Where do we go from here?

A gap is opening between Government and people. It is widening to a gulf of not knowing. And it is not just in Ireland, but in many other countries that regard themselves as democracies.

NOTE: I began writing this blog about one month ago on a Monday morning just before Christmas.

I have just been listening to the Sean O’Rourke programme, which featured an interview with An Tánaiste from Greece informing us about the progress in arrangements to bring our quota of refugees to Ireland. Earlier there was a discussion about Garda pension arrangements, trade union recognition, et al. Then an interview with Mr. Irwin, founder and now retiring CEO of the Jack and Jill Foundation about the work done by them over the past twenty years or so. Over the week-end I had listened to discussions around Irish art and culture reminding me how wonderful and unique we Irish are. Then, as I sit here listening to “O Holy Night” on the Ronan Collins Show, I check in to Facebook and the first item in my Facebook page is a comment from one of the “anti-water protest” pages objecting to our welcoming of refugees while homeless Irish people are living and dying on our streets. And that is just in the past two hours. Add to that the kaleidoscope of disturbing images and snippets from different media and I find myself torn apart, struggling with conflicted emotions.

I promised myself as I started to write this piece that I would not use adjectives or any words that carried emotion or judgment. I failed but I have gone back and edited those words so that I took the emotions back into my psyche and owned them. The result is that I now feel angry, despairing, powerless, dirtied, complicit, confused, useless, but still determined not to give in. I am listening to the RTÉ news telling me of summary executions of non-combatant civilians in Aleppo in Syria, I can’t be sure that I can continue to process and control these emotions as I write.

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Nevertheless, I have devoted my whole life, sometimes with conscious focus but more often than not driven by an unconscious, inexplicable, internal tumult to confront the Unknown, and possibly Unknowable, in an effort to make sense of this chaos.

A few rocks of logic have given me a handhold to survive. And I would like to describe these before making an appeal. It is part of our human condition that we must admit and accept that we struggle to understand what Life is about. Some people accept the tenets of a received religion which gives them a measure of consolation provided they maintain their “Belief in the Unbelievable” (G.K. Chesterton’s description of religion) which appears to be based upon an assumption that “God is Good” albeit not understandable to the human mind, and “Evil” is attributable to a separate entity. Others develop the assumption that there is no “God” and that Life, the Universe, and Everything, is some kind of glorious happenstance that doesn’t require a meaning other than that “it is”, and “après moi”, not only is there no “la deluge”, there isn’t even a tear drop. Truly Theatre of the Absurd!

I began to see a glimmer of humanist hope in the middle 1970s. I had returned from a four-year contract in Zambia, working on the second largest underground copper mine in the world, where I had reached the level of Chief Training Officer. The challenge of working in a different culture and different working environment had opened my mind and led me to question many of my inherited certainties. Back in Ireland after a short spell in consultancy in the UK and Angola, I was introduced to the work of the Tavistock Institute and the work of Melanie Klein, a psychotherapist, who had studied under Sigmund Freud. Without going into the theoretical details of her work which dominated my work and my world for the following thirty years, I can summarise in lay-person’s language the essence of her work.

The Lion Sleeps tonight

Melanie Klein was a psychotherapist who focused on studying young children up to the age of two in order to understand how the human psyche (total mental system) learned how to understand and respond to the world around it. In essence she suggested that the child discovers by accident and by experimenting that there are “good” things and “bad” things about the world that can please or upset, love or hurt, and a mental boundary is thus created between Good and Evil. The good things are internalised/eaten and give pleasure, the nasties are spat out, thrown up, put beyond the boundary that was created in the psyche and externalised. This way of dealing with “objects” is imprinted in the psyche before the child has developed speech to describe its feelings and these “bottled” experiences become the basic mechanism we use throughout our life for dealing with the people and events that impinge on us. This means that we unconsciously reject anything that upsets or offends us and “project” it, like a slide onto a screen, and see it in someone or something external to us. This gives us some consolation but it doesn’t last very long because it is only the association with the external object that is projected. We are still left with the feeling response of disgust, or anger, or fear that was generated initially.

I emphasise that this is done unconsciously. But every time I see, hear, or read a rant on facebook or a report in a television/radio interview that seems to be biased, I am reminded of that mechanism and wonder what can be done to bring about a resolution of the unconscious reaction. We have been fuming with anger against those who have imposed austerity upon us, we are angry with the Government for what we believe they are doing to us. But while the anger burns away at our souls, and people suffer evictions, and loss, and pain in their lives, nothing seems to happen as a result of that anger. Innocent people, adults and children find their lives reduced to bare survival. Why? The inequalities in society are worsening. Why is nothing being done?

five-of-cupsI believe that it is essential for our very health, physical and mental, that we learn to understand this psychic avoidance mechanism. We live in an  increasingly dangerous and uncontrolled environment. Yet, if we are to survive we must come to terms with these learned responses that once served a useful purpose but nowadays are a time bomb ticking down the seconds to our destruction. I am thinking in particular about the anger, violent and palpable, that is expressed by so many people in response to the increasing violence we experience from society, from government, even from those close to us. For that reason I have been asking myself is it worth the risk of putting my head above the parapet to draw attention to this violence. Because much of it is an unconscious, “knee-jerk”, reaction to the pain experienced by so many people our instinctive reaction is to deny it. That is my reaction also, hoping that it will go away, or that someone else will take up the cudgel to attack it. That is why I have held back on posting this message since just before Christmas.

