Please note Chrome works best for the Archetypal Animations in this post.
— By Wendell Berry
First Archetypal Animation & Stanza
When despair for the world grows in me, and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children’s live may be,
Second Archetypal Animation & Stanza
I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
Third Archetypal Animation & Stanza
I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief.
Fourth Archetypal Animation & Stanza
I come into the presence of still water.
Fifth Archetypal Animation & Stanza
And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light.
Sixth Archetypal Animation & Stanza
For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
ReflectionsOn Wendell Berry’s Poem to This Moment in Time
When the forces of man’s collective psyche gather into a maelstrom sending destructive vortexes this way and that into the world, it is hard not to feel as Wendell Berry begins his timeless poem:
...despair for the world grows in me, and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children's live may be...
Putin blows his devil’s breath from high within his isolated, depressing Moscow tower. A devil’s wind that makes his warrior vortexes go this way and that. Everywhere they go, the leave behind trails of blood, of dead bodies and blown up buildings, trees, and earth. Up there in his tower of desolation, he bloats in his madness as he congratulates himself over and over again about how he is getting away with unleashing his Hell-scape fantasies, deathly desires, and foolish folly into the world.
If you are a person with normal capacity for human empathy and compassion, then it is impossible to turn away and ignore what is going on in Ukraine. And you must not turn away.
We all must witness this wicked madness straight on, just as the Ukrainians are meeting Putin’s little devils straight on. If we don’t want to become like Putin, we must feel this destruction deeply and furiously. And we must feel down deep into our bones all the other tragedies unfolding in Afghanistan, the Middle East, Africa, Central America, South America, in the heart of all major cities and super rick countries in this world.
If you do, this means you are still human.
Wendell Berry describes the monsters inside us all. And he also tells us how to quell them and to sink into the peace that passes all understanding.
I wonder when was the last time Putin went down to where the wood drakes gather? When did he last lay down on his back, belly exposed to the light, the air, the sun, the stars and breathe in the beauty of this world? When did he last see a heron eat a snake or ponder the peace of still water? When did he last look up into the night sky and wonder about how implausible any of us are here at all?
When did Putin cut himself off from his curiosity, his wonder, his inner grace and awareness that he is alive in a magnificent world with enough bounty for all, if only we would tap into our inner wild nature where the wild wisdom of life runs free with the knowledge there is bounty all, if only we take our fair share? When did Putin become a narcissist blob cut off from his body, his heart, and his humanity? When did he become a monster?
Seventh Archetypal Animation | When Grace Is Lost
Putin lost his inner grace long ago, and now, alone and cold in a forbidding world, he opens a gate for devils to tumble and fumble their way out into this beautiful world. They rape women, shoot children, bomb maternity hospitals, children’s hospitals, and recreation centers where 1,000 women and children huddle in the dark and cold hoping they might just stop their bombing. Instead, they are crushed under the rubble of another bomb.
I hate Putin. I hate Putin’s army of dead and dying souls. I wish the Free World would grow a stronger backbone and kill this man who has become a Dracula overseeing an army of Zombies. But, we are playing on the “civilized” game board, while Putin plays on the barbarian game board.
However, he won’t win. He might kill a Hell of a lot of people. He might even launch a nuclear bomb, but like so many Ruthless Rulers before him, he will crumble into the dust bin of life. Ruthless Rulers always do.
Oh yes, they might win for a time. And, they might press their smelly likeness onto other human beings, adding to the blob, but he will never win. His zombies will never rule over the multitude as he has promised.
Evil never wins! At least not for long…not as long as there is life to live. Not as long as wood drakes sail on lakes or great herons hunt and devour snakes. Not as long as a single human being wanders down to the waters edges and wonders why this whole thing exists at all. Ponders why we are here amongst the divine majesty of the trillion billion stars above.
Being Human by Being Connected to Each Other & the World
My friend Karen shared this poem with me. We both feel deep pain for suffering the of the people of Ukraine. We both feel helpless in the face of such evil, and yet, we live…and…in the face of such horror, in retaliation to the demonic evil unleashing death, destruction and horror on Earth, Ukrainians fight! They live!
And yes, they are dying by the hundreds of thousands because Putin is a coward and his army is ill-equipped and ill-prepared, indeed, they are unwilling to wage this war, expect for the beasts he’s imported in and the degenerate ones who glory in the gross and disgusting side of life…the ones who are too afraid to love or to know who and what they really are.
Ukrainians know the price of this evil, and they stand against it, and they are winning! They are winning because they remained connected to their humanity and grounded to this Earth–our home, our mother, our true nature. They show us, the Free World, each and every day how to fight for what is right and how to be better human beings!
Four Letters to the World of Free Men and Women: Letter to the Ukrainian People; Letter to the Free World; Letter to Russian people; Letter to Americans
Letter to the People of Ukraine
Dear People of Ukraine —
I have let you down and the Free World has forsaken you.
You are dying because we are weak and afraid.
Please forgive us. We have forgotten how to live in the Present and how to be Present for each other.
If I could kill Putin with my thoughts, he would be dead 10,000 times already. And I would just be getting started.
The Russians don’t remember how Scythians fight, how long your unique and long history is.
They will remember when they see your eyes.
Know that you have already won.
Putin, his followers, enablers, and supporters wherever they are in the world will be uttered in the same breath as Hitler, Stalin, and all men who have chosen to become monsters instead of men.
The oligarchs full of piss and fear, the Chinas suppressing their people, the stupid ones like Trump and his menagerie will snivel like snails beneath the shadow of your courage, compassion, and willingness to die to live free.
