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Archive for August, 2018

THE SHADOW KNOWS. . .

Carl Jung gave us many gifts.  For me, one of his most impactful was his gift of The Shadow.  Here is my favorite photo of Carl Jung.

carl_jung-glasses

I love his smile.  It is the smile of the wise person that communicates, ‘I know something that could change your life!’  Here are three of his quotes that I invite you, Gentle Reader, to savor.

  • Knowing your own darkness is the best method of dealing with the darknesses of other people.
  • To confront a person with his shadow is to show him his own light.
  • One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.

The radio show, The Shadow, first aired in 1930 and last aired in 1954; talk about longevity.  From 1950 through 1954 our family would gather in my father’s study.  We gathered at 5pm and the first radio show we listened to was either The B-Bar-B Riders or Gunsmoke.  At 5:30pm my favorite mystery radio show aired: The Shadow.

As one of the younger children I would take up residence on the floor.  Our parents and the two eldest children would sit in chairs.  Taking up residence with me on the floor was my older brother and younger sister.  At 6pm my mother and one of the two elder children would retire to the kitchen and fix sandwiches.  Within minutes individual trays would be presented to us.  We would then listen to a variety of radio shows for another hour or so.  I loved the variety of radio shows and I loved the family time.

I was first introduced to Carl Jung’s work, and his concept of the Shadow, when I was an undergraduate.  For the past 50+ years Jung has been a staple for me; he continues to challenge me, stretch my thinking and enlighten me.  On 14 January, 2010 the following poem emerged into my consciousness.

 THE SHADOW KNOWS

Lamont Cranston’s alter ego,
His other ‘I’ was called The Shadow.
As a child I would lay riveted to the floor
On Sunday afternoons lost in the world
That my mind was creating as I listened to
The radio.

The Shadow was aptly named.  He was not
Directly visible; he was a breath one felt on
One’s neck.  He was a feeling that washed
Over one.  He had the ability to cloud men’s
Minds.  Yet he was a powerful force that
Made things whole again; a force that brought
Balance back to an unbalanced world.  He would
Connect the dots and solve the seemingly
Unsolvable.

The program would begin and end with the same
Haunting lines delivered by a specter’s voice
That was punctuated with a knowing laugh:
‘Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?
The shadow knows!’  

My Shadow is also aptly named.  He is not
Directly visible; he manifests himself not in
A breath I feel but in slips of tongue and behavior
That I make.  He mirrors himself to me; projections
As judgments and labels that I place onto others.
He clouds my mind so that I do not think clearly.
Yet he is a powerful potential possibility that if
Embraced and integrated will help bring me to
Wholeness, to healing.  He can be a force that
Enables me to bring balance to my unbalanced self.
He can help me connect the myriad of dots that
Make up who I am; that connect me to me.  He
Supports my growth and movement from what
Appears to be an unsolvable problem to a
Mysterious paradox to be held in love and
Compassion.

Each evening as I move toward sleep my
Shadow prepares to manifest himself in
My dreams; he prepares to provide me a
Gift and an opportunity.
Each evening as I move toward sleep I
Can begin to faintly hear my Shadow
Begin his refrain: ‘What good and evil
Lurks within Richard’s heart? Your
Shadow knows!’   Unlike the radio
Program, this question is not followed by
The specter’s laughter but is followed
By another question; a question that is
More unsettling than the laughter:
‘Do you, Richard, want to know what
Good and evil lies within your heart?’  -©Richard  W Smith, 14 January 2010

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SIX POEMS. . .

Good morning, Gentle Reader.  As a random intuitive each day I am blessed with a variety of thoughts running amok in my mind.  On good days I am able to focus on one or more of them and on no-so-good days I struggle to focus.  I learned many years ago that all of this is o.k.  These past days my thoughts have been running amok on turbo drive; there are many reasons this is occurring.

Two days ago I began to hold this question: What might you write about on Sunday?  I wanted to write and post on Sunday.  There were, among the many possibilities running amok in my mind, six that began to move to the front of the pack.  However, as I settled in this morning at one of my favorite coffee shops – the one where my son, Nathan works (I love watching Nathan work; part of my watching involves celebrating how he engages and serves his fellow ‘partners’ and how he engages and serves those that come to the coffee shop – but I digress).

