The Work Of Healing That Calls Us All

This morning I was reading a wonderful and witty Longreads article:
“Tea, Biscuits and Empire: The Long Con of Britishness.”
The writer, Laurie Penny, a Briton reluctantly locked down in California, begins by looking at the mythic dimensions of being British and the way these myths have captivated Americans — and Britons — in stories and film, from King Arthur to Harry Potter, Sherlock Holmes to Dr. Who, Monty Python to Downton Abbey; stories that picture an idealized version of Britain versus the reality. She contrasts the mythic Britain where class and racism are ignored or insignificant and everyone pulls together with a rather painful look at the actual reality, as in her revisionary telling of the story of heroic Londoners surviving the Blitz in the underground, people who were first denied entrance with barricades and flooded into the underground desperate for shelter after the government had casually left the building of shelters to local government or private companies. Not so very unlike these days, when the those who have no means to do otherwise are forced to keep working without any real protection while exposed to COVID-19.

The U.S. also has its own mythic dimension that is collapsing right now, a parallel fantasy of heroic democracy and freedom for everyone that is being skewered on the reality of racism, genocide, immigration, and classism, a long lynching reign of terror for the nonwhite and/or noncompliant that props up the “land of the free” fairytale construct now sinking under the weight of too much horrifying reality roiling to the surface.

https://longreads.com/2020/06/18/the-long-con-of-britishness/#more-142126

I wanted to quote part of what Penny says in her essay:

“. . . I’m in quarantine in California, watching my home country implode into proto-oligarchic incoherence in the middle of a global pandemic and worrying about my friends and loved ones in London. Meanwhile, my American friends are detoxing from the rolling panic-attack of the news by rewatching Downton Abbey, The Crown, and Belgravia. 

But there is a narrative chasm between the twee and borderless dreamscape of fantasy Britain and actual, material Britain, where rents are rising and racists are running brave. The chasm is wide, and a lot of people are falling into it. The omnishambles of British politics is what happens when you get scared and mean and retreat into the fairytales you tell about yourself. When you can no longer live within your own contradictions. When you want to hold on to the belief that Britain is the land of Jane Austen and John Lennon and Sir Winston Churchill, the war hero who has been repeatedly voted the greatest Englishman of all time. When you want to forget that Britain is also the land of Cecil Rhodes and Oswald Mosley and Sir Winston Churchill, the brutal colonial administrator who sanctioned the building of the first concentration camps and condemned millions of Indians to death by starvation. These are not contradictions, even though the drive to separate them is cracking the country apart. If you love your country and don’t own its difficulties and its violence, you don’t actually love your country . . . 

What happened to the Londoners who ignored the barricades and sheltered in the underground? They are subsumed into the myth, with no mention that officially, they weren’t supposed to go there.

“Eventually it was adopted into the propaganda effort and became part of the official mythos of the Blitz, but the official story leaves out the struggle. It leaves out the part about desperate people, abandoned by their government, in fear of their lives, doing what they had to — and what should have been done from the start — to take care of each other.

What Penny writes about has me reflecting on the nature of how it’s so easy to look only at the world in a way we are comfortable with. Everything gets pulled into reinforcing the dominant story, ignoring that there are other threads, other voices, struggling to survive against suppression.

Particularly for white Euro-Americans like me, facing the dark and tragic underside of the cultural fantasies that we soothe ourselves with and even defend violently as reality seems essential healing work right now.
To confront the fantasy world of the “land of the free” that is propped up by racism means letting go of what never really has been, whether it’s here in the U.S. or in that mythic Britain we love to imagine as our ancestral exemplar. Yet as Penny describes, there are so many acts of simple care and compassion, acts transcending isolation and cruel judgments, that aren’t imagined. Can we begin to build a grounded new framework for human lives that starts by recognizing how damaged and traumatized we are and how we bandage ourselves in fantasies that substitute for engaging our genuine creative power to heal and grow? Can we begin to love the world, ourselves, and each other without illusion and stop the increasingly destructive and lethal path we have followed to this bitter end?

In memoriam: Flynn, July 2007-December 2015

I found this brief piece I had written about our cat, Flynn, from April 2014.  I still miss him and reading it brings back the amazing connection I had with him. He was an extraordinary person, even though a nonhuman one.