If only the Free World had a smidgen of your dignity, courage, and spirit.
Instead, we sit and watch your pain, your suffering, your deaths like the spineless creatures we have become hiding under out fragile, artificial shell of civility.
We are not civil or modern.
We hide our barbaric nature with platitudes and policies and lies.
What good is civility when evil manifests in men like Putin?
Would Hitler have stopped his demonic rage had the Free World not finally intervened?
You have warned us: Putin’s madness will not end when Ukraine falls.
An evil like this is never satisfied by what it has.
It only has an endless hunger for more of what it already has and is willing to inflict great pain, agony, and destruction to get it.
How can we (the people of the Free World) abandon you at your greatest time of need?
How can we let this happen on OUR WATCH?
You are showing us (the Free World) how to be human when evil rears its ugly head.
Your dignity, courage, and spirit show us that to be fully human and not simply shells filled with doubt and fear, we show up to help our brothers and sisters.
Humans show up when their brothers and sisters are staring down the demons of destruction trying to devour their freedom like snakes from hell bent on turning our shared reality into a field of horror and our world into a living Hell.
You are precious. Every life Putin takes is a crime. I feel so helpless watching this happen to you. Please forgive us. Our failure to not do more is wrong.
Reactions of aHelpless Watcher Witnessing Evil Live on TV #1
Instagram Posts Beginning Night of Russian Invasion
Letter to the People of the Free World
To All People Who Value Freedom in the World —
This is a struggle in which the Free World cannot sit on its hands and watch. This is a struggle for all persecuted, suffering people anywhere in the world. People who are persecuted for any reason–racism, religious beliefs, gender, sex or political beliefs. The Ukrainian people are being overrun and killed by a ruthless dictator.
Do you think this ends when Ukraine falls? Putin’s vile plan seeks to destroy freedom and democracy anywhere it appears in the world. He has chosen evil and he will keep moving steadily destroying democracies and freedom wherever it appears in the world. I do not agree with Biden saying it is going to be OK. It is not OK watching the Ukrainian people being slaughtered. In what world that values freedom and human life is this OK?
Our world has drastically changed since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022.
The Free World is weak. It stares at its own navel hung up on its own comforts and conveniences. We (the people of the Free World) have left so many people behind who have been struggling for freedom, self-determination, and sovereignty over their own lives. The United States was particularly cruel and careless in its withdrawal from Afghanistan; however, the Free World has done far too little for the peoples in countries where “Arab Spring” protests were brutally put down, where protests in Hong Kong were harshly suppressed, where the military takeover of Myanmar and Rohingya genocide was savage, and this list goes on and one.
The Ukrainian people are fighting for their lives and freedom. They are standing up against a vastly superior force. They are showing the entire Free World how to fight for freedom. How to be human! Their courage, compassion, and dignity stands mighty before the rest of the world concerned about themselves and sadly it seems little more.
Putin is a maligned, demonic force of evil in the world. Such evil must be fought by all who stand for the right for life and freedom. This evil is never satisfied by what it has. It constantly hungers for more than it already has. It takes pleasure in inflicting senseless horror and pain on others. This fear, this pain that we are watching the Ukraine people suffer feds this kind of evil. It will never rest until it destroys all free people and all freedom in all lands everywhere in the world. Only then, will it finally turn on itself and devour itself.
Putin is a man who has chosen to become a monster. His madness is spawning thousands of minions who are carrying out his biddings. Yes, there are Russian soldiers shocked at what they are being asked to do and surrendering to Ukrainians.
But, there are also soldiers who are dragging people out of apartment buildings, lining them up along a wall, and shooting them. The longer this goes on, the more harden and brutal some soldiers will become to accomplish Putin’s ruthless wishes, indeed, they will be ordered to become ruthless killers. Huge explosions are being now used to destroy and level civilian infrastructure (e.g., apartments, schools, hospitals, colleges), not military as Russian “officials” said would be the focus. There are also reports of Russian soldiers shooting fleeing civilians in their cars as well as desperate phone calls to family members who made it across the border to Poland or Hungary of Russian soldiers coming into family homes and terrorizing loved ones who could not escape in time.
Putin lives in a world of savage fantasies. He lusts for ultimate power and glory, which sprouts from the demon seed buried deep in his depraved soul. His heart has been corrupted beyond all repairs. And his barbarism is being carried out with cold calculation by suicidal army meticulous trained to turn off their humanity and act like Putin’s attack dogs from hell. They have only heard and been fed a constant stream of distortions, lies, and misinformation. It keeps them in a foggy, soggy, sub-human conscious state of being, making them perfect puppets who carry out one man’s mad rage upon the world.
Deep down they know what they are doing is wrong. But I doubt it will burn away fast enough to save the people of Ukraine. And then, Free World, we are next.
This episode discusses what is happening in Ukraine with Leila Fadel (reporter on the ground in Ukraine), Kurt Volker (former US Special Representative for Ukraine), and others in the know about what is going on. What jumped out to me were the following elements.
Leila Fadel told about one woman she met on a train going back into Ukraine. She told Leila she felt Ukraine is a proxy war, a game being played by Russia, the US, and China for influence and power in the world. She is right.
Leila also talked about how all lives matter. She told about how she has met and talked with individuals who fled other war zones (e.g., Syria, Afghanistan, and many other places where the super powerful have violently suppressed the super vulnerable) and settled in Ukraine and now they are fleeing again.
Kurt Volker talked about how there is much more the US can do for Ukraine while walking the line of avoiding an outright conflict between nuclear powers. Yes! That is what I feel and desperately want the Free World to push it leaders to do (no more watching!!!).
