Why question authority? Why not!

Our best option then is to block the Government’s control of our lives by planned citizen actions of non-compliance with their rules while still remaining within the law.

When the Pope visits Ireland on Saturday 25 August next, he will make a private visit to the Capuchin Day Centre in Dublin for about 2 hours. And then he and his entourage will move to Croke Park to attend the “Feast of Families“.

I am extremely disturbed by the news that “the authorities” in Dublin are making contingency plans to “hide” (my words) the homeless families, homeless children, distressed and disturbed adults and children who sleep on the streets, by forcibly removing them outside the Pale overnight. Or maybe the homeless and dispossessed will conspire albeit unwillingly with their oppressors and go without a murmur. I am even more dismayed and disturbed by the comparative silence of the Irish public on hearing this news.

What message is this behaviour sending to the spirits of the children who were born in the captivity of Mother and Baby “homes” and buried secretly in holes in the ground or dumped in cesspits? What message is this sending to those who have lived their lives with the mark of evil stamped on them and on their human spirit, and on their families by successive governments who didn’t show care, or understanding or forgiveness for fear that it might undermine the unholy alliance of Church and State in buggering and bastardising the poor and innocent? What message does the behaviour of our, yes, OUR Government, send out to people of this country, and to the world at large about our priorities?

Is our Government and our entire Dáil and Seanad and the entire apparatus of State bereft of authority and power and ability to take action, or are they afraid of what might happen to them at the hands of international global capitalism and the eroded democracies of Europe if they were to wake up to their responsibilities to the people and do something? Are the Irish people themselves so dumbed down and silenced that we can turn a blind eye, and a deaf ear, to the pain of fellow citizens, both old and new? What are we afraid of? Why don’t we speak up as a people and say “Stop! Enough! We will have no more of this!” Or are we just afraid of fear itself and how it might upset our cosy yet impoverished lives! We seem to settle for blind rage and name calling and verbal violence on the social media to give us an escape from taking real action to make changes. Vain dreams and foolish waking!

Sun Tzu, in “The Art of War”, the most important and most famous military treatise from China for the last two thousand years, wrote: “Plan for what is difficult while it is still easy, do what is great while it is still small”. We have now gone beyond the stage where our problems were easy (oh! if only we had had the wit to tackle them then) or small (because then we had the money to tackle them and plan for the future). But Sun Tzu had further advice that we might now heed, even at this stage: Thus the highest form of generalship is to frustrate and block the enemy’s plans; the next best is to prevent the coming together of the enemy’s forces; the next in order is to attack the enemy’s army in the field; and the worst policy of all is to besiege walled cities.

Let’s translate that from the military, agressive language into advice for peaceful citizen action. The best option for us now is to frustrate the Governments plans where they undermine us as citizens of an independent country; the next best option is to block them where possible from combining with other governments and institutions to undermine our rights as citizens; the next is to respond violently with protests and demonstrations; and the worst option of all is to try to unseat them from their positions of power in the State. We have seen where the “Water protests” got with all their good intentions. Nowhere. We have participated as individuals and in groups in street protests and action groups against homelessness, against incompetence and abuse of power in the health system. Our educational system no longer prepares our young people for meaningful work in society, but instead schools them by rote in the regurgitation of “approved” responses to problems without ever understanding the nature of the problem. Our best option then is to block the Government’s control of our lives by planned citizen actions of non-compliance with their rules while still remaining within the law.

The simplest way of starting on this path is to QUESTION AUTHORITY! For instance, in regard to the Pope’s visit, by all means greet him if you feel you owe allegiance to what he represents. Otherwise, go about your own business and ignore the visit. If the Dublin authorities decide to hide the obscenity of homelessness, one option is, for those who object, to allow those who are taken out of sight to be accommodated safely overnight elsewhere, but perhaps they could be replaced on the streets at night by stand-in or even “sleep out” replacements. While the public representatives go about their self-styled business of colluding with the niceties of so-called “civilised societies” no one is forced to come out and cheer. There are lots of ways to starve those in power by gradually withdrawing our authority from them because, and don’t forget this, it was we who democratically elected them and gave them that authority in the first place. Let’s see how they fare without our complicity in their self-aggrandizement. Remember the words of James Connolly from a century ago: “The great seem great because we are on our knees. Let us arise.” Meanwhile, we need to start planning now how we are going to rescue our society before homo sapiens becomes yet another branch of humanity to be lost in the process of evolution.