As I was typing: As I settled in this morning I quickly realized that I still did not have a focus this morning.  So, I wrote a note about each of the six topics and then I went searching for a poem that captured, for me, the topic.  Within a few minutes I found the six poems.

This morning, Gentle Reader, I offer them to you.  Perhaps one or more of them will resonate with you or speak to you or help awaken something within you – something that has been lying dormant for a time.  Then again, perhaps none of this will emerge for you; that, of course, is fine.  I offer the ‘Six Poems’ in no particular order.

A BURDEN

I never understood my mother when she would say,
‘I don’t want to be a burden.’   I thought, ‘How can
you say that?’  ‘How can you think such a thought?’

As I was driving to meet a friend this morning I became
aware of a thought I was holding: ‘I don’t want to be a burden.’
My eyes began to tear up.  I began to imagine my children,
Becky and Nathan, and some of my friends being burdened by
me as I grow older and eventually more sickly and definitely
even more needy than I am today.

Mom: ‘I am beginning to get it.’  –Richard W Smith, 19 January 2010

A GIFT

One day the wise elder from the West
overheard a searcher complaining about
another’s lack of respect.

The elder approached the searcher and
inquired, ‘What is in your heart?’

The searcher searched and replied,
‘The learner needs to learn respect.’
 
The elder gently replied,
‘This might be true, but what is in your heart?’
 
Again the searcher searched and, after some time,
replied, ‘My heart is full of dis-respect
and is experiencing great dis-ease.’
 
The elder smiled warmly, and offered the
following gift to the searcher:
‘Cleanse your thoughts of dis- and respect
and ease will enter your heart.’  –Richard W Smith 10 January, 2010

A FEW HAIKU

LONELY SNOWY DAYS
THE ELDER SITS IN SILENCE
WISDOM LIES WITHIN.

CHOOSING THE NO-PATH
THE DEER LEAPS OVER THE BRUSH
WHAT DO I RISK IN FOLLOWING?

IT IS COLD AND DARK
NIGHT SEEMS ENDLESS AND SO SCARY
A SMALL LIGHT FLICKERS.     –Richard W Smith, 24 February, 2010

A CITIZEN, OR . . .

In democratic Athens, representatives were not elected;
They were randomly chosen and served for one year.
Six thousand were chosen each year.  Each eligible
Citizen was expected to be well educated and well
Prepared so he could hold his office in a trustworthy manner.

Athens was far from perfect.  Athenians owned slaves;
Only men who were citizens were eligible to be representatives.
Yet the Athenians demonstrated that a type of democracy was
Possible and they developed a model for the ages.

Our Founding Fathers believed that democracy, as they
Envisioned it, would survive only if we had an educated
And involved Citizenry.

It seems as if we have evolved, or is it devolved, from
Citizens to Consumers, Conversation to Competition,
From Contemplating Concepts to Crass Commercialism.
We have moved from serving our nation to serving ourselves.
We have moved from having a need to be involved in democracy
To being taken care of by those we elect in our democracy.

In a sustainable Democracy her Citizens must be educated and
Knowledgeable, her Citizens must be involved, her
Citizens must care deeply.  What a test.  How do I measure up?
Am I a Citizen, or. . .    –Richard W Smith, 4 January 2010

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THE GARDEN. . .

I love metaphors.  We, you and I Gentle Reader, live metaphors; we are living metaphors.  One of my favorite metaphors is a garden metaphor.  ‘I am a garden.’  Each relationship I have is a garden.  Each organization is a garden.

The garden metaphor is also a paradox.  The Paradox: I am both the garden and the gardener.

When it comes to relationships (I am thinking of the relationship between two people).  The Paradox: We (the relationship) are the garden and we are also the gardeners.

When it comes to an organization.  The Paradox: The organization is a garden to be nurtured and sustained and the organization is the gardener.

As gardeners we have been entrusted with the care of our gardens.  We are the gardens’ stewards.

Gentle Reader, you might remember that I also love poetry.  More than thirty years ago I read a poem by Spain’s greatest poet, Antonio Machado.  I offer his poem to you this morning.  The poem is about a garden and a gardener.  I also offer you two photos to contemplate as you read and ‘hold’ Machado’s poem.

First: The Two Photos

Wildflower Garden#2

A Dying Garden

Now: Antonio Machado’s Poem

The wind, one brilliant day, called
to my soul with an odor of jasmine.