And they discussed discrimination that African and Asian individuals in Ukraine have faced. They are also trying to flee violence and annihilation. Sara Sidner (American journalist with CNN) is in Poland and talked with individuals facing this sort of discrimination and says that they just don’t understand why they are being treated this way. There have been terrible documented treatment of foreign nationals with dark skin, but also many instances of compassion and humane treatment.
This is a very complex, fast moving tragedy that is changing constantly. All experts of this episode urge watchers, especially on social media, to dig for the latest information, not media and posts that are several days old. They also warn of misinformation efforts launched by Russia and Russian sympathizers around the world–vet the information you consume and vet your own systems of belief!( I get into this much more deeply in my letter to Americans.)
To the Russian People
The Free World is not at war with you. We are not your enemy. The anger you see from the world is directed at Putin. You are as precious to the world as the Ukrainian people who are being slaughtered by your President Putin. You are not being told the truth about this war.
This list goes on to account 58 journalists who have been killed in Russia between 1992 and 2022 with Motive for Death Confirmed as accounted for by the Committee to Protect Journalists. You may not trust anything except Putin’s State TV, but you know who are the Russians who have died.
You know critics of Putin have ended up dead.
Boris Nemtsov, 2015 — political leader of Russia’s “young reformers.”
Boris Berezovsky, 2013 — A self-styled tycoon who become a fixture in Yeltsin’s inner circle in the late 1990s, Berezovsky is believed to have been instrumental in Putin’s rise to power (including a media campaign that smeared Nemtsov)
Anna Politkovskaya, 2006 — Russian reporter for Novaya Gazeta whose book, “Putin’s Russia,” accused the Kremlin leader of turning the country into a police state.
"She was shot at point-blank range in an elevator in her building. Five men were convicted of her murder, but the judge found that it was a contract killing, with $150,000 of the fee paid by a person whose identity was never discovered. Putin denied any Kremlin involvement in Politkovskaya's killing, saying that her "death in itself is more damaging to the current authorities both in Russia and the Chechen Republic ... than her activities." -- Here are 10 critics of Vladimir Putin who died violently or in suspicious ways | Washington Post By David Filipov, March 23, 2017
This list goes on. Again you may think the Washington Post is fake news, but you know these Russians are dead.
You know Alexei Anatolievich Navalny sits in prison because Putin fears him. And you know that Navalny has called Putin insane and urges anti-war protests. Putin is insane. What man would kill innocent children?
The Free World knows you are afraid. Putin has terrorized you with his slow steady trickle of threats, deaths, assassinations, and unjust imprisonments of anyone Putin fears. Heck, he’s even afraid of a fragile but brave old woman.
You have every right to be afraid, but should this also inform what you know?
The world stands with you, but please wake up to steady lies Putin feeds you to put you into a catatonic state of frightened inaction. Putin does this to you, the Russian people, because you have collective power. He knows that and he is afraid that you will wake up.
Look at what Putin’s restrained and targeted attacks look like on the ground by your brothers and sister in Ukraine.
Please wake up. The world needs you now. We need you conscious and alive and human more than ever!
We stand at a precipice inside the human soul. This precipice exist inside every human being alive right now.
People of Earth, do you call yourself human or monster?
Your actions (and inactions), your words, your thoughts tell us which you chose to be.
Those who call themselves human must reckon with this moment fully to the very core of who they are and what they believe, what they love, what they hate, what they know (or think they know) and what they don’t know.
Each person alive on this planet right now is choosing a stream of thought and system of belief that inform your actions in the next weeks, the next days,the next hours, the next minutes, and the next seconds.
And each second that goes by, each choice made realizes who lives and who dies in this brutal war waged on the innocent people of Ukraine.
We must chose something different than we have ever chosen before to stop this senseless slaughter that stalks the entire human race ever since we crossed the demarcation line that lets us know that we know who we are. The lists of genocides and ruthless slaughter is very long. It will not stop unless we change it inside ourselves. Each person must embark on this work. It will hurt, but it will not hurt you. It will wake you up.
Peoples of the World, you must chose to protect and sustain all life or let it continue to be destroyed by men who have chosen to become monsters.
Every human choice matters to alter the course of our shared fate.
What will you choose?
Reactions of aHelpless Watcher Witnessing Evil Live on TV#2
Twitter Posts Beginning Night of Russian Invasion
Letter to American People
If you call yourself a patriotic American, you don’t root for Putin and you don’t spread Russian misinformation.
Americans rooting for Putin are imitating evil. It will lead us to the same remorseless, ruthless state that Russia has become.
American rooting for Putin, do you really want to cut your soul off from your humanity? From the very essences that make you human? Do you really think it is worth it to become a demon just so you can control everybody and everything to your desires?
Yes, I hear your complaints levied at the liberal left. You feel that you are being overlooked and left out by political correctness and cancel culture, but you have persuaded yourself to feel this way. You know darn well you have the same rights, responsibilities, and privileges as every other American, except those who are not white. You know darn well you fear the power that white male supremacy has conferred to you is slipping away. And this is why you bawl and brew and stew.
We have paid a terrible price in the United State for nursing our grievances by using the fake news and misinformation spread by Putin to further our own cause. Now evil grows on American soil inside American minds and it will not be long until Ukraine’s fate is America’s fate as well.
Think hard about how easy your comfortable American life is, even poor Americans have it 10,000 times better than the people in Ukraine right now.
It is so disheartening to hear a poll after Biden’s first State of Union address that said 60% of listeners thought the US economy was more important than Ukraine.
