Together and Apart

Given my year’s theme of working to increase consciousness in order to ameliorate fear, my take on this week’s zeitgeist is that there is much astir in the collective corridors of rage and despair—and perhaps some opportunities for compassion, growth and healing at the micro level—the level that perhaps counts most in the final and collective analysis.

A gunman in Norway, a human being, attacked what he perceived as his enemy—the human beings of the left-leaning labor party and particularly their children.

What might we make of such horror?  What keeps going so terribly and tragically wrong with us human beings?

We can cry about this, or gasp with horror—but more suffering, our suffering, will not end this collective suffering.  Instead, the great gauntlet thrown down by the god of what just is, may be to trust our in-this-together truth and transcend our primitive, and isolating (and enemy-making) horror of annihilation and abandonment… and realize that there is simply no way to kill the “bad guys,” mostly because they are us.  With loving consciousness, however, we might work together to calm our collective selves down.

Perhaps this might mean that when someone acts in a hateful, bullying, exploiting or murderous manner we collectively realize that this is the lizard brain—and that leviathan vestige generally withers in the face of unrelenting love, while growing vigorous when showered with hate.

Perhaps the gunman in Norway will turn out to have a brain tumor near his amygdala, a part of the brain that, when pressed on the wrong way, can makes us rather dangerous; perhaps the amygdala survives and does little else, “survives,” alone like a unibomber, or fancies itself, like the Norwegian gunman, a new Knight of a “better,” more ethnically, politically, religiously or otherwise pure and separate and homogenized world.

Police said that the gunman’s manifesto was a reverse mirror of Al Qaeda’s messages—similar extreme views, different good and bad guys.  Perhaps isolated and threatened humans pretty much break down in similar ways?  Perhaps connected, safe and love humans are able to be part of the group, the total group?  And maybe that group can somehow keep in mind that the urge to write hate-filled manifestos and order lots of fertilizer means a scared moon is on the rise.

Like the child who doesn’t want the peas to touch the mashed potatoes, Europe is wrestling between national identity and multiculturalism once again.  The pendulum swings and edges us toward the pit.  But in the belly of the collective beast the right and the left, the chalk and the cheese, the peas and the potatoes all mix together.

A healthy working brain has differentiated parts, but no part hates the others and all work together.  It’s the working together that is love; it’s the separating apart and losing the unifying thread that makes for alienation, war, murder, genocide, paranoia and gunmen with manifestos.

The lone gunman shouts:  everybody to arms, revolution!  Let’s hope no one sees anything but tragedy in this.  Let’s counter-whisper:  we’re so sorry that people are in so much pain, but there’s no winning in war.  Let’s hope the lizard brain finds its way back to a human embrace and its tempest rage dies not with a bang but with a whimper, an increasingly quiet whimper.

So let’s send whatever love we can muster, to Norway—to all of Norway, from the immigrants who feel scared to the right-wingers who feel threatened by the immigrants… so that, just maybe, nothing needs to get any more rotten in Norway, or Denmark or Yemen or Washington…

Meanwhile, the world is also paying close attention to the potential collapse of Rupert Murdoch and his media empire.

I cannot think of Rupert Murdoch without thinking of Charles Dickens, chiefly because of David Copperfield’s Mr. Murdstone—the archetypal cruel stepfather and capitalist exploiter of children.  Murdstone, in turn, makes me think of merde, French for shit (and as readers of this blog know, I have a great appreciation for the power of shit and at least its metaphorical efficacy as symbol of transformation, reversal of fortune and concealer of spiritual treasure).

Murdoch is surely in the shit these days, poised perhaps for his Dickensian comeuppance; yet he may, ultimately, be less a world-shaper and more like some global Wizard behind the con-artist curtain of greed—which, along with terror, is the great Achilles’ heel of our limping human condition.

One could say that Murdoch has made our world a worse place, shaping big media toward the sensationalistic and cruel, but as venal as his lizardomics may be, he truly just rides the crest of our collective lurid mind—dumbly wired as it is in a Paleolithic stage of human evolution.  Like the lizard brain upon which each of our so-called evolved brains are constructed, the collective mind also seems to have a lizard for its base… emphasis on base, on sex and violence, on domination and greed, on terror and counter-terror.  Does this bring happiness?  We are a joke and the joke is on us until we awaken to our prisoners’ dilemma:  there is no way out alone, only in working together can we free our own Selves.

Just as mammals grew to dominate reptiles (at least in terms of organizing the world and shaping it to one’s fancy), the mammalian aspect of the collective mind (i.e. the loving and connecting, the quiet and the small, the feminine and compassionate) may grow to dominate the lurid twitchy fear and exploitation that currently rules the tottering roost like some T-Rex gazing at an incoming meteor, oblivious that it is posed for extinction.  Exit through the gift shop and get your T-Rex.

