Meditation is that light in the mind which lights the way for action; and without that light there is no love.

–J. Krishnamurti

The Wolves Revisited

It is a strange time to say the least. 

Peo­ple are begin­ning to pub­lish more and more about Trump, rais­ing aware­ness of the dan­gers he rep­re­sents. The good news is he is being stopped, grad­u­al­ly, by peo­ple shar­ing the rapid­ly accu­mu­lat­ing evi­dence of his pat­terns: author­i­tar­i­an­ism, racism, misog­y­ny, xeno­pho­bia, crude­ness, nar­cis­sism, denials, divi­sive­ness, blam­ing, lying, vio­lence. Many are scared of what he is and what he means to do. 

And we should be scared. Yes­ter­day, I read a pow­er­ful Face­book post by Matt Haig, a British writer. Trump, he wrote, has already dam­aged the world. He’s dam­aged it because he “has allowed the inter­na­tion­al league of clos­et racists to step out of their lit­tle wardrobes of hate.” The post had gone viral. I read it twice and read the com­ments, too. Ten hours lat­er, I was awake in the mid­dle of the night re-read­ing those com­ments in my mind, lis­ten­ing again to that fear, med­i­tat­ing on it.

It is deeply trag­ic that there are so many peo­ple who are will­ing to fol­low Trump where he is going. As some­one who has stud­ied lead­er­ship for years, I would­n’t ever call what he does lead­ing. I’d call it siphon­ing peo­ple into a col­lec­tive dark­ness. A sort of Jon­estown phe­nom­e­non, Kool-Aid and all. Peo­ple won­der how this stuff hap­pens. Giv­en who we are, the dark­ness will prob­a­bly nev­er give up all its secrets on that count, no mat­ter how much we ana­lyze human nature. My short­hand for it is Group Shad­ow. In this case, near­ly impenetrable.

So stop­ping Trump is impor­tant — we don’t want to watch this metas­ta­size by wait­ing too long — but not just stop it out of fear, because that is at first par­a­lyz­ing but then quick­ly also can become crude and impul­sive and can be vio­lent in its own right, in turn prop­a­gat­ing resis­tance and fur­ther mis­chief. It does­n’t do much good to insult the insul­ter, blame the blamer, hit the hit­ter. This sure­ly isn’t a time for aggres­sion, but it sure­ly is one for courage — the courage to speak up, to say “Look at this!” and “We’re bet­ter than this!” and “No, not me.” and “You can’t have me — I won’t let you.”

What we can do is remind oth­ers (and our­selves) of the pos­i­tive vision of who we tru­ly are and can be. There’s no need to put any­body down. There’s just the need to build peo­ple up, to build a pow­er­ful and pos­i­tive soci­ety, here and else­where. Essen­tial­ly, as a per­son­al mat­ter, we need to get the Trump part of us, the “inner Trump” we might indulge in, out of us, and as soon as we can. And I’ll wager that inner Trump is pret­ty much all based in fear.

This all reminds me of the well-known leg­end about two wolves that I’ve told before:

A Chero­kee elder was teach­ing his chil­dren about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to them. “It is a ter­ri­ble fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil — he is anger, envy, sor­row, regret, greed, arro­gance, self-pity, guilt, resent­ment, infe­ri­or­i­ty, lies, false pride, supe­ri­or­i­ty, and ego.” He con­tin­ued, “The oth­er is good — he is joy, peace, love, hope, seren­i­ty, humil­i­ty, kind­ness, benev­o­lence, empa­thy, gen­eros­i­ty, truth, com­pas­sion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you — and inside every oth­er per­son, too.”

The grand­chil­dren thought about it and after a minute one of them asked, “Which wolf will win?”

The elder sim­ply replied, “The one you feed.”

Suzanne's Amaryllis

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  • Vanessa Vaile wrote:

    Siphon­ing peo­ple into a col­lec­tive dark­ness” describes the effect per­fect­ly. Trump is an extreme exam­ple but not isolated.

  • Dear Vanes­sa~

    Thank you for com­ment­ing here, as well as on G+. I think there are worse exam­ples, for sure. And there are many who seem on the very slip­pery slopes of per­son­al or some kind of cultish col­lec­tive delu­sion. One may well ask, how did we get here, to this unteth­ered place?

    Increas­ing­ly, I think that’s the wrong ques­tion, as it may be a very long time before we are able to answer that ques­tion with any real degree of insight. The bet­ter one is how do we get out of the swamp togeth­er, exem­pli­fy­ing our best, rather than worst qual­i­ties? How do we embrace the whole dynam­ic in such a way that there is — even pro­vi­sion­al­ly — some­thing like rea­son and sen­si­tiv­i­ty draw­ing us for­ward? We can­not deny Pan­do­ra’s box, but we can — as smart humans have always been capa­ble of doing — step back to calm down, to see, and then step for­ward again to fight for the virtues and ideals that are in dan­ger of being torn to shreds.


  • Vanessa Vaile wrote:

    As usu­al, I agree with your take — tran­si­tion, as you put in the G+ thread. All too often, the sec­ond of “how did we get here” is “how do we get back” (or out). Anoth­er wrong ques­tion, one that can take those ask­ing down dark paths or, if lucky, land them in dead-ends or send them going in cir­cles. Unpro­duc­tive. Going nowhere, not the way to man­age or cope with transition.

    I’m sort of in edu­ca­tion — retired but learn­ing and explor­ing, curat­ing and cer­tain­ly cul­ti­vat­ing my own opin­ions — a thinkivist as a friend burnt out on activism described her­self. Any­way tran­si­tion is there too. A num­ber of oth­er­wise intel­li­gent, sen­si­ble peo­ple are not han­dling it well. And labor — think of the chang­ing nature of work. 

    Deal­ing with tran­si­tion (whether embrac­ing or just com­ing to terms with it) is the mid­dle way between suck it up and resis­tance. Polar­iza­tion is bag­gage we can do without.

    You might find Bryan Alexan­der inter­est­ing — an edu­ca­tion futur­ist.

  • Vanes­sa~

    Thinkivist! Good for you. I love it!

    I believe it’s a lit­tle tricky to make com­par­isons between the psy­cho­log­i­cal process of tran­si­tion and the study of broad­er social tran­si­tions and mob behav­ior. Nev­er­the­less, I’m drawn to the notion that viewed with that lens (tran­si­tion), we don’t end up in such sta­t­ic space, which in the end exac­er­bates our fears because it can’t help but serve as a vehi­cle for our pro­jec­tions. Fear can nev­er be entire­ly explained away with an intel­lec­tu­al analy­sis or social research. The expla­na­tions are all in part just more shad­ows on the wall of Pla­to’s Cave, even some that sug­gest a sci­en­tif­ic “truth.” The lens of tran­si­tion, at least, places an oppor­tu­ni­ty ahead of us if we can lis­ten deeply enough and not get sucked down in the whirlpool of loss­es. The great­est of these oppor­tu­ni­ties to me is the nation­al con­ver­sa­tion about fear itself, and what it is doing to us at all lev­els, our his­to­ry and our way for­ward from fear that is in direct oppo­si­tion to the false solu­tion Trump pro­vides. This, to me, could be one of the great­est lead­er­ship con­tri­bu­tions any of us can make. The absence of know­ing where we are going as a coun­try, what our pos­i­tive aim is and what that calls on each of us to be and to do, to me is a big part of the prob­lem. So far, none of the can­di­dates in the Pres­i­den­tial race have actu­al­ly addressed our nation­al dilem­ma in this way.

    Thanks, Vanes­sa!

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