Note: This piece was written in 1982. I came across it by chance the other day and wondered if it had anything of value to say. It feels to me totally appropriate to the issue of community, speaking as it does to the ecstatic dimension of life in relationship. But that's my outlook. I'd love it if you felt like telling me how it affects you.
by Mary Leue
I just came across an absolutely brilliant idea. Our trouble, if it be called that, is that in our own minds we have no peers! - and so, feel unrecognized, essentially. And that's fortunate - and also unfortunate. I mean, of course, that we feel unrecognized for what we wish we were, but are actually recognized, all too often, as what we insist on NOT being - tricksters! And of course, that term includes all sorts of corollaries, such as snake oil salesmen malgré nous! Shamans! Crazies! Mystics! Fools! Prophets! Poets! Alcoholics! The list is very long. Some we love - others we resent intensely. We are, of course, in love with our own brilliance. And the corollary to that statement is that, of course, we have the great misfortune to see through anyone else's, so, naturally, we can't trust anyone - which makes us feel pretty lonely. So, the question is, is that OK with us? Yeah - and not really. It creates an unrelentingly selfless/self-obsessed way of doing, thinking, feeling, being. Which we see, both in ourselves and each other, of course, being so brilliant.
There was an article in Psychology Today a few years ago that I found valuable on one aspect of this subject - children who play "schlemiel" roles, co¬medians in general - "contraries," to use the Native American term. Coyotes. People whose childhoods were so topsy-turvy that it was necessary for them to create a counter-world of their own, by contrast with which the world of other people struck them as totally absurd - risible, even. For such children, tragedy and comedy became so close -knit as to be the two sides of one entity, an entity which could flip to the reverse side at any moment. And the entire inner construct came about because these kids loved their parents - and their lives - a great deal! Not caring would have created a totally different life script.
We're a big group. To the previous list of roles I would add a gaggle of gurus, therapists, spiritual community leaders, actors (some of them), story tellers, mimics, priests, rabbis, ministers (the good ones), - and even an occasional doctor or psychiatrist - although this latter genre is becoming extinct, the doctoring trade having become primarily a matter of business! Oh, sure, most of "us" can find refuge in groups of superficially like-minded people for a time such as the NCACS, Sufism or the Associations of Transpersonal or Humanistic Psychology. We can be¬come writers or poets (like Ann Sexton, Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolff or Robinson Jeffers) and some of us can become addicts, alcoholics or mystics - or whatever. It's all sleight of hand - mental juggling - whether or not we do it for The Lady (like "Le Jongleur de Notre Dame"). Do you get what I mean? It has to do with empty inner space that we can fill and fill and empty and empty - and whew! we sometimes become Rich Littles, i'faith, with so many people living inside us!
Socrates, quoting the Delphic Oracle, told us (in Greek) to "Gnothe sauton!" - know thyself. The best way I know to penetrate to the center of that mysterious labyrinth of the self is once more to become a child, to see the world anew through the images of childhood. The bottom line, of course, is that we are all lovers! Love is the only way to go for us, as that article in Psychology Today points out. We are LOVE ADDICTS, alas! And that is why we must go back to the beginning again, and begin looking within - but this time, with support from other grown-up children. And of course, even then there's no guarantee we won't simply co-create an organizationally endorsed illusion system, is there! So could we make up an "inner," invisible organization, just for us?
I've even got a theme song we could use in our new organization. Tune in to "The Spider's Web" [a very fine children's program at the time] on NPR and listen to the theme song. I love it because it's always just the same, the same inexplicable oldish small odd man singing, always the inaudibility of a couple of key words, always the feeling of George MacDonald's [The Princess and the Goblins, a magnificent children's classic] grandmother's vast moonlit chamber at the top of the stairs with NO FLOOR and the spinning wheel humming out of sight somewhere in the vasty universe. Oh, God, dear friends, do we not need one another? Truth is such a precious commodity, and so rare!
A.A. Milne catches the phrasing to a T, in a poem on acknowledging the taboo, "Step on a crack; break your mother's back!" that stops us all:
- And I say to them,
- Just look how I'm walking
- on all of the squares!"
Some of us still live by children's ways - which become the ways of writers who feel especially comfortable living in those pathways of inner understanding.
We - tricksters all - come in all sizes and styles. Actually, we're so darned tricky that we (mainly) fool OURSELVES. That's why we need each other, you know? We do, to keep each other straight - because:
- The night is dark
- and we are far from home
- The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
- But we have promises to keep,
- And miles to go before we sleep -
- And miles to go before we sleep.
We live between the worlds of the "inside" and the "outside," the world of other people. Hermes, the trickster god of thresholds, passages, is our special messenger, our talisman. We understand liminal - threshold - pain, the pain that comes from experiencing the gap between those two worlds, the pain of loving so much in an absurd world; we understand death. Dylan Thomas couldn't STAND that pain, nor could the two women poets I mentioned. They cashed it in early on because they had allowed themselves to become caught in their own mind-webs of projection - webs which THEY thought had been woven by their mothers, alas! Harry Stack Sullivan is one of the few psychiatrists who has put himself on record as having actually encountered at firsthand the mother-as-spider, through his nightmares. I'm not sure he ever got out of that web, however, if Rollo May is right, in speaking of "wounded healers" like Sullivan and Frieda Fromm-Reichmann.
And so we juggle. The game is fast and you need all your balance and grace to juggle with so many dumbbells - and some of us are klutzes. So can we not be with one another? Could we call us "Tricksters Anonymous?" Give us a name. We could become a corresponding group - no names given, of course. But everyone would send their letters to me! And since I began it, nobody but me would know who else was a member - right? That way, I would get you all to myself and get all the credit for my cleverness, right? Wouldn't work, huh. Anyone worthy of the name wouldn't bite, right? Ho hum.
O.K. So you tell me how YOU think it should go . Oh, heck, I can already see that the trickiest ones of you, us, wouldn't play; the risk would be too great, getting trapped with ordinary peons, dupes, the proletariat. And yet - and yet - if everybody did join, what a game that would be. Huh? Couldn't we live? SHINE? SHIMMER? No, too risky. We can only do it in the inside world, where we feel safe by ourselves. Anything else is just a mirage - right?
We are all profound cowards. Hey - whatever - right? It's OK. Really. We do love each other - among other things! But, ah, how wonderful it would be if only ... we could still be Fools together. Couldn't WE dare to love US, even if we never dared to come forward and live together on the outside world? In my mind I keep hearing Alan Watts' cosmic laugh! - remembering the emptiness at the end of the Buddhist path, so like the dark at the top of the stairs where stands the door to the moonlit, midnight blue, floorless, roofless room of the web-spinning cosmic Grandmother, the Grandmother of us all.
Kabir says it so well (in Robert Bly's translation):
- Friend, hope for the Guest while you are alive.
- Jump into experience while you are alive!
- Think... and think... while you are alive.
- What you call "salvation" belongs to the time before death.
- If you don't break your ropes while you're alive,
- do you think ghosts will do it after?
- The idea that the soul will join with the ecstatic
- just because the body is rotten -
- that is all fantasy.
- What is found now is found then.
- If you find nothing now,
- You will simply end up with an apartment in the City of Death.
- If you make love with the divine now, in the next life
- you will have the face of satisfied desire.
- So plunge into the truth,
- find out who the Teacher is,
- Believe in the Great Sound!
- Kabir says this:
- When the Guest is being searched for,
- it is the intensity of the longing for the Guest that does all the work.
- Look at me, and you will see a slave of that intensity.