An interesting front page piece in the NY Times on Sunday profiled Murdoch’s latest consigliore, Joel Klein who, in contrast to Murdoch’s right-leaning bent, happens to be staunchly left-leaning and an educational reformer and anti-trust litigator.

It is interesting when lions get in bed with lambs, or whatever the apt metaphor to say that opposites attract; or they turn out to be not so opposite, for “win at all costs” is an alienated and would-be superior mental space, even if you are a fighter for a “good cause.”  The best cause is the cause that includes us ALL, and nothing short of that can truly be considered complete.

Maybe Murdoch is a scoundrel who seeks to wrap himself in social good, cozying up with an anti-trust lawyer.  Yet perhaps the 4.5 million in yearly compensation, and the air of a global power player, might change Mr. Klein, who is tasked with handling the internal investigation about the company’s potential wrong-doing… while being paid 4.5 million by that same company to work for them.  Has fairness fallen so far off the cliff that even those whose very brand is fair can be bought?

An interesting side-note may be found in the fact that after Klein prosecuted Bill Gates and Microsoft for anti-trust violations, and won on behalf of the government, Gates befriended Klein.  Winners love winners, I guess, no matter what side they are on; but can humans love humans and re-think winning to mean connecting and participating, rather than distinguishing, discriminating, separating and proving oneself superior?

So, instead of enemies, let’s have humans we disagree with, but with whom we are still basically family.  While it’s too late for the dead, we can heal the living and help them learn that they are seen, and cared about, and part of our group with no exceptions.  How long would it take humans to reach this level of sophistication, of awareness of their true situation?  Perhaps fear will win and humans will fade away like dinosaurs, or perhaps morph, as birds have done, out of their giant lizard ancestors.

Let’s not hate, but rather trust and love and see the humanity in every sacred, and scared, other, and in that human being we see in the mirror too… and in the clear hopeful eyes of all our collective children.  Surely these words could be easily laughed at as naïve, but who can stop us each from privately being our best Self?  Who can say, with absolute authority, that our private and micro loving doesn’t count or matter?

To practice compassion in the midst of busy lives, of paying bills and parenting, this, the Zen masters of centuries past considered noble and well worth lending their spiritual and emotional support toward.  Listen carefully; perhaps they whisper love and encouragement amidst the seemingly ceaseless folly of getting and spending, toiling and dying, seemingly senseless mayhem.  Let muddy waters settle and pattern emerge, or so schools the Tao Te Ching.  Find a Rorschach in a poopy diaper, a universe in the coffee dregs, an eternity in the slanting light of afternoon.  And know that you are not alone.

Namaste, BD


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5 Responses to “Together and Apart”

  1. Pamela Says:

    thank you bruce for being brave enough to tackle this. I was so horrified by this but couldn’t even write about it. Thank you for spreading love and trust instead of fear.

  2. Laurie Kilpatrick Says:

    We were camping this week-end and came home to this news. You’ve touched on many of the feelings I had after my calm and blissful reality diving into the world tearing apart. Yes, more love and compassion is beyond necessary. Thank you Bruce.

  3. Kristen @ Motherese Says:

    I saw the Beatles crossing Abbey Road in a grilled cheese once. Does that count?

    In this compassionate, thoughtful piece, you have identified what I see as the problem in our contemporary culture. So many are interested in shoring up their own identity in opposition to another, leading to “fair and balanced” sound and fury and signifying less than nothing. Although I don’t always see it this way, I am lucky to have parents with political convictions the opposite of my own. My love for them makes me look harder at their views as I try to discern what of value they see in them.

    I’ll admit that I find it hard to find compassion for the antagonist in the Norway story, but it always gets easier for me to find sameness when I think of someone as some other parent’s child. Your writing today helps me to do that. Thank you for the reminder of our shared humanity even on the dark days.

  4. BigLittleWolf Says:

    You have said so richly and poetically what I wish we could all feel, but we do not.

    I wonder at times if it is up to women and poets to finally express and build a world in which compassion is not weakness, and compassionate community is our only possible salvation.

  5. Mark Brady Says:

    Hi Bruce, as you might guess, I love this description/metaphor …

    A healthy working brain has differentiated parts, but no part hates the others and all work together. It’s the working together that is love; it’s the separating apart and losing the unifying thread that makes for alienation, war, murder, genocide, paranoia and gunmen with manifestos.

    Keep posting.

    Domo Arigato,


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