The gross and the subtle

This is me, trying to find my writing voice again.

So many books to be read, cover to cover. And so little attention I have to pay. My proverbial cup is full and unable to hold anymore information. As a serial life-long learner, I don’t see myself ever walking away from reading and research. So, this is me trying to drain my brain, soul, and spirit of information to make room for new ways of knowing.

I have decided to practice writing based on passages randomly selected from books randomly pulled from my shelf. My intent is to share in a good way, for the good of my soul and yours.

Today, I have chosen two different passages. One from “The Earth Has a Soul: C.G. Jung on Nature, Technology & Modern Life” and “Facing the World With Soul: The Re imagination of Modern Life” by Robert Sardello.

From Jung:

“One can be – and is – just as dependent on words as on the unconscious. Man’s advance toward the Logos was a great achievement, but he must pay for it with a loss of instinct and loss of reality to the degree that he remains in primitive dependence on mere words… {…} It is just man’s turning away from instinct – his opposing himself to instinct – that creates consciousness. Instinct is nature and seeks to perpetuate nature whereas consciousness can only seek culture or its denial.” pp. 72-73

Words. Words. Words. I saw a blip on social media today, something about how most Americans don’t read and how that’s affecting their approach to the political season. I’m not going to go into a diatribe about that, except to say that it’s so weird for me to contemplate the fact that in some people’s lives, it is the norm to never read. As much as I love words, thoughts and ideas, though, I also am keenly aware of their limitations. It’s foolish to spend too much time paying attention to the letter and totally ignoring the spirit; we ignore the spirit and our instinct at our peril. Our very humanness depends on a happy marriage between the two.

One of my pet peeves is people (including myself) not taking the time to build the bridge between meaning and understanding. I can’t tell you how many times I have been in situations where words are being spoken, using agreed upon language, yet those involved in the conversation have a difference of understanding. Sometimes, the difference is profound and the consequences as well. The spirit in the words is lost because we are so dependent on the words in their gross form. We have lost the art of using instinct to build a bridge between meaning and understanding. And today, especially, our words are failing us. The words in our general lexicon have become long-swords.

From Sardello:

“The alchemists practiced certain disciplines to engage imagination with the things of the world. John Lash tells of how a discipline of concentration was central to their work. … The city is our home, but the earth is our dwelling place. We live on the earth, beneath the sky, the drifting clouds and the stars, and the golden sun. … The city, seen through the soul, is a gathering together of elemental beings to be brought further into the workings of the world – as city.”  pp. 50-51

Sardello spends a fair amount of energy in the paragraphs prior to the  quote above discussing the practice of alchemists – called extraction – whereby they are able, using imagination, to create an environment, or reality. But while the practice is extraction, the intended result is to achieve a holistic knitting together of elements. Jung and Sardello both point to our ability to create. Jung bemoans our reliance on words, Sardello entices us to practice as the alchemists. Both men point to something outside our consciousness as allies in creation. Sardello encourages us to contemplate the possibility of creating a reality using the imagination and focus.

My Ojibwe ancestors were masters at using instinct and imagination to co-create their world. Their dedication to art, to nurturing and sustaining a reciprocal relationship with more-than-human relatives, allowed them to thrive culturally and traditionally. My Gaelic ancestors also possessed these skills. Their facility was expert level, artistic. Their languages consisted of words which described the spirit of a thing as well as the physical manifestation of something. The subtle and gross were successfully married and fed their souls, bodies and minds. Their methods were more sophisticated than many of us have the capacity to understand. Their language is definitely more sophisticated than some of us have the capacity to understand. I believe that because their blood flows through me, I possess bits and pieces of their knowledge and wisdom. While I may not be expert level artistic yet, the potential exists in the blood.

The art of using instinct to build a bridge between meaning and understanding, of bringing all our gifts into service of the world is perhaps not lost, if we can remember that it flows through our veins. When we are able to comprehend, using our instincts, that our ancestors are with us in ways more profound than a nostalgic, emotional wish, then perhaps we might start to heal and grow as real human beings. I believe that because their blood flows through me, I possess enough of their knowledge and wisdom to begin to move forward and to grow and heal as a real human being.

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Twylia (the 'i' is silent)

~ I am Anishinaabe-kwe with Scottish heritage and Sami DNA. I speak on the behalf of no one but myself. My ancestors inform and guide me. My voice is but one of many who are calling for change. We have much work to do to create a good space for the real human beings who are waiting to be born.

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