This is why we are not doing more to help the brave, compassionate, and beautiful people of Ukraine survive. This is why we are watching them being slaughtered.
Because we prefer our own comforts over someone else’s?
Yes, it has been a hard 2 years. There are still supply chain issues and higher prices, and these are probably going to get worst. Yes, wearing masks to protect others who are more vulnerable to COVID has been hard, but it is worth it, isn’t it to save someone else’s life?
Or are we a people who just think about ourselves obsessively and shallowly?
These things have made life harder to juggle, but American people, you can still juggle these things. You still have homes. You still have jobs. You can still go to the store without being shot at or bombed. You can still go outside and go about with your life without fear of being burned alive in your car. Ukraines are being burned alive in their cars. They are being shot. They are being bombed. They are being hunted like animals.
Are so many Americans really so blind and so heartless?
This is a disgrace.
We are a nation disconnecting from our capacity to empathize with other people.
How heartless the American heart seems tonight.
The frontline that Ukraine is fighting is EVERYWHERE!
There is no place to hide from this kind of evil for comes from inside us. If Ukraine falls, this horror rests on us for failing to put aside our differences as Americans, our comfort, and our policies and act like human beings.
Ukrainians are showing us how human beings act. Human beings help each other when trouble descends, especially when evil manifests its ugly power in the world.
Are you going to be human or monster?
I know my words are harsh. Please look into your heart. Please feel the pain of the Ukrainian people and the pain of all persecuted people because you can do something about it. It may hurt, but it will not hurt you. It will wake you up.
The choice is yours.
From the Perspective of Americans Working to Destroy Democracy
The Letter to the American people is informed by a former friend who I e-mailed the day of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. My husband and I had happened to see Matthew Chance putting on his flak jacket the night the first bombs started dropping all over Ukraine. We were shocked and horrified knowing we were witnessing the beginning of the War.
The next morning, I sent an email to a person who I have been very tolerant of in his support of Donald Trump. Knowing how cowardly Trump was in standing up to Putin, I asked my former friend flat out, who does he support–Putin or Zelenskyy and the people of Ukraine. Here is his reply.
I sent him a scathing reply, then blocked him. I told him he is not my friend, his beliefs are cat poop, and I stand in opposition to him. Even 10 days into the heroic fight the Ukrainians are giving the Russians, some Americans are still rooting for Putin.
These are not Americans that believe in freedom and democracy. These are wannabe dictators who are just as insane and mad as Putin. I say lock them up just as they chanted to lock up Hillary, but really they are just sad anti-Americans who have every right to voice their cocky, cockeyed opinions. And, they are really, really sad examples of being human in this century.
From the Perspective of Americans Working toSave American Democracy
One of the guest said, “This is a fight to be a human or a monster. Every person on this planet is part of this fight,” one speaker said today. I have been echoing this too. Action is required NOW.” #UkraineRussianWar#Ukraine#Zelensky#StopPutinNOW
Another guest said, “Two weeks ago, Zelenskyy was unknown. Today he is the most loved man on the planet. Courage is the sexiest trait a man can have…so don’t be afraid!” says one of the speakers today. Listen to this. #UkraineRussianWar#Ukraine#Zelensky
This is what makes America and democracy great. Diversity and lots of different people with different ideas who can come together to do something worth doing, something essential, something that will leave a mark on the world of mankind that is good, that humane, that is for life and all living beings not against it.
Images for this animation come from the video featured at the top of this blog and from my previous blog: Moonlight Shaken from a Cranes Bill(Oh how so much can happen in such a short amount of time. I published this blog 7 days ago when the world was a different place.)
First Archetypal Animation
Music:  Anybody Out There 3:48 | Ouroboros | Saint Punk
Image from: Ouroboros | Nether Realm on SoundCloud
Image from: Legends and Secrets of the Cosmic Ouroboros “There are few creatures that evoke the range of emotions like the earthbound snake. Across ancient cultures and civilizations, snakes have been viewed as mystical, dangerous, repulsive, and ultimately one of the most fascinating beings in the animal world. However, there might be a deeply rooted reason for human’s fascination with this creature, one that is embedded in the oldest mythology known to humans: Ouroboros, or the one who devours itself.”
“It’s an ancient circular symbol, dating back to 5000 BC, which depicts a snake or dragon eating its tail. Archaeologists discovered the oldest known example of an ouroboros on a jar that is possibly 7,000 years old. It belonged to the neolithic Yangshao People, who lived along the Yellow River in what is now eastern China.”
On a recent Saturday afternoon, I was working on my story while listening to NPR, as is my habit. I remember perking up and paying attention when This American Life introduced the subject of this episode: Bloody Feelings — Stories about the Power of Blood. The stories were not at all what I was expecting from the title.
Act 1 was about Adele who she described herself as “the worst phlebotomist in the whole hospital.” She was a physical therapist until the Coronavirus gripped the country. With all her physical therapy sessions cancelled, she was not needed there. But what the hospital really needed was more people to do blood draws. I loved her story.
Act 2is about the discovery of 30 century-old postcards written in old Yiddish by a distant family member challenges David Kestenbaum’s ideas about the unimportance of blood ties.
Act 3 is about a Shakespeare theater production that involved a lot of blood that was a little too real for the audience and what befell everyone.
Act 5is about a broken heart… no, not a love sick broken heart… a heart that required open heart surgery.
