“We are all here to contribute our gifts toward something greater than ourselves, and will never be content unless we are.”
Last week I visited Hiroshima. It happened to be the same day that Trump stated he wanted to leave a decades-old arms treaty with Russia. Saying something to the effect that we need to build up our arsenal so there comes a time when we don ’t need them. As I stood at the place where the first atomic bomb dropped all I could feel was hurting in my heart. From where I stood, it seemed inconceivable even to entertain the thought of using a weapon like this again. With all that we know about each other and the world, could it really be possible? Would humanity let it happen?
There is a part of me that wishes we could skip to the good parts. To the place where I hope we are evolving toward. A place where we get along, where we can feed our people and where we see the earth as a living system and not as a resource to be exploited. The thing that seems crazy to me is that most people I know feel the same way. If we were to get out of our heads and into our hearts, most people ache for a better world not just for them, but for everyone. So why are we here? Why are we contemplating another arms race?
The story of ‘Them’ is deeply rooted in our culture. We see it played out in our media, our movies, and our politics. This story requires a hero, an enemy, and a victim. There is a battle to be fought, and there are always winners, losers, losses, and costs. If we really do want to get to the good parts, then we desperately need to write a new story. One with less collateral damage.
Many things have changed since World War II. Our world is increasingly interdependent; international business, tourism and living abroad are commonplace. We indeed are a global village. I can talk to my family while they are camping in Oregon as I sit at my table in Japan. We now face existential threats that can’t be solved by the actions of a single nation or a few banding together. It will take a worldwide effort. We are tied together in ways that aren’t easily untethered. This is also a time of increasing transparency. We are no longer able just to see glimpses of the planet from our little corner of the world that networks and/or governments allow us to see. We can see the whole world and talk to people on the other side of it in real time. This makes it increasingly difficult for those in power to manipulate or maintain a particular message. And with all of this, we are chipping away at the idea of ‘Them’ and looking toward the story of ‘Us’.
The ‘Them’ story is the ultimate game of distraction. It makes for exciting and dramatic television, but it also provides a justification for being perpetually angry, fearful, offended or indifferent. There is also an underlying message of futility that we are doomed to repeat this story over and over. After all, it is human nature, right? So, our only action is to hold tightly to our tribe and rally around the enemy. But I believe that if we took a minute to challenge this story, we’d see that we aren’t that different. That person sitting next to you isn’t the enemy, but rather just another human trying to do the best they can with what they know. I know this because every time there is a natural disaster or wide-scale human suffering – people show up. They show up regardless of their political affiliation or their membership to their tribe. They show up because in their hearts they feel moved to help. Somewhere they understand our connectedness.
The story of ‘Them’ is just a mutually agreed upon construct that we can pull the plug on any time we want. We can choose to stay focused on the enemy, and their contribution to the ills of society or we can choose to interrupt the regularly scheduled programming of fear and divisiveness and witness each other with compassion and humility. And while it seems like we are moving further away from each other, I think it is just the last throes of a dying paradigm. Right now more people are paying attention, people’s eyes are opening, and the reaction is to lash out at what they don’t want to see. The next step is to create what we do want to see. And that requires that we pull the plug on this narrative.
We may not have the same values or skin color or the same reasons for what gets us up in the morning. But we share something much more profound than any of those things. I know that you suffer and hurt sometimes. I know that you care about the world you live in, and you want things to have meaning. I know that you are a person that loves and wants to be loved. So, I choose to extend something more than judgment, fear or distrust. What if the best ‘weapon’ I have against our misunderstandings is not to condemn you but to sit with the notion, that maybe I just don’t understand yet. And until I do, I will just be with our differences and seek out our similarities.
Our culture’s battle mentality likes to fight wars, drugs, poverty, and illness. People are hailed as survivors and heroes and talked about as allies, enemies, and victims. What if stories of man vs. man and man vs. nature have been done to death (literally)? Maybe the only interesting story left to tell isn’t one of conflict but one of peace and collaboration. The question shouldn’t be who is right and who is wrong, but what is it I don’t understand and where do we align? That is the core of the story of ‘Us’. It seeks the true causes of our behavior and circumstances and allows space for change and growth. We will never bomb our way to a better world or spread democracy through invasion. We could easily fund this new story too if we didn’t need to fund the perpetual battle against ‘Them’. And let’s be real, in the face of existential threats, the story of ‘Them’ has a really shitty ending.
“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any”. ~Alice Walker
I remember the moment that I really understood how my lens of patriarchy affected me and how it altered the way I showed up in the world. I was in the midst of reading the Women Who Run with Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes and I could feel a fire rising inside me. I felt the need to sit in deep meditation and witness as generations of suppression, repression, and helplessness moved as waves of emotion through my body. I cried for the harming of societies past who felt the brunt of a system much more deliberate than the version I was currently living. I grieved deeply as I saw the actions of myself and generations through this understanding. Then I sat with the revelation that I had never really understood the lens from which I viewed the world.
