|Photo by Lee Lindsey McKinney|
If children are to grow and mature, their myths – not the fairy tales protecting them from facing reality, but the truer-than-true metaphors expressing and pulling them toward existential realities their rational minds are not yet capable of comprehending – must also expand. The same is true for cultures and societies. Getting stuck in our juvenile myths, individually or collectively, creates a level of dysfunction that can be overcome only by traumatic shift and breakthrough. Such myth-miring leaves us in Amygdala’s mode of self-defense, if not attack.
He (Amygdala) has been rattling my windows at night, disturbing me from sleep. I have seen evidence of his agitated footprints in the mulch-bed behind the shrubs. Believing I need rescuing from imminent danger, he will let neither of us rest. The larger narrative of my dreams assures me that he is mistaken; that he needs to hear the truth of a more comprehensive myth.
What are your myths? A predominant one in our culture seems to be redemptive violence: a super hero’s view of the world, sure that more power and control are the solution to the chaos and anxiety with which we are surrounded. One major problem with this approach is that violence never seems to end violence. In fact, it promotes it, even if the escalation goes underground for a while, like a stream that disappears into the rocks, only to emerge again farther into the woods.
We endured this myth’s brinksmanship throughout the Cold War, convinced that a righteous nation with the largest nuclear arsenal (ours, of course) could effect peace – or at least end the threat of international aggression – by simply waving its hand, periodically, over “the button”. What we are learning is that, instead of being the solution to war’s demise, redemptive violence’s unfolding has become a blueprint, suitable for emulation. It is a challenge that continues to this day, both through nuclear armament and more conventional modes of annihilation.
If I had a foolproof solution – a magic pill we could all swallow to set the world on a course of universal serenity – I would have already told you of it. What I can tell you, is that we have work to do; and this work will require pauses with which we have yet to find comfort. It will also require listening on levels beyond our familiarity; listening to people whom we have not granted much credibility; but maybe it is the illusion that we are the grantors of credibility that keeps us locked into juvenile myths insufficient for these times.
Perhaps a good first step is to invite Amygdala in from the shrub bed. Maybe we could share some tea, and tell him of the dreams we have of helping him find a healthy place to rest; a place where he can be helpful without becoming cancerous, because his current presence feels too malignant.
© 2015 Todd Jenkins