Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Different Take on Halloween - because my mind works in strange ways

On day, some time ago, I found myself contemplating the "meaning" of Halloween. Not the religious or the historical context of it. I wondered what possible meaning could be created for the silly customs we engage in today. We all dress up as odd beings and characters – good and bad – and go around visiting strangers asking for treats.

When goblins, werewolves, ghosts and even Jason the psychotic killer come to our door we are not frightened. We know they are just little kids looking for something sweet.

And life is like that. We’re all going around pretending to be this or that, making ourselves up as the beings we think we are- or ought to be or need to be in order to survive or to get what it is we are trying to get. We go around to each person we meet wondering what we will get from them.

Whenever someone comes to us we wonder if they are thinking of tricks or treats – and what we have to give them to get them not to trick us.

We are all just playing roles - the roles are not who we are. We are the inner spirit that is playing the roles.

And when we see someone who looks like a monster or demon we should know it is only a costume. Behind the mask is just a little kid looking for something sweet.

And when we imagine ourselves as angels we need to remember that is a mask too.

I thought about this and then I made a drawing. Because that is what I do.

It is a large drawing of a whole lot of kids – kids who are us. Kids running, playing, posing, fighting, laughing, frowning. Each one has an angel doll and a demon mask. Sometimes they play with one, sometimes with the other – imagining themselves and each other as angel or demon.

Sometimes they forget their toys for a moment and notice the bird over their head. Each child has a bird a living bird with real wings. Mostly the children don’t notice their birds.

The birds notice everything. The birds are their spirits – their true living selves – neither angel nor demon but a living being whose natural state is to fly.

It is not something they are pretending to be but what they can become when they stop pretending.

In the drawing some children play sweetly, some play spitefully, some play together, some play alone. Some are caught up for the moment in the excitement of play, but they keep hold of their dolls and masks.

Some play with their mask, some wear their mask, some just hold it, in case they might need it. Some hold their angel dolls close, cherishing them. Some hold them carelessly.

One tries to snatch a doll and another tries to hit someone with his angel doll. Who we are and who we think we are and who we try to be and not be can be baffling.

One girl is gazing in delight at her bird. One boy has let go of his mask and his doll and has spread his sweater like wings as he looks at his bird. One boy seems to have lost interest in both his mask and his doll as he hugs his friend.

That was the drawing I made out of the thoughts that were rolling around in my head.

We’re all just children playing at life thinking the roles we play are real. As long as the spirit sees through the eyes of the child it imagines itself and its world as angel or demon.

When the child begins to look through the eyes of the spirit it no longer see angels or demons but only children pretending with masks and dolls and imagined selves.

When we begin to know ourselves as living spirits we awaken to a world awash in the billion billion beating wings of living spirits and know we are meant to fly.


there is understanding you come to know through experience
there is wisdom you come to through insight and depth of spirit
there is knowledge you learn from reading the right books
it should be understood that all I know is merely of the latter type

I’m still just playing with my masks and dolls trying to hear the wings of spirit somewhere above me

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Meaning of life 7: the dark side

Meaning for an individual or a society does not necessarily need to be good, healthy, or beneficial meaning ; it can be bad meaning. This can be particularly so for an individual, a group or a subgroup of a population that begins embracing a negative framework of meaning. Meanings constructed around exclusivist, xenophobic, paranoid frames of reference can be extraordinarily damaging to the individual psyche as well as to the community and to wider society. Meanings generated from states of resentment, anger, arrogance, exploitation, are equally destructive to the soul and the community.

The construction of meaning is intimately involved in the construction of identity – both individual and collective. Groups which construct their shared meaning and personal and shared identity around such ideas as “everyone is going to hell but us,” or “nobody’s as good or as smart or as important, or as beautiful as us,” “nobody counts in the end but us,” are debilitating to the individuals, to the group and very difficult for the larger society which they impact.

The main shared component of these negative frameworks of meaning comes down to their separation of themselves from others and from the larger shared project and adventure of humanity as a whole. Any time we wall ourselves off from others, we begin to, consciously or unconsciously adopt a value scale with ourselves at the top and everyone else ranged lower and valued less.

Meanings which promote exclusivity or separation between ourselves and others are essentially non-productive to the human endeavor –to the natural flow of things. To self-identify in contrast and opposition to others instead of in connection and mutual respect, is a gateway to all sorts of awful behavior to one another.

It leads to exploitation of others – what I need from them is far more important than their comfort, needs, goals, purposes, pleasure. It generates disenfranchisement and marginalization of others. It doesn’t need to be extreme. Negatively skewed sets of meaning can be as simple as assessing the healthy as better than the unhealthy, the smart or educated as better than ignorant or uneducated, the fast as better than the slow. Value judgments which place others in hierarchical relation to ourselves and those like us are inherently negative frameworks of meaning.

Some see beauty only in those who look like themselves, some see truth only in those who share their ideas, perspectives, outlook. This sort of territorial exclusiveness of the mental sphere is debilitating not only to those who construct these meanings but brings harm to those who live around or come into contact with them in one form or another. It shrinks the humanity of those who frame their identity with these meanings.

At the far end, these negative frames of meaning can lead to demonization of the other, the making of those who are different into non-humans, soul-less. And that is when we begin to act in truly evil ways toward one another. We have done this again and again in our rough road to becoming human.

Seeing that our worst tendencies can come out of the same urge to create meaning that inspires our greatest human achievements is part of the mystery of our humanity.