Posted by: jruthkelly | September 9, 2010

What To Fight For…

I’m licking wounds, growing stronger, settling into acceptance of who I am (a dynamic thing I must fight to keep up with and then give up on and then be visited by and then yes…this is life) and I can find few words for it. But. But the theme that keeps dogging me like a hound of Hades is this one issue – what to fight for.

I run to Thomas Moore’s Dark Eros, for whatever intuitive reason, and these are the pieces of synchronicity life speaks to me now, on this one issue:

“Life itself is both caring and hostile. We are born astride a grave, the hopeful swell of life an inevitable move toward death. Nature is lovely and vulnerable, and yet it is also cold-hearted and cruel, oblivious to human reasons for protection. To live this life with full participation in nature is to adopt its cruelty and vulnerability. Often it seems psychological problems center around this issue of participating in the Sadeian nature of reality. We back away from engaging in cruelty, but the harshness does not go away. We deny the victim our gift of power, and then we become the victims of that denied force. We cannot believe we are capable of the vulnerability a life episode asks for; we retreatk and then feel literally and utterly wounded.

[..]

If the individual human soul is torn between victimization and cruelty, the soul of culture also gets tangled in problems of power.

[..]

We have so humanized and rationalized the positive powers of life that only in pathology does the divine peek through.

[..]

..innocence split off from shadow is not innocence at all but only a posturing. Paradoxically, embracing Sade could ease conscience and guilt, and it could revivify social justice.

[..]

The shadow in human life cannot be brought home as long as we concretize it in some objectionable other. Like everything else, evil is assimilable by soul only after it has been subjected to a poetic alchemy, refined into fantasy and feeling instead of personality and emotion, and woven into the fine tapestry of imagined experience.

     It’s fine to be imaginative in articulating the details of a sensitive life, but the real nub comes with the presence of aggression, vicitimization, and power. Will we ever cease reacting to victimization with increased violence? Will we ever realize that strength of heart is to be found only at the deep end of the well of vulnerability? Only the person or nation open to influence, dependent, relying, often disabled can know the deep muscle that grants effectiveness, creativity, confidence, and security. Only the allowance of failure breeds moments of success.

I keep coming home to vulnerability. It doesn’t tell me what to fight for except those components in life that give room for vulnerability between peers and allow strength to grow and withstand the strengths of others, however lovely or not. We fight for the dynamics of power that give us room to be vulnerable with a peer without being destroyed or devoured by their shadows. We fight for the dynamics of power that give us room to grow, hopefully without destroying anyone else, without hindering their own progress. Those “dynamics of power” are simply the muscles we use to open ourselves up and be real in the moment, to push past the internal resistance, to push past a bit of the resistances in others. Those dynamics of power are the ones we utilize to retreat until a safer day, while the ones we long to be vulnerable with or open up to are still learning just how potently reactionary they are.

I had occasion to fight this week and I left it alone. And a noble fight it would have been. But I realized the message was deeper. I pulled back after much tremendously ugly and rabid frothing at the mouth with rage long tied to things I have still to redeem. It was, if you take it apart, pretty small. But not really. Not when you look at the dynamics of it. The messages. The energies. The powers. The victims. The perps.

My son’s locker was broken into at school. By. A. Teacher. But it’s their policy. But it’s not their policy to take, seize and possess personal items. But they did. He went to his locker to put his books away and the locker shelf his sister had given him was gone. He mentioned it to a friend and was overheard by a classmate. She informed him that the teachers regularly check to see if a student has left the locker on the last number of the combination (hence, unlocked). If so, they take a personal item without telling the student, put it in a closet and wait. So, he went to his teacher. She had broken it, his personal property, in the attempt to remove it. Her commentary, after volunteering to pay for the item: “I hope you see this as the lesson it is meant to be. Do not leave your locker unsecure.”  [insert image of mocking, incredulous redhead saying "what kind of stupidly revealing statement is that?"]

Vulnerability is as much a right as is protection. And choice is something I find even just as valuable. If choice is something that needs to be submitted in lieu of greater gains, then hopefully that choice is submitted willfully and with full awareness of what will be gained, what will be lost, what will be required. Scenarios, environments, timing, situational “ethics” have their meaning. But when? And. What to fight for when? And how? And. When your heart is beating, head is pounding, hands are shaking and the voice is trembling, it’s time not to fight but to retreat and discern which fight you’re spoiling for at the time. Epic reactions mean epic past unfinished business. Usually. Especially. When. A. Locker. Is. Involved.

