Starbucks in The Apocalypse

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Painting by Marney Ward

The distance from the heart to the head is sometimes 30 years, sometimes a whole lifetime : “We say, “You know it in the head, but you don’t know it in the heart.” There is an extraordinary distance from the head to the heart, a distance of ten, twenty, thirty years, or a whole lifetime.”
C.G. Jung, Seminars on Kundalini Yoga

*

You have been forced to enter empty time.
The desire that drove you has relinquished.
There is nothing else to do now but rest
And patiently learn to receive the self
You have forsaken for the race of days.
At first your thinking will darken
And sadness take over like listless weather.
The flow of unwept tears will frighten you.
You have traveled too fast over false ground;
Now your soul has come to take you back.

~Fragment of a poem by John O’Donohue

*

The soul’s complaint as I hear it now is this: Why am I so neglected in your theories of the universe? Why am I given such a contingent place in the scheme of things? Why does the creation myth by which everything is explained in Western culture — evolution through time — put me in, if at all, at a late stage and such a little space, inside human skulls and skins?…

Why do philosophical cosmologies afford scant nourishment to the interiority, imagination, sensuousness, and suffering that these same cosmologies declare to be my domain? I want cosmological help… — James Hillman

American culture is extroverted and materialistic. Introverted philosophers and poets are sailing against the wind, so to speak. In Jungian terms, America could be called a sensing culture. I wear that culture like ill-fitting clothes. It never felt like home to me. If I’m going to be outside a culture, I prefer it to be one that really is foreign, one that’s endlessly interesting because of its sensitivity to community and beauty, one with high respect for poetry and the arts.

In the last few years, Americans have been treated to a foreboding of the Apocalypse, our very own self-created “end of history.” How did we get here? Are we living out what our culture has been promising from its inception? Why have we set this trap for ourselves?

I think it goes beyond simple ignorance. True, we can’t be said to be spiritually sophisticated, we aren’t even very rational when it comes to how business and government works. Is racism rational, for instance? On the face of it, we shoot ourselves in the foot coming and going.

Right now, we’re regressing. We’re devolving because we so admired a rich man it never occurred to us that he was simply a heartless criminal. Our mythology of the rich self made man elevates him to godlike status. Americans are children, we’re infantile in how we see the world. Our myth of success is simpleminded. It’s easy to pull the wool over our eyes.

Our situation now is fraught because so many of us can’t let go of our fantasy of a rich and powerful savior. The idea that we will have to self correct, that we are obliged to save ourselves is unappealing to a large minority of our society. They want to be raptured up to a new Disneyland.

And then there are those who don’t know and don’t care. A good forty percent of our country haven’t the time or inclination to look up from their grindstones and notice the trend in human events.

Positive influence is hard to come by. There are a few enlightened and compassionate voices in the wilderness, a few brave souls prepared to fight for a rational way forward, but it’s amazingly difficult to convince people that Superman is not coming to save us, that it’s we who save ourselves by thinking and feeling clearly. By caring about others, by opening our hearts a little. Defended and closed hearts, hearts that have managed to fend off grief and depth of life experience, those hearts vote tribally for narrow self interest. Arguments can’t change that person.

So it’s up to us. We’ll have to stir ourselves to speak and act to let it be known where we stand and what kind of world we want. When this is over and we have somehow managed this little course correction, then we’ll have to turn our attention to the justice and love we’ll all need to survive and to thrive.

We are offered a life raft that can get us there. We better take it while we can.

Written by

I occasionally write fiction and also about creativity, loving, language learning and travel. I’m a longtime painter and reader.

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