Our lives have an organic or an artificial base. We bring forth what is within, or we impose restrictions and align ourselves with what is without. Organically, we are seen as having everything we need, and are encouraged to incarnate what is within and find ways of exhibiting ourselves appropriately in the world. Artificially, we are seen as blank slates to be written upon, lumps of clay to be molded into who we ought to be according to some external conception of the Ideal Self. We meet encouragement and suggestions or commandments, restrictions and regulations. We become our natural selves or we become somebody else’s image of who we ought to be. Our inner peace and development depend on the luck of the draw, on the environment that receives us when we emerge from the womb, and on the environments we live in throughout the life that follows. We live in search of an environment that is conducive to life. Or capitulate to death and live out our days with hollow eyes and an aborted soul.
The outer world has to be conducive to the birth of the inner world. We need a world that is receptive to our coming forth. Vulnerable souls need a welcoming environment. Or, a protective presence that can deal with any environment. Enter Ego! An Ego that lives in right relationship with Psyche/Soul is exactly what we need to bring ourselves forth into the world. We might think of Ego as The Guardian. A Guardian whose task is to Protect and Serve the Soul, but a Guardian that can be seduced, corrupted, by the lights and action of Gay Paree (or by the fruit of a forbidden tree). A Guardian that is aligned with the world’s idea of what it means to live successfully is death to the soul. You see where this places us. “Is you is or is you ain’t my constituency?” Soul wonders. Whose side are we on?
Whose side ARE we on? How come we keep complicating things for ourselves and getting in our own way? Why are we always shooting ourselves in the foot? Refusing to cooperate with the deeper leadings of Soul? We’re burning daylight here. We have a life tied up at the hitching post while we peruse the sights and sounds of Gay Paree, or whatever passes for Gay Paree. We distract ourselves with Wonderful Nothings, console ourselves with comforting choruses of “Poor, poor pitiful me,” and wait longingly for deliverance while our lives stomp and snort impatiently, and the day drags on.
Oh, but it’s too late now, isn’t it? If we were going to live, we should have started in our twenties. No one can live with their best days behind them. Everyone knows that. After a certain point, it’s all over and you just have to hang it up and tie another one on. That’s what they make beer for. The white rabbits are dancing on the table and we are drinking to missed opportunities and lost dreams. There is a country song in here somewhere.
Figuring out what Soul is asking of us when we have an interest in doing something else is as diffi-cult as anything in the Book of Difficult Things. We are in our own way, and have to constantly decide whether to make way or give way. It is easy enough for us to read our dreams as indicating our opposition, even refusal, to engage in the work of soul, but to see where our cooperation is needed in our daily life—to understand where we are actually being obstinate and obdurate—is beyond the scope of ordinary awareness. And so, the need for developing our sensitivity to, our discernment of, the movement and whispers of Soul. But, why would we?
We don’t want to go where Soul needs to be. Soul seems to be a master of taking things in stride, of biding its time, of waiting things out, of keeping the pressure on, but it also seems to thrive on encouragement and the least amount will do. But without some indication of our willingness to recognize and express the leanings of our Soul, Soul breaks out of its bondage with explosions of Shadow-truth, and we are left with messes beyond imagining to clean up, if we can. If we don’t chase the white rabbit, she will come driving six white horses to run us down, and that will not be pretty.
But becoming who we are, in light of who we also are, is no picnic. This is no walk in the park. It is not for sissies. This is the Search for the Holy Grail, the task of life, the great adventure we all crave as children and shrink from as adults. The monsters, they be real. Who wouldn’t seek the safety of the womb, of Mother’s lap, of the same old same old, of fundamentalist religion, of the black footprints laid out before us to the grave?
No one would volunteer for this work. Or, volunteering, no one would stick it out. It has to be forced on us. We have to be conscripted. Dragged out of our beds at night and thrown into an initiation ritual against our will. This was the place of those primal rites of passage, to force growing up upon us, because not one of us would have what it takes to do it on our own. Yet, we have developed a culture in which we have to do it on our own. No one kidnaps is in the dark and thrusts maturity upon us. This is the task to which all are called but few are chosen. James Hollis says, “Childhood dependency must be relinquished for adult self-possession and creativity. The longing for a trouble-free existence must be put aside in favor of the mature meeting of responsibility. Such changes constitute not only the quickening of consciousness but a form of election. All are summoned to grow up, not all are up to the task.” And why would they be? What do “adult self-possession and creativity” have to offer against “the longing for a trouble-free existence”? Surely, you see the problem!
What exactly do we get out of growing up? What’s in it for us? Why not remain infantile forever? We are leaving Mama’s arms for what? What is better than Mama? Who thought this up? Besides, what’s a soul good for in this world? What’s a soul going to do for us? Get in our way! That’s what. Keep us far from that happy shore, storm-tossed, at the endless mercy of the wine-dark and trackless sea!
All we want is “that happy shore,” and it’s blissful promise of a trouble-free life. In other words, Mama. But the truth is: “We are born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward.” That was Job’s take on things (5:7) 2,500 years ago, give or take. He couldn’t find any buyers then, or now. We don’t want to hear it. We want to hear, “Come to Mama, baby. I’ll take care of you.”
See how many surrogate Mamas you can identify roaming through the culture, promising freedom from worry, fear, and trouble. All we’ve ever wanted is freedom from worry, fear and trouble, and we’ve created a culture to provide it for us. Of course, there is one small catch. We have to believe The Lie: “I’m your Mama.” And, we have to hand over our lives. That happy shore is the land of the Sirens--another name for Mama. The terrible thing about Mama is that we can’t be safe in Mama’s arms and be alive. Mama kills the babies. Mama is a Death Eater in disguise, devouring the souls of those she shields from the worries, fears, and troubles of life, rendering us safe, soulless and as empty as gourds on dry ground.
We save our lives by realizing that we have what it takes apart from Mama. We don’t need a trouble-free existence. We have what it takes. If you are going to believe anything, believe that you have what it takes. Believe that you have what you need. Believe that you can stand naked and defenseless before IT, before the way things actually are, and be okay, and be just fine. Don’t hide behind your made up shields, clutching your contract with life, saying, “Look here, look here. It says right here if I do this and this and this, that will happen!” Life will laugh and say “That has no validity—it’s only a joke you’re playing on yourself! You don’t get what you deserve in this league. You get what you get. Now stand up and let’s see what you are made of.” So, stand up, and look Life in its ugly red eye, and smile. You have what it takes. All it takes is trusting that you have what it takes. And, you will never know what you have if you don’t live as though you have it.
How to enlarge ourselves and be true to ourselves is the trick. Enlarging ourselves pulls us beyond ourselves. Being true to ourselves chains us to our idea of ourselves that we have become accustomed to over time—an idea that has to be shattered again and again as we show ourselves who we also are by dealing with situations we have never encountered. We cannot restrict our idea of ourselves to who we have been, to who we have shown ourselves to be through the process of living our lives up to this point. We have to expand our idea of who we are and be true to more than we can imagine we are capable of. We surprise ourselves. We don’t know who all we are. We are here to find out, but it is not easy.
We need the help of Soul. “Look,” we say something on the order of, “Look, you have to speak up if you expect to get my attention. You have to make plain what you want. You can’t be coy and subtle and expect me to get it. I need your help here. What do you want? Signs and signals are crucial. Signs and signals. It’s the least you can do.” Of course, the least we can do is read the signs, and follow their lead!