from the book
- the Death, and the Resurrection,
of Modern Civilization -
fa-sol: "I am the bread of life" consciousness offers itself up in sacrifice to the Mystery
Dying and Becoming:
- inner growth through metamorphosis,
during the course of the Biography -
Real change in life comes about through indirect processess. It is the striving for the elevation of the spirit which as a by-product transforms the shadow elements of the soul. These shadows cannot, in the beginning, be challenged directly, as they are part of our nature. To erase them would be to undo ourselves. But we can grow beyond them. We can aspire, and in that activity discover the unfolding which leaves behind that which is no longer needed.
Further, this section of the book is intended to be a kind of culmination of certain matters, as this essay is the 4th, i.e. it is the 4th interval, the middle of the seven intervals natural to the octave. Thus, this essay on the metamorphosis of the soul is also itself a stylistic metamorphosis. Previously we have been focusing on the individual, leaving the community - the social group - in the background. Now it is my intention to fold-over our thinking from this emphasis on the individual to more and more consideration of the context in which the individual exists - the community.
Basically we are concerned ultimately with I and Thou - "...as long as you did it for one of these, the least of my brethren, you did it for me." Matthew 25:40. The "I and thou" relationship expands our considerations from the individual into and including the community. For not only does the individual develop through the metamorphosis of an inward dying and becoming, but so does the community. Especially in this time of social chaos, when social forms, on the level of both small and large levels of organization, are finding themselves losing their inner coherence, it becomes necessary to consider what this means and what potential for community development lies hidden within these changes.
Let us begin this exploration, by first focusing on the Biography.
All life is lived within the individual biography. An individual is born, lives, and then dies. For everyone this truth is the same. It is such a simple matter to realize the significance of this. However we wish to paint the large events, the macro-crises of our time, they are all experienced within individual biographies, and the whole nature of these events pours out of individual biographies. This or that leader may take us to war, but that aspect of things is just an abstraction. The concrete reality is that it is individuals who participate in the decisions making, and individuals who carry out the orders, and individuals who die or become maimed.
Try as we might to put these matters outside us, as if happening in some kind of play over there, all of what happens flows from and to individuals, and is met by individuals within the context of their individual biography.
For example, let's suppose I am watching the local evening News on television. Some kind of accident has happened, or a murder, or some other lurid event the News finds so fascinating in its amoral confusing of the consciousness of the community. All manner of feelings and thoughts may arise in me while I am watching. I could, for example, form a picture of the lives of those about which the Talking Head is reading. I might think that the person accused of the crime (perhaps pictured in their jail suit standing before a judge) is some terrible animal, unworthy of life who ought to be themselves killed. Regarding the same event, I could feel sorry for the family of the deceased one, and feel how terrible it is for them, as I watch the News ghoul use their tragedy to feed my shameless fascination.
In reality, I learn nothing from the News. I acquire no insight into the human nature of the actors in this tragedy. Perhaps events ran out of control, and that other participants bear the greater responsibility (for example, some kind of malicious gossip has told a horrible lie, and inflamed an already delicate and overly emotional situation into physical battle, with the result that someone tripped and fell and then died). The News really knows little, and the real role it plays is to mis-inform the community with a dark and heavy view of matters that could all be placed in a much deeper and more illuminating light, were the News vampires to take the time and trouble to make of their work a true social art.
But, as it is, we seldom obtain to insight, so the real effect of the News is within our own biography - it becomes something we eat in a way, something we take into us that may help, or as is more likely, bring harm. This is not just the News by the way, but all that we share with each other, whenever we speak or write of another, of the Thou.
We too are Talking Heads when we share our views of this one with that one. Sitting at the coffee room table at work, speaking to each other our news about various folks, we also create meanings which either darken or illuminate the mystery of the "other", the Thou.
Like Civilization, with its outer historically viewed sequences of events, and its inner mysteries of meaning and suffering and joy, each individual Biography is a mystery of outer images and inner hidden meanings.
If we want real understanding and knowledge of the Thou, rather than mere news and gossip, we can engage something inside ourselves, a latent power of empathy. Instead of just judging the world, and all the other players on its Stage, use the imagination to try to see matters from the inside of the Thou, looking out. How would we feel, were we to be there in their shoes - this is the essential social question.
Here then is the first task of making inner metamorphosis possible - learning to see through another's eyes. It is also the essential task of all true community building. Let us give a name to this work so that we can refer to it later: other-seeing. We see the other more deeply, but not the surface, nor the cover of the book. Instead we look out on the world from their point of view. This is how we genuinely learn to see the other, the Thou - from the inside out, through the Thou onto the world, or other-seeing.
This then gives us two components for understanding the basic elements of community building: I-seeing and other-seeing. In the last essay (discovering individual insight) and the following metastory (the problem of responsible action), we see the emergence of I-seeing and other-seeing in practice. In the essay, we reached a certain depth with regard to developing the ability to think for ourselves, and with the metastory we connected that unfolding capacity with an initial work at seeing through another's eyes (the young men of Columbine).
Here we are trying to come awake to their convergence - that is how I-seeing and other-seeing reciprocally reinforce each other. In a sense there are two kinds of inner gestures. One gesture is a vertical one, with an upward variation, and a downward variation. The other gesture is horizontal, where we meet the other, the Thou. In the vertical gesture we encounter spiritual beings, and in the horizontal gesture we encounter our fellow humans. In both case we move away from ourselves and toward communities. We reach outside ourselves to include the not-I.
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