Walk In The Woods
While I enjoyed these stories, I wasn’t bowled over by them as other stories I’ve heard, although the color red stuck in my mind. I finished what I was doing and got my pup ready to go for a trot. This is our pandemic routine. Pumper loves our trots, especially when we see other dogs! I am pretty sure that she thinks all dogs exist on Earth to play with her. She plays well with all dogs no matter their size or temperament, adapting herself to whoever she mets for an instant playdate.
So, when we caught sight of big dog ahead of us, it was Pumper’s mission to catch up with them. They were walking fast, but Pumper was pulling me faster. Eventually, we caught up and found out the big dog was a Great Pyrenees–-Poodle mix– a Pyrepoo! It was the first one we’d ever met, and it was only 7 months old but already twice as big as Pumpernickel (now 15 months). I was admiring all the similarities between the two dogs who got along splendidly together. The owner of the Pyrepoo just told me how the Great Pyrenees were guard dogs of a flock not herders. And I just told her my dog was a Pyrepitt (she’s actually many more dogs mixed in but the Great Pyreness and Pitt Bull are the most dominate) when a Pitt Bull came upon us.
The guy walking the Pitt looked a bit anxious, but neither I nor the owner of the Pyrepoo took alarm. As he passed us with the Pitt on a super short leash, the Pyrepoo pup went over to say hello. This is common doggie custom to greet all new incoming dogs with a sniff. But no sooner had the pup approached the Pitt to sniff when he yelped in pain. The Pitt had bite him and would not let go. Both owners tried desperately to pry the Pitt’s jaws open. Pumper and I stood stunned and helpless watching what was happening before us.
Finally, the Pitt released its grip and Pyrepoo pulled back to a safe distance. I was relieved to see his nose was not the part bitten, but blood dripped from his lower lip. There was also blood in the Pitt’s mouth, and blood on the hands of both owners. It turned out the man was helping his sister with her dog and apparently didn’t know the Pitt’s temperament. The whole thing was terrible. I helped flag down a Kleenex for the owner of the Pyrepoo, then they were off to the vet get stitches. I felt so bad because had we not stopped them to say hello, they would have missed the Pitt Bull.
The synchronicity of the moment was duly noted. I have learned to pay attention to such moments when I recognize them. There is usually more going on that needs to be understood, but I had no idea what. Ruminating on blood was something I did not do, really at all… perhaps due to cultural programming.
Brooklyn Center — Then & Now
The next day, another terrible synchronicity occurred when Daunte Wright was fatally shot in Brooklyn Center, MN during a ‘routine’ traffic stop. The shooting occurred hardly more than 10 miles from where George Floyd was killed by Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis. And it happened right in the middle of the trial of Chauvin, which had just completed its second week of heart wrenching testimony about George Floyd’s final moments, his life, and lost potential and presence in the lives of all who loved him. It was painful to absorb. And then, another young black man lost his life at the hands of a police officer in Minnesota.
These deaths hit close to home because I grew up in North Minneapolis. I know where George Floyd died and where Daunte Wright was shot. I could walk to Brooklyn Center from where I lived. I often went to the old Brookdale Mall in Brooklyn Center because that’s where you went with your friends in high school (well, maybe that’s where the nerdy kids went). It was a place we could go to feel young and free.
I remember meeting my girlfriends at Rocky Rococos, then walking around the Brookdale Mall. We mostly just walked and talked, dreaming about our futures. None of us had much money to spend, but every once in a while, one of us would buy something special there. I remember hunting for prom dresses there with my friends and buying one even though I didn’t have a date and did not go to my high school prom. But I wanted a picture in a prom dress…lol. Looking back at these moments, they were times we were pretending to be all grown up, and the Brookdale Mall was the perfect backdrop to step into our fantasy lives.
Back in its day, the Brookdale Mall was part of cutting edge suburban social architecture being one of 5 malls opening around downtown Minneapolis to provide the perfect place to go for suburban housewives and families who needed ordinary household supplies, furniture, school supplies and clothes–whatever was needed for a suburban household. They were knows as the Dales and included Brookdale (Brooklyn Center), Rosedale (Roseville), Ridgedale (Minnetonka), and Southdale (Edina). Brookdale first opened in 1962 and grew in stages. A lovely blog called Abandoned Retail recounts the rise and fall of the Dales surrounding Minneapolis, specifically the Brookdale Mall.
When I was growing up, I never considered the privilege my white skin afforded me as I walked around places like the Brookdale Mall or drove to it myself after getting my driver’s license. I never thought about how the dreams I entertained or how the gallivants with my friends at the mall were carefully packaged in specific ways designed to make us believe we each had a chance to become Cinderella and to find our Prince Charming.
It would take decades before I realized how fatal the childhood fairytale fantasies I reveled in were. How they obscured brutal realities embedded throughout American society, inherited from its long history of slavery and institutionalized racism. Places like the old Brookdale Mall sold the white suburban fantasy to white Americans, but it was an artificial, super sugary coating trying to cover up the cruel realities faced by black and brown people every single day.
I have never feared for my life being pulled over for a traffic violation. I never felt watched by workers at stores who worried I might steal something. I know now my friends and I got get out of jail free cards simply for being white. This was not so for my friends and classmates who were brown and black who were losing their lives for making the very same mistakes I had made.
Policing & Justice in the United States of America
Description of this episode: Last summer, millions across the country took to the streets to protest police violence. Now, against the backdrop of the trial of Derek Chauvin, criticism of the criminal justice system in America is once again under scrutiny. Recent shootings of Black men by police officers in the suburbs, including in Kenosha, Wisconsin and Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, have attracted new attention to the changing demographics of the suburbs and the tactics police use there.