“In return for the odor of my jasmine,
I’d like all the odor of your roses.”

“I have no roses; all the flowers
in my garden are dead.”

“Well then, I’ll take the withered petals
and the yellow leaves and the waters of the fountain.”

The wind left. And I wept. And I said to soul:
“What have you done with the garden that was entrusted to you?”

 

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GREED. . .

Greed is a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an endless effort to satisfy the need without ever reaching satisfaction. –Erich Fromm

Recently, Gentle Reader, I have been writing about the Having Mode.  I awoke a few days ago holding a question: What are the fundamental elements in the relationships of those who are rooted in the ‘Having Mode’?

This morning I invite you to join me in responding to this question.  It seems to me that the following tap roots (think: Values) feed, nurture and sustain the relationships of those who have integrated the Having Mode: competition, antagonism & fear.  The very nature of the Having Mode engenders (requires?) these three tap roots.

If ‘having’ is the basis of my sense of identity – think: ‘I am what I have!’ – the wish to have will generate a greater wish to have – to have more; to have the most.  In other words ‘Greed’‘Greed’ is the natural consequence of the Having Mode.

This ‘Greed’ can be the greed of the miser or the greed of the profit hunter or the greed of the person who wants to ‘own’ another (think: there are parents and spouses who view their children and their spouse as ‘property that they own’).

No matter what constitutes their greed, the greedy person – or greedy collective (think: team, organization or society) – can never have enough, can never be ‘satisfied.’  Physical hunger, for example.  Physical hunger has definite satiation points.  On the other hand, ‘mental greed’ –consider, Gentle Reader, that all greed is mental – has no satiation point.

For the greedy person(s) consumption does not fill the inner emptiness, boredom, loneliness, depression, and ‘hunger’ it is meant to overcome.  Thus a consumer society will never be satisfied and thus ‘consumption’ becomes a major tap root that strives to sustain the society; because the hunger is insatiable the striving never succeeds in satisfying.

In a society rooted in the Having Mode within the majority of people there is a ‘fear’ either that ‘stuff’ will be taken away or that there will not be enough ‘stuff’ – that the ‘Joneses will actually win!’  Thus, because the majority want to ‘have more’ the majority will come to fear their neighbors and their need to have more.

To complicate matters, production cannot keep up with the unlimited desires of those addicted to the Having Mode.  A consequence is increased competition, fear, and aggression among those who want to have the most.  Simply stated: those who have less will envy those who have more.

Again, Gentle Reader, it is crucial to understand that all of this occurs with individuals, with collectives/communities and with the society.  [AN ASIDE: Consider that one of the reasons people fear the immigrant-refugee is a fear-belief that the immigrant-refugee will take from them so they will not ‘have enough’ – they will surely, they fear, not have enough votes.]

For nations, the Having Mode guarantees that war will exist.  War between nations, yes.  But more importantly, ‘war within the nation’ – think: Cultural and/or Class Wars.  Cultural-Class Wars involve the exploiting and the exploited.  The value-virtue of greed ensures that these wars will continue (and, sadly, benefit many on both sides).

The Cultural-Class struggle might become less physically violent (we have experienced this in our Culture) but it will never disappear as long as Greed is one of the dominant cultural values-virtues [perhaps ‘Greed’ is our dominant value-virtue].

There are some ‘antidotes’ to ‘Greed.’  We know, by experience, that they ‘work;’ here are two antidotes: One antidote is to emphasize high achievement over competition.  Walt Disney taught us that high achievement is truly beneficial to all.

Another antidote is ‘sharing’ – especially sharing rooted in compassion-empathy-care-love.  As a society we demonstrate our capacity for sharing each time folks experience a natural disaster.  When this happens most class-barriers are torn down and the ‘other’ tends to disappear and is replaced by ‘human beings’ who need our help.

I am going to close this morning with a quotation from one of my new favorite authors (I have no idea why I did not become aware of Zygmunt and his writings sooner but at least I have become aware of him at this time and, Gentle Reader, I invite you to check out his writing).

We already have – thanks to technology, development, skills, the efficiency of our work – enough resources to satisfy all human needs.  But we don’t have enough resources, and we are unlikely ever to have, to satisfy human greed. –Zygmunt Bauman

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TWO MODES, PART II. . .

