-Human beings are most important in the world.


8.   I-Amassing wealth is important for the good of the community.

W-Amassing wealth is for personal gain.

Given that in North America, we are influenced by forces from Europe and forces inherent to the indigenous peoples who inhabited these lands prior to the European “conquest” and “colonization”, we can see how the worldviews, perspectives, vocabulary and language of both, as well as the eastern concepts of Yin and Yang are ‘swimming’ around in the cultural ethos. And while attempting to apply the notion of enantiadromia not only to the human individual, but by extension to the ‘institutional’ psyche is necessarily a euro-based kind of argument, the lens of biology, as well as the lens of botany and zoology have frequently been deployed as metaphors for observing phenomena in other spheres (from a euro-perspective).

Recognizing in oneself, when one’s life has tipped over into the extreme in which the ‘role’ and the ‘performance’ has supplanted the ego, is, as one might expect, neither obvious, nor comfortable. The western world view of success/accomplishment/achievement/status/wealth/power have been so indoctrinated as “commonly agreed values”, and the notion of human intervention as “critical parent” has been embedded into so much of our epistemology, cosmology, and social dogma, means that from the perspective of both the law and medicine, “things we do not understand, tolerate or accept” (what we call abnormal) have been compartmentalized into ‘sickness’ or ‘criminality’. That euro-compartmentalization, has, as a consequence, imposed a kind of ‘narrow path’ on fitting in that impacts literally and metaphorically, every single person and role.

As part of our being “formed” we have what the French call  “formation professionelle”…the impact of our formal education and training on our world view. And, naturally, much of that formation has roots in euro-think.

And, as we have been reminded by Lionel Tiger in The Manufacture of Evil, that as our processes of manufacturing which have become so precise and operate in increasingly narrow margins of error, so too we have imposed a similar kind of “manufacturing tolerance” on our assessment of evil and wrong-doing. It is not difficult to speculate that, once ignited in a person, or family or institution, those guidelines for ‘acceptable’ (call it professional, ethical, normal, moral or political, conventional) become a kind of straight-jacket, (depending on one’s perspective) that either ‘liberates’ or constricts individuals (and organizations) from the prospect of become self-aware, as well as the prospect of adapting to new insights or threats or opportunities.

It says here that the conjunction of a divide between the secular and the sacred, with a highly steroidal-injected ambition to “succeed” and to “fit in” and with the methods of both manufacture and communicate that have accompanied the industrial and the technological revolutions, and the determination to ‘fit in’ to the conventional culture (both the collective conscious and the collective unconscious) that accompanies the requirements and the job descriptions of all organizational leadership and their executives, has imposed an inscrutable, inevitable, and tragic set of forces that have so crippled the heart, the mind and the spirit of both the institutions themselves and their responsible leaders, that their form has succumbed to their function.

In art, “form follows function” is the principle that the form art takes    should be based upon its intent and purpose. Some posit that form follows function, while others like Frank Lloyd Wright argue that “form and function are one”.

It is this “unity” of form and function that, in all things, physical, relational, spiritual we are, it seems, hardwired, to search for a kind of oneness…with nature, with ourselves, and with God. And this impulsion can been extrapolated, at a very basic level, from our origins….separated from the mother at birth, and then oriented to a world of highly defined, moralized, inculcated, nurtured, motivated through both extrinsic and intrinsic conditioning, and then launched into various worlds of their own “forms of conditioning”. And whether there is a deity included in the various forms of “formation”  both personal and professional, the relationships are documented in terms that can be transmitted, and both rewarded or sanctioned, depending on compliance.

And, while this process of development, psychologically, socially, intellectually, spiritually differs from region and culture, it ostensibly is designed by frameworks of language and thought that, by definition, and by observation and analysis, require significant, critical and frequently very uncomfortable and distressing and conceivably radical transformation.

If enantiadromia is one of the canaries in our collective coal mine, singing of the tip from form into exclusive function, and we can observe that negative flip, then it might be feasible to envision some warning lighthouse blinking lights that warn of the shoals of excessive and extreme commitment to something none of us can or will sustain.

The constrictions of a perfect public face, whether for an individual, a family, a church or a corporation, has the risk inherent in its perfection, of capsizing that identity. It already has in the lives of many individuals; it threatens to capsize the American ‘ship of state’ and also the so-called world order of the last several decades.

As the world tips into an excessive dependence on numbers, size, science, technology and the multiple indoctrination streams (called euphemistically the education of our youth), we risk a catastrophic collapse of the collective human consciousness and unconsciousness, as we all succumb to becoming what we are not, things, to be manipulated by some power structure outside of ourselves and outside of our control.