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Pallas Athena Teaches Kindergarten

Posted in Adventures With Humans

This past year has been a lot for most of us. We have found ourselves at the mercy or whatever kind of leadership is strutting in our area, and compelled to feel along our own timeline both backwards: how did we get here? And as far as we can imagine into the future: what will become of us? The gift of a pandemic is that it nudges us toward acknowledgment of our mortality, a task possibly considered unfair for anyone under thirty, or maybe it’s a gift, an initiation that serves to offer a quicker route to maturity with the commensurate wisdom that accompanies it. Along with this float whatever beliefs we have hauled along with us that will either help us shift toward different potentials, or send us railing against the ‘other’ in a panicked effort to avoid our deeper, necessary quest; the very call towards wholeness. If you take a minute and look, you will see that humanity isn’t just divided, but fiercely reduced into its components: we are black, white, native, English, everything else, conservative, democratic, trans, gay, lesbian, tall, short, left-handed, disabled, autistic, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, depressed, man, woman, vegan, vegetarian, carnivore, alcoholic, dog-lover, cat-lover, immigrant, emigrant, refugee, dictator; you get the picture. I have lost track of the colour of T-shirt I am supposed to wear to support whomever and on which day. Also, there is not enough time in the day for me to sign all of the petitions that I receive regarding meanness, the ludicrous misuse of resources, or the insanity of law enforcement in its unique and dramatic forms. Which bike race or triathlon can I sign up for in support of my favourite disease? All of this while the world burns; I feel that we have lost our way.

In an effort to understand our flawed focus, I read "The Passion of the Western Mind" by Richard Tarnas.  In it, Tarnas details the evolution of thought from the beginning up to now.  It became clear to me while reading that every stage of thought was the foundation for the next. Plato sent the gods packing in favour of a transcendence, the Copernican Revolution shifted the earth from centre-stage to another character in the play, and then Descartes started the process of humanity separating itself from nature. Tarnas, in one of his lectures commented that,

“we live in a disenchanted universe, where nothing is sacred. Anything can be appropriated for profit,”

and if you are watching fertile and precious farmland being gutted into urban sprawl, then you have a front-row seat to one of the many examples of this. This predatory and thoughtless behaviour is not new. John Muir, “The Father of the National Parks” in the US dealt with this kind of resource pillaging almost the minute that he discovered Yosemite. Loggers, miners, and even thoughtless overgrazing of stock seemed to be boisterously undertaken as if the land was nothing more than a buffet. Crazy that we still have to fight these battles over a hundred years later, on land and on the water: humanity is in a predicament; we are the only species on the planet that willingly ruins its chances of survival.

This is economy-driven suicide.

Why is this happening? What is wrong with humanity that it has such a hard-on for bad development over thriving? A Tarnas quote gave me a clue:

 "Man, an archetypal being that has possessed our civilization, a constellating centre that has transformed men and women even though it has not represented the whole human.”

 All through history, it has been “man” searching and making their way either with the support of women if not their suppression. Once we came out of the primal age where flourished deep ritual, gods and and fluid connection with nature, man found God, a superior, divine “other.” Religion morphed high and separate from nature,  through the Reformation to the Age of Enlightenment where it was dismantled by science. Romanticism made an attempt to bring back both God and nature, and in a sense, the feminine, but science and the drive for everything quantifiable was something that the non-emotional, the non-spiritual, frankly, the rich could bet on “so let’s go with that, shall we?” But the deeper SELF can’t lie, as Freud and Jung discovered. It became clear that the unconscious, part of the deeper SELF, is too complex to quantify. Jung notes the yearning for everything in the unconscious to manifest and evolve:

“I cannot employ the language of science to trace this process of growth in myself, for I cannot experience myself as a scientific problem.”C. G. Jung, “Memories, Dreams, Reflections.” 1961 Random House.

 Science does not have an answer for what is essentially an innate, instinctual search for wholeness, taken on by all parts of the psyche. To ignore this search is to live harshly on a thin, brittle strata where denial of your spiritual connection to the fragile, verdant ecology around you becomes a reflex, momentarily easier, but eventually, like a virus, spreading and annihilating.  Such an avoidant attitude to me is juvenile, comes from a lack of the brave feminine in the masculine, so what we have is a planet run by men whom it would seem, peaked in high school.

Make no mistake, I’m not expecting the goddess, Pallas Athena to show up, although it would be nice. Pallas Athena, the goddess of wisdom, strategic warfare, and vision, who reminds me of Ruth Bader Ginsberg in spirit. If you’ve watched “Notorious RBG,” and you are a woman of age, it is likely that you shook your head at the behaviour that Ginsberg had to tolerate, and it is likely that you are familiar/ have experienced similar arrogant judgement from the patriarchal cheap seats. I know I have. There’s an arrogance in the power structure, an arrogance that is still today, thriving, feeding on the ideology of economy over all else. It is dismissive, judgemental, and as it pays no heed to its essential connection to nature, has no access, will to imagine a different future.  At one point in the documentary, Ginsberg comments about her earlier experiences with the male judges in the Supreme Court:

“I did see myself as a kind of kindergarten teacher in those days because the judges didn’t think sex discrimination existed.”

This is when Pallas Athena would have stood up and clanged her spear on the ground, if she had been watching with me. Ginsberg's experiences in tolerating and working through ignorance happened not in the far past, but in recent decades. Though there has been progress, it is not unreasonable to consider similar denial of similar issues in the industrialized nations' cohorts that exist now, evidenced by steps taken to impede green development (Ford, I'm looking at you!) and our continued fascination with a green lawn.

“Enough,” Athena would say.
To be clear, the concept of a balanced wholeness means that the masculine looks in and acknowledges forth his inner feminine so that he can be in tune with the cosmos with greater compassion, creativity, and an ability to listen sincerely. The feminine also, must balance by nurturing her healthy masculine so that she has access to useful, helpful aggression so that she can make herself heard, not be intimidated by the muscular, yet uninitiated male, keen to hold court with his buddies instead of taking steps. There are fewer of them, especially in the recent generations thank goodness, but believe me, they're still running things.

The very thought of a post-pandemic future full of the same blinkered and useless bantering between political parties gives me a headache. The condescending, and boastful lack of will broadcast by legions of comfortable white men who feel justified because of their dedication to the economy–and everyone else is on their own– has run its course. The ice caps are melting, yet leaders continue to build houses on farm land, and sleep deeply while the Amazon burns.

John O'Donohue, the late Irish poet and philosopher said, I think paraphrasing Hegel,

“You are the place where the invisible becomes visible and expressive in some way.” 

O’Donohue goes on to talk about the senses as thresholds that let the numinous through, and I like that very much. If you’ve ever had an idea pop into your head, or you have found yourself in one of those very good, deep conversations with another where you find yourself talking about things that you did not know that you knew, then you will understand. Artists get this. They draw from it every day. If we acknowledged ourselves as sacred conduits mystically rooted into this planet, privy to the greatness, the lushness of thought and feeling therein, we would not be paving our garden. We have one last chance, but we need to find a way to settle our differences quickly, and find our commonality in fervent care for The Great Mother Earth. My heart sinks as I finish this. It would take remarkable courage to lead such a world course change, and unless Pallas Athena can embody, I worry that too much precious time will be wasted “tending kindergarten.”