Good morning Gentle Reader.  As I noted in PART I: ‘there is more.’  For some time I held this question: ‘How might I come to understand the difference between Tennyson and Basho?’  One day I was scanning through one of my volumes of world poetry and the following caught my eye.  As I read it I thought that this poem might provide me a response to the question I had been holding.

The poet was the great German poet, Goethe, here is his poem, ‘Found’:

I walked in the woods
All by myself,
To seek nothing,
That was on my mind.

 I saw in the shade
A little flower stand,
Bright like the stars
Like beautiful eyes.

 I wanted to pluck it,
But it said sweetly:
Is it to wilt
That I must be broken?

 I took it out
With all its roots,
Carried it to the garden
At the pretty house.

 And planted it again
In a quiet place;
Now it ever spreads
And blossoms forth.

Goethe stands, as it were, between Tennyson and Basho.  For Goethe, like Tennyson and Basho, there is the crucial moment.  For Goethe it appears as if the force of life is stronger than the force of intellectual curiosity.  His decision: Share this life with others.

Consider that Tennyson’s relationship to the flower is in the mode of having, or possession – in this instance not simply material possession by the possession of knowledge.  Then consider Basho’s and Goethe’s relationship to the flower.  Each sees it in the mode of being.  A life sustaining (Basho) and a life enhancing by sharing (Goethe).

The Having Mode and the Being Mode.

Goethe was a great lover of life, one who railed and fought against human mechanization (the Industrial Revolution gifted us with the ‘Mechanical Metaphor’ and later in the 20th Century with the ‘Banking Metaphor’ – both have been integrated into our Cultural Being).

Here is a short poem by Goethe that, for me, captures the essence of the Being Mode.  Goethe titled his poem ‘Property.’

 I know that nothing belongs to me
But the thought which unimpeded
From my soul will flow.
And every favorable moment
Which loving Fate
From the depth lets me enjoy.

Consider that the difference between Being & Having is the difference between a society centered in fully human beings and one centered in things.  Today, our Culture is a metaphor for the Having Mode.  We are consumed with a need to have more and more; we are consumed with a need to consume more and more.  Greed has become a core value.  Having things and consuming things is core to our Culture.

We do not understand a Culture that is not rooted in greed or property (think: Things).  Competition with others in order to obtain more and more trumps high achievement (in the concept of high achievement there is more than enough for all).  High achievement is sustained by the tap root of solidarity.  Competition is sustained by the tap root of antagonism.

Solidarity & Antagonism. . .

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TWO MODES, PART I. . .

These past months I have been holding a thought or two about ‘Two Modes.’  One is the ‘Having Mode’ and the other is the ‘Being Mode.’  Our Culture is, by the by, fed by a Tap Root of Having; but I digress (or Do I?).  As a way of introducing you, Gentle Reader, to the difference I will use as an illustration two poems (you might remember that I love poetry).

One poem is by the great English Poet, Tennyson – he lived in the 1800s.  The other poem is by the great Japanese Poet, Basho – he lived in the 1600s (my grateful thanks to my friend George for introducing me to Basho and his poetry).

Each poet describes a similar experience: his response to and then his reaction to a flower he sees while taking a walk.

Here is Tennyson’s poem:

Flower in a crannied wall,
I pluck you out of the crannies,
I hold you here, root and all, in my hand,
Little flower – but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, and all in all,
I should know what God and man is.

Here is an English translation of Basho’s haiku:

When I look carefully
I see the nazuna blooming
By the hedge!

[AN ASIDE: Gentle Reader if you are not familiar with Japanese haiku I invite you to explore this poetic style.  Young folks also love to write haiku, which is fun to do and learning the poetic style is easy for them to do].

Two poems about flowers.  For me, the difference is striking.

Tennyson reacts to the flower by wanting to have it.  He ‘plucks’ it ‘root and all.’  And while he finishes his poem with an intellectual thought about the flower’s possible function: to help one understand or attain an insight into God’s nature and   man’s nature; an unintended consequence is that the flower is killed.  Even though we might assume that Tennyson’s goal was not to kill the flower, in having to have the flower, Tennyson does indeed kill the flower.

Basho’s response to the flower is quite different.  He does not want to ‘have it by plucking it;’ he does not even touch it.  All he does (‘All’ is an understatement) is ‘look carefully’ in order to ‘see’ it.

I offer us D.T. Suzuki’s observation [AN ASIDE: Gentle Reader, you might check out Suzuki’s ‘Zen Buddhism: Selected Writings’].