The Hero’s Journey

Remember that each one of us will, at some stage or another or even at many different stages in our life, come to a door or a path or a life option that is closed to us. We have the choice to turn away or to open that door, to travel that path, to make that choice.

theFoolI first heard about the “Hero’s Journey” back in the early 1970s. A colleague of mine, Paddy Walley, mentioned it in passing around the time that I was recruited as a Training Specialist in N.E.T., the fertiliser plant in Arklow. I didn’t know much then about the “Hero’s Journey” other than that occasional references to it appeared in the media dealing with training and organisation development issues. About the same time, I was encouraged by an Irish consultant, a behavioural scientist, the late Pat Quinn, who was working with the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations, based in the U.K., to attend their annual Leicester Working Conference.

This “conference” was unlike anything I had ever experienced up to then. It was (and still is!) an experiential learning event. Unlike most conferences, where there is a lot of socialising and networking contacts, a lot of talks by panels of experts, and a “jolly good time” is had by all, financed usually by the sponsoring employers (think: scaled-down Davos and a rite of passage for aspiring executives), the Working Conference is an intense learning experience driven by the participants themselves, both consciously as a result of their desire to learn, but also unconsciously by their subliminal needs and desires and personal make-up.

A Working Conference as an experiential event is certainly different. There you learn from your own direct experience of interacting with others in the “here-and-now” as you work with them in an emerging organisational structure and struggle to understand what it’s all about. At one level, you are thinking about the work you are trying to do from scratch, while at the same time, you are being encouraged to examine the process in which the group is engaged, communicating, thinking, doing, arguing, agreeing, visualising. That is, you are dealing with the what and the how of the Task but at the same time, struggling to understand the emerging dynamic of the Process of working together.

The conference consultants focus on analysing what the various groups and sub-groups are doing and interject from time to time with their hypotheses about what is happening in the group, as-a-group. They rarely if ever interact with individuals in the group, because their focus is the group as a group, as if it were a separate “animal” and the individuals merely different, but intrinsic, aspects of that “animal”. The focus is on the dynamic way in which the Task and the Process interact, on how that interaction affects and is affected by the individuals in the group, at the level of both conscious and unconscious awareness, thinking, and behaviour.

The group consultant’s only information is what they see and hear and sense around them. From that they develop a working hypothesis as to what might be going on in the psyches of the group members. It is impossible to describe the effect this has on each participant. Suffice it to say that on the morning of the second day (the conference lasted for a fortnight), I spent almost an hour before breakfast, on my knees, in the toilet bringing up what felt like everything I had ever eaten in my life. By the end of the fortnight, I was aware that the world had changed for me and that I had choices to make. In many ways a Working Conference is another example of the Hero’s Journey in a limited time frame. My career took a radically different direction from then on. I would now in retrospect describe my life as surfing from one wave to the next, even from one Working Conference to another, caught up like a small canoe negotiating dangerous but exciting rapids. I have also attended three further working conferences and trained as a group relations consultant with the Tavistock Institute.

I mention all the above, because over the past few years since 2002, when I returned to Ireland, I have been struggling to cope with the consequences, some good, some bad, others yet to be evaluated, of my life in general. But I have learned how to look at these these situations in a more useful way, and most importantly, to accept life as it is rather than wish it were different. As part of this developing scenario, the name of Joseph Campbell arose again and again. He was the originator of the “Hero’s Journey”! In this, his work is invaluable if you struggle at times to make sense of what is happening to you in your own life. The diagram below is just one of many different examples of how the different stages of the Hero’s Journey may occur.

Three-Act-Structure
A schematic diagram showing different stages in the Hero’s Journey.

Joseph Campbell was born in White Plains, New York,[2] the son of Josephine (née Lynch) and Charles William Campbell.[3] He was from an upper-middle-class Irish Catholic family. He was a scholar and was strongly influenced by the work of James Joyce. His book, “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”, gives a good overview of his ideas. His work has influenced many modern writers and film-makers, such as George Lucas and “Star Wars”, “The Matrix”, the Harry Potter series, and many others. The popularity of those films and others like them, including folk tales, mythology, and fairy tales, is in large measure due to those stories being built upon a simple framework that we instinctively recognise and respond to as being rooted in our shared human nature.

herosJourney01
The Hero faces his Nemesis

Today I came upon the film “The Timeless Tale of the Hero’s Journey”. [NOTE: This link will take you to a YouTube video summarising the Hero’s Journey and that is then followed by a one-hour film expanding on the first video and pointing out the implications of the myth]. I have no regrets that it has taken so many years for my life to come full circle since then, with many repeated cycles of the Journey, from Paddy Walley’s reference to it nearly fifty years ago right up to now. You will always find the Hero’s Journey relevant to your search for meaning in your life, as well as helping you to recognise the “Here be Dragons!” sign.

