The Enemy Maker
Start with an empty canvas
Sketch in broad outline the forms of
men, women, and children.
Dip into the unconscious well of your own
with a wide brush and
stain the strangers with the sinister hue
of the shadow.
Trace onto the face of the enemy the greed,
Hatred, carelessness you dare not claim as
Exaggerate each feature until man is
Metamorphosized into beast, vermin, insect….
When your icon of the enemy is complete
You will be able to kill without guilt,
slaughter without shame….
by Sam Keen
Recently, human rights defenders took to the streets of New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities to demand an end to violence and hatred against Asian Americans in the wake of a mass shooting in Georgia,--six of whom were women of Asian descent. This recent wave of racist attacks have surged during the coronavirus pandemic. Such hateful racism is despicable, but unfortunately, not new. It speaks to something within our psyche that is as old as our human history, yet it needs to be unpacked and made part of our public discourse, again and again. The Covid pandemic is literal and needs to be treated as such, but it is also a metaphor for the psychic viruses within ourselves that we attempt to disown and project onto others.
The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other...
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
by Robert Frost
We are driven to be ourselves and this is the creative human task. To that end, we mold the raw substance of our life to create an identity so that we can be at home in the world and comfortable in our own skin. We establish livelihood, raise children and assume responsibility for a family, nourish our intimate relationships, and cultivate a sense of community with like- minded friends. However, the very things that provide us with this sense of home, also make a claim upon us. They reinforce our idea of ourselves and exert a palpable expectation that we don’t stray too far from how they see us.
The Second Coming
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity….
William Butler Yeats
This well known poem by Yeats is remarkably prescient, as we are experiencing a global pandemic, disastrous climate disruption, the extinction of countless species, extreme political polarization and conflict, a rupture in our social networks and for many, the loss of their livelihood. Things have indeed fallen apart. Life for many of us no longer conveys a coherent or meaningful picture—but only a fragmented image of our former life. At such an ambiguous and uncertain time, it's easy to get derailed and succumb to feelings of powerlessness and confusion, depression and anxiety. Or we grew increasingly numb, feeling overwhelmed by contradictory information from our politicians and the media.
Meditation involves mindful attention to what arises in our experience. But it also helps us cultivate panoramic awareness that sharpens our ability to make connections and see parallels that were hiding in plain sight.
Consider the following description of the prenatal passage: initially, the maturing embryo floats effortlessly within the maternal amniotic sac, safe and secure within its mother’s womb. By the close of the third trimester, as the fetus is ending its intrauterine life, the uterus begins to violently contract, launching the fetus’ painful process of separation from its home. Through a series of spasmodic contractions, it is ejected through the constricted passageway of the birth canal, and a dramatic life-and-death struggle ensues. This is followed by the shocking miracle of physical birth, the severing of the umbilical cord, and the first gasp of air—initiating the infant into a realm of unimaginable possibilities.