My son was not upset by it. We decided to leave it alone and keep it for later reference if the need should arise to show a trend (this does seem to happen). But I was wiped out. It hit on a deep wellspring of pain from my past, one I keep working to heal. An issue so perfectly symbolized by the locker and the teacher and. And the broken personal yes. Well, I have no recourse, no re-imbursement. Only one thing. The fight to keep myself vulnerable when it matters most. The fight to recognize that the beauty I experienced of the one involved, of the whole thing is not gone because of a betrayal. But must simply be accepted along with it. While I keep my safe distance and acknowledge my longing to do anything but that (and I don’t want to attack).

And I surf the internet, scan the news and find one is going to burn a book. In reaction. To fight for something. But he fights himself. He fights the very thing he treasures and has no idea of it. And nations toss words and it all swirls in frustration and stupidity supreme and all I can say is this:  We are vulnerable. What will we make of it?

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Responses

  1. In the interest of clarifying Moore’s stance and my own support of his perspective I’m adding this quote to the thread, again, from the same book, Dark Eros:

    “Since Dark Eros was first published, much has been written and spoken about shadow and eros, and yet I still prefer to learn from Sade how to preserve the soul’s love of evil from our attempts to gentrify it. I feel more strongly than ever that much that goes by the guise of intellectual analysis is truly a defense against the ambiguous, ever-changing, unpredictable, and unbaptizable delights of the life-giving but ill-mannered heart. Our task is not to rationalize this evil with the whitening language of psychology, or to integrate it into our personality so that its black becomes gold, but rather eternally to find ways to allow evil to coexist with our preference for good, darkly infect everything we do and think, and especially reveal its own poetic reading of our lives and its own meaningfulness.

    The fundamental paradox, forced upon us in daily tragedies, is the bitter reality that we maintain a world of atrocity by refusing to acknowledge the role of dark desires in our own communities and individual lives. We live a divided life: us versus them, good versus evil. The shadow in human life cannot be concretized…Sade frequently cites the principle that whatever nature has ordained to be possible for human life is legitimate and valid. Taken literally and superficially, this is an absurd law that could be used to justify the most atrocious behavior, but taken more poetically the rule affirms that all that is mysterious can be brought effectively into lived experience. Nothing is unredeemable…”

  2. So much wisdom in one post.
    It makes for a very interesting read

    • i hope it does…thanks for saying so…i always cringe when i quote moore’s validation of sade’s influence. it could easily be misconstrued.

  3. I try not to anthropomorphize true neutral forces such as nature or life. I don’t see either of them cruel or caring or hostile. Viewing such implacable forces this way only leads me into resentment. “How could life treat me this way??? I am a GOOD person!!!” And what am I resenting — Natural forces that have no heart to care and no malice on which to spend cruelty?

    So sorry about your son’s locker shelf. It must have hurt especially since it was a gift. Did the teacher reimburse for the broken object as offered? Is your son now being more careful about making sure the locker is secure?

    BTW, the Aerie is back in business.

    • there’s no resentment of natural forces going on in this post, michael. resentment and vulnerability cannot reside together. but…hi…:)

      life is deeply personal, is it not? and yet, at the same time, it is so very contrary, a force indifferent (if only from our perspectives of subjective concern). we live on a planet where, while i sit and type in a relatively calm neighborhood and city, others lives are lived on the edge of survival because of forces beyond their control. two unique realities unfolding at once, very different from each other.

      inasmuch as we might personalize a god we cannot prove exists, we also sometimes bring human qualities to our description of life forces. this is our way of revealing how deeply touched we are by these forces we know have no actual intent beyond their natural unfolding. they simply are. but we also know that resenting these same forces is simply another human exercise of understandable anger or grief. anger or grief that wants release. we can try and throw logic at the human heart, tell it that the wind don’t know for nuthin’, but the heart has it’s own mind, and that mind often shakes a fist at the wind and the heart’s own mind speaks the heart’s own language. why? because we are that complicated and life is that precious. but you know this.

      this post was about vulnerability and how needful it is, how real it is, and how vital it is to reclaim that tenderness we sometimes lose in life’s unrelenting tides. beyond that, nature is simply nature. life is simply life. this was more an alchemical flow of change for me as it poured onto the screen than a truly adequate communication. and what a work it wrought in me to get out it of my system.

      my son is resilient and we’ve worked through the necessary response for now. thanks for the concern…

      glad to hear you’re back in action and i look forward to visiting your blog… (sheesh, attempt 3 to get this to actually REPLY to your comment! life is laughing at me?!)

      • of course. i have to add that i believe the forces of nature and the tides of life are perpetually whispering things we need to know and hear, lessons about love, relationship and meaning…songs of renewal and promise, finality and closure. on and on… (but, that’s me.)


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