The Divine Energies
If I look at that experience carefully, it wasn’t just the suppression of women that brought me to such depths or the past hurts they’ve endured, it was much deeper than that. It was the diminishment of many of the values and ideals that I held dear. Aspects of the Divine Feminine that as a society we accepted as less than. In our current climate, it isn’t just about the suppression of women but about the imbalance of both the feminine and masculine energies. It’s about what we have decided is worthy and noble and what isn’t. The Divine Feminine is the embodiment of emotion, creativity, flexibility, and intuition. She is receptive, inclusive and mysterious and yes, even dark. The Divine Masculine is about loyalty, logic, reasoning, strength, and security for all. In our Western culture, we favor many of the characteristics that are inherently masculine and diminish those that are more aligned with the Divine Feminine. Though, in our patriarchal system, neither are well represented.
This isn’t a conversation about gender though it is through gender roles and stereotypes that the conversation has become muddied. It is about creating a new paradigm that benefits everyone, and this requires that we recognize and value both the masculine and feminine that exists within every individual and every culture. These energies have nothing to do with gender and everything to do with restoring balance, harmony, and wholeness. It is time for us to re-evaluate what it is we value and what brings us to the world we want to create. It is also time for us to understand the lens from which we see the world and how that defines or limits our power and what we believe is possible.
A Time of Revealing
Over the past decade, we have seen the underpinnings of our deceptive financial systems leading to outrageous wealth extraction and income disparity. We have seen the biases and racism of our political and judiciary systems, and now we are shedding light on sexual harassment and predatory behavior. All of these are forms of abuses of power and all of these are symptoms of a system that benefits a few at the cost of the many.
In our most recent revealing, we have been bringing to light feelings of shame, self-betrayal, and feelings of powerlessness. But in our attempt to bring these wrongs to the forefront of our consciousness, we are substituting shame for shaming. We are bringing light to our own internal feelings of shame and replacing that with public shaming as a means of social control. Does that bring us toward the world that we want to see? We have talked about predatory behavior as really being about power over another. In this call out culture, are we not using the power of social media to destroy lives? We are at a point where a single allegation can bring down the life of another human with no conversation of due process, or opportunity for redemption. This can’t be our end game.
I’ve seen groups of people trying to silence other groups because how could they know the challenges and lives of someone else, someone different from them. The answer is we don’t, but if we tell anyone they shouldn’t be heard, then we diminish all voices. It further perpetuates the atmosphere of separation, polarization, and resentment. People should be able to engage from where ever they are and from their own experience; this is speaking their truth. And we need to listen, but when our truth also involves the silencing of another’s voice, then we are just doing to someone else what we have had done to us. That is matching the same level of consciousness that created the world we are in. So if we want to create something different, we have to approach it from a new place, from a new lens of our own conscious creation. Matching fear with fear, anger with anger or shame with shame will result in more of the same. If we want to create a climate where all people are valued, welcomed and heard then we can’t squash one voice for the sake of another.
Tales of Power
Patriarchy isn’t just about men. It is a system. A system we all take part in. In order to dismantle this system, we don’t go after men; we unplug from the story that created it. We see the lens from which we have been viewing the world and opt to take another viewpoint. We are seeing people unplug from this story all over the place. What we are saying right now is that we will not plug our spirit and our wellbeing into a story that keeps us small. At the same time, we need to be mindful of what we are unconsciously creating and of the destruction that we are leaving in our wake. Otherwise what we are creating is no better. That is the reformation of a system, a Band-aid approach, that doesn’t let wounds heal, it only creates more. We want to birth a new system and this requires a new story. It is time to take our power back as individuals, not so we can have power over another but so we can witness our own power.
There are some very real things to be offended by, but being offended is a choice that we must consider carefully. Because when we do, we also accept the role of the victim. I know that some people are still in their anger. Anger, grief, and condemnation are all part of the healing process but so is forgiveness and compassion. Anger is a powerful entry point into action and has the ability to destroy what no longer serves us. But without moving through it into forgiveness and compassion, anger’s destructive force can take over and leave more wounds.
“Once you do away with the idea of people as fixed, static entities, then you see that people can change, and there is hope”. ~ Bell Hooks
Our world faces many difficult challenges, geopolitically and ecologically. We need to be able to come together more than ever. For myself, the endgame in this time of revealing is creating a world of honor, harmony and mutual respect for all living beings. What is yours and are your actions in alignment with it? Otherwise, we stay in the cycle of us versus them, or the victim and the perpetrator. What if we don’t move from a place of powerlessness, not at the level of the collective, but as an individual? What if we are powerful beyond measure and that is the lens we now see the world? Or if that is a hard place to see, can you use compassion and forgiveness and witness the wounds in another? Can you aid another in their healing, so there is room for redemption?
At some point, we have to have a conversation about how we begin to heal. How we learn to forgive those who have hurt us. Moving from a place of radical love for ourselves and for our fellow humans. A place where we can receive information that challenges us, triggers us even, without going directly to a place of bad or good, or us versus them. Where we don’t feel the need to control the world through the lens of our wounds. Where we can hold space for forgiveness and provide the opportunity for people to continue to grow and develop and deeply heal. Arthur Schopenhauer said, “Everyone takes the limits of his own vision for the limits of the world.” How does your lens limit your power, your potential and what is truly possible? Are you ready to create a new story?
(c) Can Stock Photo / Jozef