We recommend this thread from researcher Will Stancil, who is one of our guests for this conversation:
And conditions are often different for people in wealthy, white suburbs. From a piece called “The Case For Defunding Police Is In Our Affluent White Suburbs” in Mel Magazine:
Homicides, robberies, rapes and other violent crimes happendisproportionately in poor minority communities. Crime rates have been falling across the country for the last 30 years — it’s statistically the safest era to be an American. But Black and brown people, especially those in inner-city communities, are victimized by crime that’s practically unseen in whiter, more affluent suburbs.
Those suburbs aren’t safe and clean and orderly because they’re white and wealthy. White, wealthy suburbs are safe because they benefit from two world-shifting factors: 1) the police harass less and solve more serious crimes; and 2) there’s significant funding for municipal and social services, whether that’s schools or health-care facilities or simply park space.
How are police and local officials responding to changing demographics in the suburbs? Have police been able to answer calls for justice from local residents?
We’re talking about how policing works in the suburbs.
Black Americans being victimized and killed by the police is an epidemic. As the trial of Derek Chauvin plays out, it's a truth and a trauma many people in the US and around the world are again witnessing first hand. But this tension between African American communities and the police has existed for centuries. This week, the origins of policing in the United States and how those origins put violent control of Black Americans at the heart of the system.
Description: Black girls are suspended six to seven times more than white girls in schools across the U.S. Now, Rep. Ayanna Pressley is reintroducing a bill that aims to disrupt the school-to-confinement pipeline.
Here & Now’s Tonya Mosley speaks with Rep. Pressley, Democrat of Massachusetts, about the bill to address the disproportionate punishment of girls of color in schools.
Description: Recently, The Takeaway convened five of those voices, across law enforcement, advocacy, and academia, and asked them to come together to talk about the way forward. What is the future of policing in America? In our ongoing coverage, we tackle what’s broken in today’s system and what it would take to fix it.
April 20, 2021 — Today Was A Monumental Day, But We Are Not Done
Wow — I did not expect this verdict today. What a relief. It is one step in the right direction towards justice, but there is still a long ways to go and a lot of work to do to transform as a people, a society, a nation that values the lives of all its people–black, white, Asian, indigenous, immigrant, religious, non-religious–whoever you are, you belong in a society that treats everyone with dignity and respect and justice.
We Are a Nation of Beautiful People and Each & Every One Is Precious, If We Could Just Learn to See
The United States of America is at another inflection point; a time of reckoning of cultural precepts obscured and hidden through false politeness and talk of freedom for all, but with harden attitudes and deep brutality and injustices baked into our systems, our stories, and our brains. To change deeply ingrained attitudes, actions, and behavior, they need to be made visible. Even when they are made visible, they need to be reckoned with honestly by each individual in which they exist.
Perhaps that is why my attention got drawn to blood and its brutalities just before another police officer killed another precious soul in my hometown. Just the word blood conjures up violent, brutal images. But it also heralds new life (though any mother will tell you labor is hard and painful work). To do the work necessary to transform collective reality requires lots of individuals doing the hard work of self-development. A good place to begin is how we are programmed by our culture. For a modern man or woman, this gets complicated fast because modern society frequently requires belonging to lots of groups with each possessing its own unique culture that exerts an influence an individual’s mind space. This is important because it is here in this invisible space of mind where our values, beliefs, and attitudes are formed. These then inform our actions in the world, which create our collective reality.
Shankar Vedantam explored recently how culture and the cultural narratives we carry around inside of us influences our individual attitudes and actions in a podcast called Made of Honor. He introduces this episode saying, “Stories help us make sense of the world, and can even help us to heal from trauma. They also shape our cultural narratives, for better and for worse.” His guest speaker, Ryan Brown, begins with a story from his childhood where he finds himself along with his boyhood friends flying down a dark country road with no headlights on, no seatbelts, no helmets. The car was driven by a friend but appeal to him to go slower only goaded him to go faster. It was a moment Ryan believed he and his friends would die. It was also a moment that led Ryan to become a psychologist at Rice University in Texas.
Ryan Brown now understands why his fried refused to slow down nor apologize later for his reckless behavior. His friend was following a cultural script based on honor culture. “Honor cultures are societies that put the defensive reputation [of the group] at the center of social life and make that defense one of the highest priorities people have.” It is a culture that encourage excessive risk-taking behavior to show how brave and tough a person is, especially males in the culture. Doing so is a way to build and solidify one’s reputation in the society. In an Honor Culture, if your honor is threatened, you never back down, especially as a man, then you can only double-down and never show an ounce of weakness.
Ryan tells how his ancestry traces back to Southern Scotland that is steeped in the values and beliefs of Honor Culture. Residue of Honor Culture have been brought over from Scotland, England, the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, and many other immigrant groups that had these beliefs. These attitudes and values took root and grew strong in the Southern colonies, even when the United States had not been born yet. And they continued to flourish when the Southern colonies transformed into the Southern states, and then they pushed West.
Ryan says (12:39): “And so if you think about westerns, if you think about Western movies or Western history, there are always rough and tumble guys with names that sounded kind of Scottish, a McTavish McDonald, McDougal, Graham, et cetera. And that’s not an accident. So even today, even though most people in the us in the South, I don’t think of themselves as byproducts of Scottish history. You can still see this cultural residue in some fairly powerful patterns of, of social life, that social scientists, many others, including myself, have documented over the last 20 years.”