 

The key point for anyone watching this film is to remember that this is not about a pantheon of heroes to be admired from a distance. Every human being since the dawn of our history is unique. We live in a gigantic, multi-dimensional, mind-boggling, cosmic arena that we still struggle to understand, so there is still plenty of room for your and my and his and her uniqueness to emerge and flourish. Remember that each one of us will, at some stage or another or even at many different stages in our life, come to a door or a path or a life option that is closed to us. We have the choice to turn away or to open that door, to travel that path, to make that choice. You don’t have to be famous, or fantastically clever or skilled or wealthy see your life as your Hero’s Journey.

Watch this film and you will understand why!

Heros-Journey-Cartoon

Overcoming the “Me” in Meditation

They didn’t appear to see the edge of the cliff but continued on falling happily into the sea.

I have been following a 21-day course in meditation run by Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey. This is my third or fourth time signing up for their free 21-day meditation course. Each time there is a different focus but the programme is basically the same process, learning to meditate, step by step, to achieve a basic practice of meditation. This is the first time that I have succeeded in keeping up with the weekly assignment and have just two days to go. This time I feel quite exhilarated because it seems that I have made some progress. It’s hard to measure that progress but, for instance, I no longer fall asleep in the middle of the session! I no longer have a utilitarian approach to it, but I see it as a process that is being realised in me rather than an end product I take away with  me. I can see more clearly now how I should approach it. It is not a product to be purchasedi and used, but more a process that helps me to follow a path that unfolds as I move. My greatest hurdle up to now has been looking for an end goal rather than following an unfolding path.

As Lao Tzu said:

“The Way that can be taught is not the Eternal Way.

“The Name that can be named is not the Eternal Name”.

So, what then is the “Way”? What name should I give it? In a strange way, this is one of the threads in my life where, as I explore it, I find increasingly that there is a connection with earlier experiences in my life but with which I have had difficulties in integrating them in a coherent way into Me as I am now. But I now recognise it as a universal theme. Joseph Campbell described it as “The Hero’s Journey”, the Hero being Everyman or as we now stutter and stammer with breathing and grammatical difficulties, Every(wo)man or Everyhuman or Everyperson.

I am now writing this at 4.00 a.m. I went to bed early last night because I have been burning the candle at both ends for too long and I need to re-establish, or should I now say, establish a new regime. I had woken a little earlier, around 3.20 a.m. or so with the remnants of a dream in my head but fast evaporating as dreams do.

unnamedI was standing on a “tulach”, or small hill in the middle of a vast plain. Eager crowds were heading westwards towards the setting Sun. Their eyes were set on the horizon of the descending Sun. As the Sun slipped downwards the pace of the crowd was increasing. They were being egged-on by eager politicians and civil servants and religious leaders and professionals of all descriptions and every one was caught up in the excitement and the happinesss. Even the Dispossessed, the Homeless Families, the Street-sleepers, the Unemployed and the Unemployable, the Rejected, the Dejected, and the Infected, were caught up in the excitement. From my vantage point on the low hill, I could see where the land met the Atlantic Ocean. The crowd was now running. They were all running, cheering and happy as they neared the fulfillment of their plans and their desires. They didn’t appear to see the edge of the cliff but continued on falling happily into the sea.

sunlightoncoralIn the watery depths two fish were hiding from a marauding shark under a rocky outcrop in the cliff. The shark gave up on them when suddenly human manna fell from above. The seas frothed and grew red with blood. The fish found an opportunity to slip away. As they reached the open sea again, one turned to the other and there ensued a bubble of conversation.

“Looks like our ancestors’ little venture onto dry land hasn’t worked”

“Ah sure, didn’t we see that coming for some time now. We better get it right the next time though,” replied his friend, the other fish.

“I’m not so sure,” opined the first fish, “didn’t ye see the way those people had their eyes fixed on the future and lost sight of where they were?”

And Lao Tzu smiled.

And the scales fell from my eyes!


Notes:

i This particular 21-day Meditation Programme is free. You can find more information here: <https://www.facebook.com/ChopraMeditation>