Suzuki writes: It is likely that Basho was walking along a country road when he noticed something rather neglected by the hedge.  He then approached closer, took a good look at it, and found it was no less than a wild plant, rather insignificant and generally unnoticed by passersby.

 This is a plain fact described in the poem with no specifically poetic feeling expressed anywhere except perhaps in the last two syllables, which read in Japanese kana

 This particle, frequently attached to a noun or an adjective or an adverb, signifies a certain feeling of admiration or praise or sorrow or joy, and can sometimes quite appropriately be rendered into English by an exclamation mark.  In this haiku the whole verse ends with this mark.

Tennyson, it appears, needs to possess the flower in order to understand, and by his having it, the flower is destroyed.  What Basho wants is to see – not only to look at the flower, but to be at one with both himself and the flower – AND, to let it live.

AH, Gentle Reader, there is more. . .

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QUESTION #2: ‘Where is your brother?’

This is not a question directed only to ‘Cain.’  It is a question directed to you, to me – to each of us (especially to ‘The People of the Book’ – Jews, Christians, Muslims).

We have brothers and sisters who are attempting to escape difficult situations – environments of physical, emotional, and psychological violence.  We have brothers and sisters who are seeking a better, safer, more compassionate, and more loving place to live; who are trying to escape to freedom.

We have brothers and sisters who are, literally and physically, wounded and lying in a ditch waiting for the Good Samaritan to stop and experiencing too often the ‘good, clean Jew, Christian, or Muslim who passes them by.

How often do their cries of anguish and suffering go unheeded?  How often do you and I say: ‘I am not responsible!’ 

‘Where is your brother?’  Who is responsible?  I am thinking of a story.  The people of a town kill their mayor – they deem the mayor to be a tyrant.  The murder is committed in such a way that no one really knows who committed the deed.  When the royal investigator asks: ‘Who killed the mayor?’  Each person replies, ‘Everybody and nobody!’

Today, our response to the question, ‘Who is responsible for the blood of our brothers and sisters?’ is, ‘Nobody!’  It is not me, I am not responsible – I did not have anything to do with it.  I am sure some ‘one’ is responsible but it is not me!’

YET, God’s question is directed to each of us: ‘Where is your brother?’

We claim no responsibility.  We have become like the ‘good people’ Jesus describes in His parable of the Good Samaritan: It is easy for us to ‘see’ our brothers and sisters lying half-dead in the road or on the boat or struggling at the border and perhaps we even say to ourselves: “It is a sad and sorry sight – too bad for them.’  AND, we convince ourselves that we are not responsible, nor are we response-able.  We convince ourselves so that our consciences are clear – we even go to the extreme of blaming them for their own suffering.

We live in a culture of comfort.  We do not want to be disturbed.  Our seeking comfort and our seeking not to be disturbed hardens our hearts and closes our ears to the crises of our brothers and sisters.  The poet, Mary Oliver, reminds us that if the doors of our hearts close then we are as good as dead.

Our closed hearts and deaf ears do not lead us to violence but to something worse – indifference.  If we truly ‘saw’ our brothers and sisters as ‘God’s Image’ then we would not harden our hearts nor close our ears.

For Christians, Jesus said that they only sin that was not forgivable was the ‘Sin against the Holy Spirit.’  The Holy Spirit is the animating spirit, the life-force that permeates all living creatures – part of God resides in all.  Thus, to not respond to the plight of our brothers and sisters is to commit the sin against the Holy Spirit (how’s that for upping the ante).

We live in a global culture of indifference.  We have become so used to the suffering of others, especially the suffering that does not ‘touch’ or ‘affect’ me-you-us.  Their suffering doesn’t affect me and hence it doesn’t concern me and hence it is none of my business.

‘Adam, where are you?’  ‘Where is your brother?’

These are the two questions that God asks us; questions especially directed to ‘The People of the Book’.  God asked these at the beginning and God continues to ask them of us today.

Let us begin by weeping; let us cry out as Peter did when he realized he had betrayed Jesus.  Let us ask God to forgive us.  Let us then continue by taking one or two or three small steps so that our brothers and sisters can be cared for, loved, healed and saved from the dark side of our nature.

This morning I pray that each of us chooses to become a little piece of healing light so that together we become a beacon of healing light for all.

 

 

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