Over the past 20 years, Ryan and his colleagues have documented a strong connection between Honor Culture and Military Valor. This is a positive trait of this culture but there is a dark side too because honor cultures can get trapped in endless cycle of violence where retribution for dishonor is followed by retribution upon retribution of escalating violence. Honor cultures are found all over the world in Latin America, Asia, Africa, and also found in black and brown communities in the U.S. Honor culture is particularly prevalent in states like Alabama, Oklahoma, and Texas. The names of towns and businesses even reflect honor culture such as a little country town in Texas called Cut and Shoot. But, naming places is only one small example of how honor culture shapes the lives of millions of people.
Honor cultures tend to take the stance: “That’s not my people. That’s not my family. That’s not my community.” Such a mental stances discourages individuals to reflect on situations that arise that end in conflict, even violence, and these cultures do not cultivate empathy, kindness, and compassion. These qualities are considered signs of weakness. If you lose your honor in an Honor Culture, you lose your value, your standing, your reputation and never get it back. Honor cultures tend to have a veneer of extreme politeness, but violence bubbles below and can break out at the slightest perceived slight. For instance, a simple insult in an honor culture can rapidly escalate into a violence.
Gender roles tend to be highly rigid as well in Honor Cultures with Ryan saying (29:59), “If you’re a real man in an honor culture, then that means you’ve built a reputation as someone who’s strong, tough, brave, loyal, and utterly intolerant of disrespect. If you’re a woman in an honor culture and your considered a good woman and honorable woman, that means that you’ve lived up to the social standards that say you should be loyal to family, especially loyal to your husband and sexually pure.“
In a complicated country such as the US, honor cultures have effects on how politics play out (47:55) “And what to spend a few minutes talking about the role of honor culture in politics. You’re a list of States where there is a strong honor. Culture include South Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee and States that don’t include Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, Hawaii, and Minnesota. It’s hard not to see a division there between, you know, a prototypical red States and prototypical blue States, Republican States and democratic States, right?“
AprilSometimesBrings More Than Showers
Honor Culture explains a lot, but it’s not the only influence shaping individual attitudes, beliefs, and behavior. There are many factors shaping who we are as individuals. Circumstances such as social status, economic status, rural or urban dweller, religious community all exert tremendous influences on individuals. To be a modern human living in a highly technological society requires belonging to many systems and groups that all have unique cultures all exerting expectations and limitations on individuals. In short, modern humans live in very complicated worlds, made so by us. Although living in groups has proven to be an undeniably successful strategy to survive, there is a price and there is a dark side. The eruption of violence seems to be a deadly cost of living in huge groups.
As I did research for this blog, I came across an article about how April 14 to April 20 is historically a Bad Week for violent or disastrous events to occur. I will not speculate why bad things seem to cycle in patterns or occur in series, but here is a partial accounting of this week through time:
April 19, 1995: Timothy McVeigh blew up a federal building in downtown Oklahoma City on
April 19, 1993: a 51-day siege of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, TX ended in a devastating fire that killed more than 50 people, including children
April 20, 1999: the Columbine shooting occurred that left 12 students dead and 21 injured happened
April 16, 2007: the Virginia Tech shooting killed 32 people and wounded 17 others
April 14, 1912: the Titanic sank
April 18, 1906: the most deadly earthquake in U.S, history hit San Francisco.
Regardless of whether violence is because of honor culture, racism, or the growing disease gripping the United States of America of mass shooting, it leaves a on survivors too. One group, impacted more than most, is hardly ever heard. Millions of children around the country are affected by gun violence every year. Whether it’s sitting through safety and violence prevention programs in school, losing a friend or loved one, or being a victim themselves, this brand of cruelty has an effect on the young.
1A talks with author John Woodrow Cox who shares powerful stories from young victims–and looks at what their experience can tell us about preventing further harm, both physical and mental.
Here & Now talked to racial trauma therapist Resmaa Menakem in this interview. He brought up something terribly important in the wake of the guilty verdict of Derek Chauvin in George Floyd’s death almost one year ago. Menakem says what Chauvin did was not only traumatic but meant to inflict terror in the community as well. He says (which has been said by many others as well in the past 24 hours) that “— guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter — is not justice, but rather accountability. It took uninterrupted, uncut video evidence to prove what people of color have been saying for decades about the police.” He said, “This particular video, compared to other taped incidents of police violence against Black Americans, represented white body supremacy so clearly that people could not dismiss it anymore. [But] still, there are significant swaths of people who don’t believe there are innocent Black and Brown people who are profiled and unfairly targeted by police.“
I know such people. I know what Menakem says is true about white people in particular.
Menakem further states that “there’s pain in not being believed, and also trauma from racialized gaslighting — a form of psychological manipulation that white bodies in the U.S. have done to Black, Brown and Indigenous people for centuries.“
I’ve experienced gaslighting, and I know people who still suffer from the pain and trauma of being gaslighted by people they depended on who gaslighted them instead of took care of and nurtured them. Mencken is right to point this out. It is tremendously painful and highly effective at tearing apart the fabric that sustains us all. A gaslighter is a person who makes other people feel like they are the one who is going crazy. They are insidious, crafty, deceitful people.
“If a white body says something and then a body of culture says something else, what ends up happening is that the white body is always given the benefit of the doubt,” Menakem says. “So throughout the trial and verdict, people of color held onto hope for accountability on one hand while on the other hand, knew “white bodies will never admit that this system is feral.”
It is feral. The United States of America has a completely lopsided, feral system. And because of all the sugar coated, fluffy fantasies white kids get fed in their youth combined with being instilled with you’ve got to be somebody, white people are left with very little inner resources to see and deal with the truth. It is much easier to pretend not to see how brutal, how feral, how sick our culture really is.
