This morning the air outside is cold so I’m taking my coffee inside. Autumn is the time of the year we naturally begin shutting the windows and go inside literally and figuratively. I’m retreating to a warm room to contemplate a new approach to the outside world from the ground up. From the most familiar place in our living room, sitting on the old rocker that lived in my childhood home, then our cabin and finally here. The rocker is probably as old as I am, it has personal history. From the most familiar, I slip into places I can’t see and know nothing about. I mean this literally. Inspiration has been coming from deep beneath the earth.
To me, real power is about presence. It's the energy of knowing that you are who you are, and therefore speaking and acting from your authentic self. It doesn't matter what your work is—if you're a teacher or a nurse or whatever; it is your presence that's the power. It's not power over anybody else. It's just the expression of who you are. – Marion Woodman
This morning it occurred to me that a vision/dream I had many years ago holds a key to real power. I was actually half-awake the morning it happened and I was still living in the old adobe on Upper Ranchitos:
Several shiny black serpents started coming up through the floorboards. My cats didn’t know whether to run, attack or play with them. Somehow, I knew they hadn’t been above the surface of the earth for eons. This meant that the surface had become so thin that they popped up merely from the power of their vitality. They were very peculiar and alien to this top world. I feared for both them and us living up here, but mostly for us.
I wanted to ignore this event and hoped the black snakes would go back to the underworld and disappear from memory but I knew I wouldn’t be able to ignore the event forever yet didn’t have a clue what to do with it. Now I’m thinking that you can’t be enlightened unless you’ve got a relationship with the things that live in darkness. Otherwise, It’s just shallow and artificial maybe even denial. And so, I had to meet those serpents, but wished they’d come through somebody else’s floorboard.
|Mother Earth in the Sky by Marti Fenton|
Our human world has become much like a shell separated from the body of Mother Earth. Eastern Native Americans call this continent Turtle Island. What secrets of life are under the turtle’s shell? Until I saw the shell becoming very thin, I didn’t notice it at all. Now I find myself alternating between clinging to the familiar outer shell and wondering what really is under that shell. So many past familiarities are just that, in the past. Wondering about the state of the world also introduces the question of who am I, if every familiar becomes unfamiliar, and many memories are locked away in a time box with no key. Maybe I have deceived myself for a long time about who I am. Identity is yet another thin shell. I take that as a good sign. I am tired of the old self anyway. While my own thinning shell is separating from its body, I’m especially sensitive to other loosening shells in the surrounding culture and time.
Experience is a reminder that when a nostalgia attack occurs a change is brewing. It is a personal necessity to review the past from time to time, the way one would go through closets, garage and tool shed before a yard sale. What forgotten tool might I discover, what is no longer needed, what needs repairing, what is not worth repairing. One of the things I like about getting older is perspective. All the shells of identity begin to loosen and thin. Moving through the shells becomes easier, unless of course you seriously believe you are who you are in the habit of being.
There are many kinds of shells. Clams and turtles keep their shells but birds discard their shells to face a bigger world. A long time ago, I saw a cartoon in a New Yorker magazine that portrayed it perfectly. An exhausted, wobbly baby bird had just broken free of its shell and the caption read, “Whew! I’m glad that’s over,” but above its head was a larger shell, and another even larger, another above that one, and so on.
Albert E. Brumley wrote a popular Christian song with these words, “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing thru. My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue; The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door, And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.”
I was raised with the pseudo-Christian prejudice against the physical world. In that world, only humans have souls and all other creatures are lesser beings that exist only to serve our temporary earthly needs. Over time, this philosophy degenerated to include our whims and fancies as well. The earth itself was a dead impermanent platform for deception ruled by the devil. Although the current orthodoxy of Scientific Materialism rejects the otherworldly part of this philosophy it strangely clings to the dead earth part. This includes the license to treat other inhabitants as impersonal objects. If you don’t respect your mother, you won’t respect yourself or anyone else.
The feminine element conceives us in nature. The masculine conceptualizes. The male principle takes us to the moon in clunky machines but the feminine is the moon here, now and always. The impersonal and objective has its place but unbalanced it brings lifelessness. Animals - r - us. We speak of them as if we were from a different world and somehow viewing them and all other living entities from disembodied eyes. We split ourselves in two, one half animal, other half exploiter of animals and that includes our own animal self. If you don’t respect it, you don’t invest in it. Balance is natural. The ruling mechanistic, objective scientific, rational, exploitive mind is far out of balance. And so, the black snakes come into the top world to remind me that I need them and they need me because earth wisdom must be respected and it’s been a long time since that happened.
This world and possibly the universe moves from imbalance to balance back and forth but balance is the go by. I recently came across Marija Gimbutas and her hypothesis about the Neolithic cultures of Europe, while surfing the net. There is no proof that these were balanced, non-warlike worshipers of Mother Earth although I believe such a culture existed. Nevertheless, the fact that such a concept arose through the floor of conventional archaeology suggests to me that its time had come. Balance is needed. The competitive, exploitive war oriented world is self-destructing. Time to make peace with what’s under the floorboards. It might save our lives and if it kills us out of self-defense, something better might spring up to replace who we have become.