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Why We War

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Why We War


By Sahar Pinkham 

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs

Ask yourself what makes you come alive

And go and do that.

Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

- Harold Whitman Thurman

 

In our quest for freedom, we attempt dangerous stunts, invent technologies that we believe will give us the experience of freedom: we go to war. We tell ourselves that freedom must be protected and “fought” for. That it can only be experienced at another’s expense. Ironically, this is the antithesis of real freedom.

We’re looking in the wrong places. We have forgotten that existentially, we are wild and free, and everything we do in our lives is an attempt to experience the authenticity of our being, no natter how ill conceived.

“Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” - Helen Keller

Our Loss Of The Wild

I’ve come across a story, one I believe symbolizes our quest to unleash our innate wildness. It’s about “Iron John”.  He is the ”wild man” (or self) in each of us.

The story takes place in a kingdom with a mysterious forest. Legend has it that whenever someone enters this forest, they never come out. One day a hunter enters the kingdom and goes to the king to inquire about work. The king tells him of the forest and asks him to find out what’s happening.  The hunter enters the forest with only his dog. His entering the forest alone is symbolic of our entering the dark mysterious unknown within us, where this “wild self” exists. We can receive support and guidance from others, but ultimately, we explore this “realm” alone.  The hunter comes to a pond. Immediately, a large hairy hand reaches out from the pond and pulls in the hunter’s dog. The hunter hastily goes back to the kingdom and gets many men with buckets to help him at the pond.  There they empty the pond bucket by bucket.

The pond represents our subconscious mind and the way we uncover (or “recover”) our authentic self is by emptying this “pond” step by step.  Like the men emptying the pond bucket by bucket, we must delve beyond our deepest held beliefs about who we think we are, to the truth of our existence. When the pond is emptied, they find a wild man covered with hair; Iron John.

This wild “self” is a part of each of us that we don’t see alive in our culture, because it’s not accepted. In fact, it’s feared. Our wild self is thought of as unsophisticated, anti-social, and violent. In our desire to experience our innate wildness, we engage in sports, war: anything containing an element of danger. We create a context that is socially acceptable and for a brief moment we have a glimpse of our natural wildness. We then repress this wildness because we’re afraid of it and what it (we) might do.

Finding Our Wild Selves

The hunter and his men take Iron John to the king’s courtyard and cage him, akin to how we deal with our “wild/ free selves”. We allow our wildness to be expressed only rarely and under very structured circumstances. Not honoring our wildness by giving it full and unleashed freedom of expression, it comes out “sideways”, through passive aggression, violence, and dangerous hobbies.  One day, the king’s son is playing near Iron John’s cage. He loses a golden ball, which rolls into John’s cage. The golden ball is significant in that it represents purity and wholeness, something that we experience as children and then lose as we “mature”.

John now has the ball. The boy decides that his ball is important enough to him to get up the courage to ask John for it. Iron John agrees to give it to him if the boy let’s him our of the cage. “I would if I could, but I don’t know where the key is”, he replies. “It’s under your mother’s pillow”, John says. This is significant as it symbolizes our having given up our wildness in exchange for looking to others for approval. To reach this primal self we must free ourselves from our fear of rejection. Like the boy who must “steal” the key from under his mother’s pillow, we cannot ask for the key, just as we cannot ask permission to express our wildness. We must “steal” it back. We must take back the authority to express ourselves freely. The boys mother is representative of our society. Who, like our society, does not want to give the “key” to the boy for fear that she will lose her “nice boy”.

The young prince waits for his parents to leave, gets the key and lets the wild man out. Like the boy, we have a choice. We can either let the wild man go back to the “woods” (where wildness exists) while we stay with our parents (suppress our wild self,  out of our fear of our losing the approval of others), or we can go with the wild man by letting go of the “nice boy”.

This process of exploring and releasing the unhealthy programming/beliefs we learned as children, while opening to our whole self is a rite of passage we all take. It’s just a question of when.

Honoring Our Wild Selves

I wish to share with you a contemporary example of a people who honor the wild and authentic self.

I teach a rhythmic pattern called Morybayassa. The West African tribe from which it originates has a very powerful way of celebrating this rhythm.  All members of the tribe are allowed to play this rhythm, while only the women are allowed to dance the Morybayassa. Each woman in the tribe dances the Morybayassa only once in her lifetime, making this a very rare and sacred ritual. The woman chooses when she will dance the Morybayassa. It’s usually after a period of great pain, grief, or loss. The tribe gathers at her appointed time and plays the rhythm; Boom tata Boom ta, Boom tata Boom ta goes the rhythm. The woman dances her unique dance, which may last hours, even days! She may be dirty, wet, even bloody! The tribe witnesses and supports her throughout this catharsis. During the dance she is allowed to break all tribal taboos if she chooses. Only she knows when she has completed her dance. When done, she goes to the woods by herself, removes the clothes in which she danced and buries them under the Morybayassa tree.

Imagine the power of this ceremony. Imagine your community gathering around a woman who has chosen her “dance time”. Supporting and witnessing her.

Oh, the possibilities!