A gap is opening between Government and people. It is widening to a gulf of not knowing. And it is not just in Ireland, but in many other countries that regard themselves as democracies.

And that is how a prince can pass through the guts of a beggar.

I admire you, #Lynn_Ruane, and the work you do. More, nay, most importantly you are the only Irish politician that I have heard using the words “his/her soul”, in such a meaningful context. When someone takes their own life there is shock and bewilderment, why did they do it. The “father of Sociology” described suicide as the “greatest crime against society.” I have seen that phrase parsed and analysed as meaning that the one who took their own life had, in some way, sinned against society because society, their community, perhaps even their family hadn’t helped them. I am beginning to see and unravel another meaning there.

I have my own spiritual beliefs but having come from a Catholic background in Ireland, and examined other religious systems, I practise no religion that has created by men, women, or their so-called “God”. Let me explain, because in the situation up to now, suicide  has been interpreted as “murder without a reason or an explanation” as if the individual had set out to hurt society. I see suicide as the end of a chain of suffering inflicted on the individual by society, including other less final events, or states of mind, earlier on in their life. But we are not introduced to examining these “little things” because either we don’t know how to respond, or we don’t understand, or perhaps even, if we did notice anything, we were blind or too fearful to look at it because we don’t know how to respond effectively. I now believe that suicide should be described as “the greatest crime against the Spirit committed by society”

Rodin - The Thinker

Let me explain what I mean.

People, in general, and very specifically here in Ireland, treat their “Body-Mind-Spirit” triad combination in that descendng order of importance to them. The Body, however, is equivalent to a space suit, but gets the most attention, It is useful for carrying the Brain, i.e, our built-in human computer module, around with us, as it senses and interprets our reality. The Mind is like the software package that comes with the computer. Like the software package that comes with your manufactured computer, it provides a structure and a set of instructions for the Brain to do its computing. I have read recently that the “software for the mind” is loaded from the DNA that we inherit through our parents from our ancesters, our culture, and add to by our experience of life. That is perhaps why C.J. Jung, the psychotherapist, wrote that every child born arrives with a complete history of the evolution of the world in its psyche  The Mind manages the Brain just as the Operating System manages the computer.

I believe, however, and my apologies if anyone disagrees with me and feels hurt by what I write, that “Soul” is our “energy source” that powers our life with only one single charge. Nothing new in that! Most people describe death as the Soul leaving the Body. But after that scientific statement, things get kind of confused. Atheists seem to have missed the point, and agnostics haven’t bothered to get that far yet, but both claim to believe that the Cosmos is just some kind of accident or nasty joke that happened and that it is going nowhere and has no intrinsic meaning for us. They imply that we are wasting out time trying to unravel the meaning of Life, the Universe, and Everything. Even stranger when you thing that many prominent atheists announce that they are scientists.  Their advice is “just get on with it.”

When we, die the Body dies. What is generally described as the “Soul” is, in modern terms, like a holograph of the entire Cosmic Spirit/ Energy/ God (not as in OMG), that is, a realistic picture composed of minute versions of the large picture (just like the holograph on your bank card or credit card which gives the illusion that you are looking at the picture in three dimensions, looking at the sides, the top, the bottom as if it were an actual object in front of you). Now that image enables and forces me to look at every individual, good, bad, or indifferent, as the full image of the Unnameable, the Unimaginable One that powers the Universe. It helps me to explore and understand a truth that may exist in the phrase “children of God” but gives it a whole new meaning for me. That is why I believe that the act of suicide is a despairing cry of belief that Life could be so much better, if society stopped believing in lies, put the triad in a different order, writing “Soul, Mind, Body” instead of “Body, Mind, Soul”. We can’t see Spirit or Soul or the Mind but we can examine and know the body. The Body is composed of star dust, created by the the nuclear explosions in dying stars. As a result of that death of a star, dust comprising the atoms of hydrogen, oxygen, sulphur, and all the other chemicals we find in our natural world, have over billions of years floated through space, driven by solar winds, carried on comets and asteroids, eventually reaching Earth. You see, the Bible and other holy books, tales passed down from mythological time, carry a simple message, such as the Christian one that God picked a handful of that star dust, breathed on it and created human beings. That is a very simplified story but essentially scientific and reasonable.

That is also why I stated earlier that we must begin to re-evaluate the message that wasn’t written by the person who ended the life of their own Body but expressed that message nonetheless. Just because it wasn’t written down as a note, doesn’t mean there was no message in their action. To understand that message we must first understand the process of the life of the Body. It has come from another human body, which has fed and nourished itself on plants and animals containing feed that had been absorbed from the earth composted plants containing that same star dust mentioned above. When our human body dies, it also is composted and broken down again into star dust to join the star dust of every other living creature throughout the planet which has died and decomposed and became ready to be recycled. And if there is no doubt but that the bodies of all living things having died, decomposed with their handful of star dusk returning to the composting earth, then it is inevitable that what I refered to earlier as my space suit is actually made from recycled material from previous living beings, then there is no reason to doubt that the material of our body has been recycled and is the home of the hologram of the Cosmic Spirit. As the Gravedigger in Hamlet remarked “and that is how a prince can pass through the guts of a beggar.” I believe that we must turn our attention to Spirit and Mind, and cease from putting Body ahead of Spirit and Mind. I think that we must do this if we are ever to understand why someone dear to us has apparently taken their own life without a reason. We should be examining our Selves and our society to find out why  collectively we have created a society that stalks those are threatened by what they have seen when they looked into the heart of Darkness.

Peace and blessings be with all who grieve.