During my morning meditation this morning, a thought intervened. Before I could wave it away and return to the breath it observed, “Stop worrying, let him have his way, why do you care, it’s his event, and you won’t be doing this again.” I brought my focus back to the breath but some time later another thought interrupted, “You have a responsibility, you are not acting with integrity, you need to have a voice, you know you are right”. Once again I waved it farewell and returned to my mindfulness practice.
It was not until some time later as I sat with my morning tea reflecting on the glorious Fall day in Vancouver and recording some thoughts in my journal that, the memory of the two voices returned. It was not all unfamiliar – the voice of compliance versus the voice of confrontation. I had honed these two opposite responses in my relationship to my authoritative father.
As a child and for much of my adult life these voices had been almost entirely reactive and I rarely felt in control of which would emerge. Once I got fired when the confrontive voice emerged with one of my bosses and I told him, “You do not have a constructive bone in your body.” Other times I have slunk away feeling like a small disgraced child.
More recently in my quest to become conscious I have learned to pause, to take a breath and perhaps deliberate on my response. Management Guru Steven Covey’s words “Between the stimulus and response there is a gap” in his renowned book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People® has been remarkably helpful to pave the way.
More recently eminent Jungian analyst James Hollis in his book Living The Examined Life reminds me of C.G. Jung’s advice, “to suffer the dimension of the opposites within ourselves as long as we can bear it and to wait upon the appearance of the third” Hollis suggests that the third embodies the discernment of which choice summons us to a more developmental journey. It is time to wait and discern.
This week I have also encountered the need to try and maintain positivity relative to the global comedy that we seemed destined to play out. Recently I listened to two podcasts – one titled Does the Deep State Exist, a devastating report by journalist Jack Livesay on how the “Deep State” undermines democracy and in fact represents the fulfillment of a prophecy by President Dwight D Eisenhower on the dangers of the military-industrial complex.
And the other by Sacha Baron Cohen, a brilliant, insightful damnation of how the social networks breed fake news, propagate hate and are also destroying democracy.
In between I watched a delightful travelogue featuring British comedienne and raconteur Joanna Lumley in her series The Silk Road where she follows in the footsteps of Marco Polo. This episode took place in Iran and was fascinating, intriguing, beautiful but most of all so different to perceptions of Iran we get from our media. The people were so lovely, friendly, helpful and wonderful examples of the capacity of our genus for kindness and generosity.
I felt a welling up of sadness at the possibility if certain factions of the US military industrial complex have their way, bombs will rain down on these cousins of hours. What kind of species are we when the killing of innocent human beings becomes an acceptable by product of the insatiable desire for weapons production. So here again the need to hold the opposites of human behaviour and wonder how to sustain hope in light of the terrible possibilities.
Ironically I believe I know the answer but whether it is remotely achievable is another question. It requires the changing of hearts and minds to perhaps what the Buddha referred to as “The Four Immeasurables – Loving Kindness, Compassion, Sympathetic Joy and Equanimity”. Then we can redistribute wealth, eliminate violence, guarantee basic standards for living and resolve global warming. This is easy to say but difficult to do. It is by no way new, and every wisdom tradition has at its heart the same principles. Yet I wonder if we can survive as a species long term unless we can radically change.
So I can only hold these opposites about our species. On the one hand peaceful, creative, ethical, loving, caring, capable of great change, advancement and self sacrifice. On the other fearful, grasping, greedy, manipulative, violent and selfish with the capacity to willfully destroy our selves. Perhaps I can find hope in this beautiful Cherokee story:
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”
He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”