I went for a long walk yesterday late afternoon with my cat, Flynn–Bill started out with us. We usually go for a walk with him after dark, it’s easier because he’s so shy and encountering people and especially dogs! is a challenge. He’s not very afraid of dogs, and knows how leashes work, but the dogs often don’t handle it well. But Bill and I set off down the road and Flynn stood in the driveway looking after us (he has freedom to come and go through his cat door)–then suddenly made a decision and came galloping after us, with a tentative look, his tail down until we bent down talking to him to encourage him, then he knew it was okay and his tail came up like a flag–so happy.
We often try to escape from him, believe it or not, sneaking around the house and losing him when we want to walk somewhere distant and he knows he’s not supposed to go with us.  He loves, loves, loves to go for a walk with us, just like a dog does–it’s the highlight of his day and we’ve had many interesting adventures on these walks. When Bill turned back, Flynn and I continued for more than an hour, exploring the wooded school grounds nearby as it grew dark. People think cats are solitary, not oriented to groups, but Flynn understands perfectly how to interact as part of an interspecies pack and also knows when I lose him in the dark and will do something obvious at the right moment to let me know where he is.
He led the way and mostly I followed him. We communicated where we wanted to go and paid mutual attention to what the other one wanted to do. It was quite wonderful to be in this space where some of the differences between cat and human dissolved in the shared experience. The bond between us felt so much deeper in this respectful space. I think we both get sometimes get frustrated because of our different perceptions and different ways of communicating. I think Flynn understands a very great deal about the limitations of human awareness. From a cat’s perspective, I think humans often seem outrageously obtuse. For example, at one point in our walk, as it grew dark I was trying to cross a lighted walkway in front of a building. Flynn did his usual cat thing, disappearing silently and I couldn’t tell where he was. I turned back and went to the corner of the building looking backwards for him, only to discover that he was already ahead of me, circling patiently back to follow me. So, I let him poke around in some places and check them out and then we turned back again and set out to cross the lighted walkway. This time Flynn made sure to stick with me as I crossed it quickly, he galloped across it just in front and to the side of me, making this thumping thunder, thunder, thunder sound with his feet. He has this way of making a surprisingly loud noise as he runs–he can make the ground thunder or he can be completely, to my ears, silent. He plays a game with Bill and I when we walk together, we call it “Zooming,” he drops way behind and then rushes up behind us, suddenly making the thunder, thunder, thunder as he gets close and darts between our two sets of feet. It’s an interesting challenge he’s set for himself, as we are often close together, sometimes holding hands. He’s been kicked inadvertently a few times. When he was younger, he would make this tiny chortle just as he went between us; a cat expression of humor and victory, I think–like gotcha.  He doesn’t make that sound any more, but will sit down in front of us, victorious, and wait for us to come up and bend down and talk to him and stroke him and acknowledge we’ve been “zoomed.” So I believe he was completely aware that evening that I had trouble knowing where he was that first time we tried to cross and he was making quite sure that I could both see and hear him as we crossed that walkway together in the second attempt.  I believe that Flynn’s intelligence and the depth of his soul is in no way inferior to that of a human, and I’ve never been disappointed by holding to that assumption. Just the opposite, he continually surprises me by the power of what he understands and how capable he is of communicating with me if I am mindful and pay attention to what he does. I am always shedding my short-sighted human beliefs regarding what he knows and can do when he relates to me.

 

Mortimer Snerd Rides Again

The latest foot-in-mouth tweets making you crazy? Desperately need some kind of alter-ego you can dominate?
Available right now for $350 on Amazon. Guaranteed more sane than a lot of other relief . . .
Yep, Mortimer Snerd, a hair of the dummy that bit you. Consider his stuffed head and hard hollow body, not to mention his constant unhinged jaw . . .
Everyone needs to own this bigger-than-life puppet.
Could this figurehead solve a few of your mental health issues as we descend into the political and cultural underworld? Learn to heal yourself through your own personal possession!
Get yourself a ventriloquist’s dummy and start talking, or tweeting, back at him! Carry him to rallies and political speeches! Speak up, talk back! Throw your voice out there! Be the loudest voice for a change!

https://www.amazon.com/Mortimer-Snerd-Deluxe-Upgrade-Ventriloquist/dp/B00BGTGDTG

Moondark

Spindle Whorl

Spindle Whorl

My painting is from several years ago. I renamed it Spindle Whorl. “A spindle whorl is a disc or spherical object fitted onto the spindle to increase and maintain the speed of the spin.” So many cultures have created beautiful spindle whorls to help spin thread for cloth. But they are also a symbol of unity and the axis at the center of the cosmos, the still point at the turning center, from which everything is spun. Interesting coming up today–because of the name I gave my old business: Spindle of Fire, by which I meant the central axis of the solar system or perhaps the galaxy or universe. And the mitotic spindles in cell biology are the fibers that help pull one cell into divided daughter cells.

Today I’ve been reading about rest and silence. It’s the dark of the moon. The moon, invisible and waning into the conjunction with the sun, all her shared brightness enfolded back into and combust in the sun’s rays, a time of both stillness and fertility–the power of latency and fallowness to regenerate growth, the moment before reaching again into outward or upward motion. It might be the moment of mitosis, as everything begins to collect and condense, in preparation for the emergence of a radical change, weakening, dissolving the structure of what has been, an empowerment and transmission into each half of the conjoining body, a twisting and a turning as energy is exchanged, centripetal force gathering, then reversing, magnetic spindles of energy midwifing the remembering new bodies apart, lost boundaries reforming, unity unfolding into embryonic separation and a trajectory of increasing distinction until the cycle returns.

Interesting because I was born at the last degree of the sign of the Moon, the last stage before it turns into the sign of the Sun.  And that moment is now. Once again.

 

Spiral Star

I can’t resist the magic of discovering what happens by creatively combining accident and intention. A few years ago I was fascinated by this technique of using resists with sprayed paint. The small painting above uses white oil pastel and watercolor and ink. The pastel lines are not very visible as you make them, so putting them down on the paper means laying down a swathe of line somewhat blindly, by feel more than sight. I then sprayed the color over it and the white lines appeared.