Healing is possible, Menakem assures. He ends saying we need to start by turning towards each other and seeing other other rather than away from each other. This is powerful advice.
Lots of Human Beings, Lots of Disasters
Human beings seem particularly prone to creating circumstances that end in disaster:
You get the idea. Now, how do we get out of cycles of violence and disaster (mostly human made)? How do we recover and get to a place where something better can take root and grow?
Something else flows alongside the red blood cells in our bodies. It is not something that is visible, but it can be felt. This invisible substance (or perhaps force) is essential to sustain our inner spaces and to maintain a healthy state of mind. Each and every human being is born with this invisible force flowing through them just like blood flows through them. Because we are human, we are aware of this force and this awareness allows us to channel it and to alter instinctual responses and urges before acting on them. Human beings can suppress instinctual responses. They can amplify them, and they can transform them into something else entirely. Carl Jung called this ability consciousness, or perhaps it is spirit blood.
It is through our choices and how we alter instinctual responses before acting on them that our collective reality is created. Eastern traditions, religions, and philosophies call this power Karma, which is simply the recognition that every action creates a reaction, a consequence.
This all ascends quickly into the realm of spiritual and metaphysic concerns, which is a realm most often regulated to religions to grapple with the nebulous inner spaces where thoughts, attitudes, and bias materialize into action.
I was raised Lutheran, but during the time of my father’s death, I found my childhood religion negated the realities of powerful synchronicities that occurred and inner experiences my father and I experienced during the 10 days he lived beyond the moment he should have died. I have written about his previously, so will not do so again here.
Instead, I would like to highlight something that my friend Ali Raza Saleem posted, which caught my eye during the time my attention was focused on blood. My friend is a neuroscientist and scholar of Jung and posted the following:
Qalb (Faculty of Heart) and Lataif e Sitta
The faculty of heart (Qalb) is the faculty of the Spirit, not the biological pumping heart when we refer Qalb in terms of spirituality. The nerves associated with heart are primarily concerned with pumping of the heart, conveying signals to muscles, as well as sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system to control the pace of heart beat.
Faculty of Heart, spiritually speaking, isn’t tied strictly to ’emotional aspects’. Brain has designated centers for emotional perception and the affects are mediated through signals to the body including changing contraction and pace of the heart, bodily sensations, fight or flight mechanisms etc.
Faculty of Heart is the faculty of immaterial Rooh (Spirit) that along with other faculties (lataif) ‘feels’ Love, Suffering of the other Soul, Compassion, Benevolence, Bliss, Tranquility (itmenaan), Gratitude, Spiritual longing and Joy of Union with Beloved, Divine Beauty and Majesty etc, and blocked by Greed, Anger, Arrogance, Bukhl (stinginess), Hasad (Jealousy), Bughaz (spitefulness), malice, malevolence etc stemming from unpurified Lower Nafs (Ego). The emotions resulting from gratification or failure of gratification of lower Nafs (Ego) are also more of bodily/’brainy’ in nature. But in a loose sense, speaking poetically, heart can be said as preceptor of emotions in general as their ‘Affect’ is ‘felt’ at the heart.
The immaterial lataif including Qalb (heart) have specific locations on the body (metaphysically superimposed on various organs like heart as in the case of Qalb) as described in Lataif e Sitta, where the virtues associated with them are experienced spiritually.
He further sent me this graphic.
And he explained:
For a Sufi his body is in service (submission) to Divine Will helping him fullfil the tasks for nourishment of the Spirit/Soul.
The terms in this diagram maybe used in different meanings compared to the ones used in Psychology like the term Self here have meanings different to what we use in Psychology. This article further explains the model and the meaning of terms used in this diagram.
I know so little about Muslim teachings and wisdom, but I find everything Ali Raza Saleem shared extremely helpful in understanding the workings of the Invisible Self. These are the parts not visible to others unless we share them through words or actions. I have also been reading The Philosophy of the I Ching by Carol Anthony and have found her writing also very illuminating about the Invisible Self. Beginning on page 35, she writes:
“People who can hear within are called psychic, but, in truth, we all have this ability; it is simply suppressed in most of us. Through inner listening we can also become aware of other people’s conscious thoughts. Our superior self listens and looks, but does not speak. What we receive from the inner world that we perceive and know as intuition comes from inside and apart from ourselves, just as what we see of the outer world is outside and apart from ourselves. What we hear within comes from the teacher, the same Sage who speaks through the I Ching. It knows the way and comes to help. We can only hear it when we maintain emptiness, innocence, and receptivity. When we jump to conclusions because of fear and impatience, we can’t hear the quiet suggestions of the Sage within.“
“When we say a thing ‘comes totally out of the blue,’ this is an intuitive ways of saying that we are helped by the Sage. We say ‘out of the blue,’ because our words have the clarity of the sky and come from nowhere. What we say is what needs to be said and is perfectly appropriate. Innocence and emptiness make it possible; we are noticeably free of emotional attachment and our words come in the vernacular of the moment; everyone understands and agrees. when this happens we are always a bit surprised. The fact is, we are not in possession of such moments, although we make them happen through being in a complementary relationship with the Creative Power. This we can do only through cultivating our superior man within.“
This makes me thinks how each of us is a livingwork of art constantly in progress and transformation. As living works of art, we are both artist and the art. We choose the colors, patterns, subject, and background–and by so doing, we live them, we feel them, we see them, we know them. The canvas is our mind. And we develop our art of being by listening and learning how to regain our innocence and inner emptiness that allows us to be open and receptive to every moment we met. This is how we can transform ourselves, and by doing so, transform the world.