“Oh my soul, do not aspire to immortal life, but exhaust the limits of the possible.”
– ancient Greek poet Pindar
The worse reality becomes globally, the more people seek refuge and comfort in illusions and delusions. The modern world, as the philosopher Kafka predicted a long ago, has become a world where the irrational has become rational, where lies become true. And the irony of our times is that facts alone will be powerless to thwart the false beliefs spun through billions of dollars in corporate advertising, lobbying, and control of traditional sources of information. We see what we believe and to change what we see, it is sometimes necessary to change what we believe.
It would take pages for me to share stories where “facts alone” are powerless in an attempt to have a meaningful dialogue about a topic. In the last few months I’ve had conversations with people who believe that global warming doesn’t exist; that the drought in California is media hype; that President Obama is not a U.S. citizen and a stooge for radical Islam; that racism is not an issue behind the police shootings of Black men; that Israel should kick all Arabs out of Israel; that Hitler was right and should have finished killing Jews, Gays, Gypsies, and Commies; and that the U.S. was founded as a Christian nation. The irony is that all of these conversations occurred within the context of my doing healing work.
One of the tenets of delusion is the fixed nature of the beliefs even when confronted with facts. In fact, I generally don’t try to take the beliefs on directly. I’ve witnessed over and over again that attempts to have rational dialogue are met with simply increased emotional argument and reactivity.
My beginning place is to hold questions in my mind:
- if this were me, how does this belief work for me?
- how is it not working for me?
- what are the feelings behind the belief?
- how can I move beyond my own negative reaction to find a way to connect with this person and influence them towards a more flexible viewpoint?
In these questions, it’s like shamans in Siberia putting on the clothes of their client. It is an attempt to experience the illness or viewpoint through the client’s world.
The last time I was working in the refugee camps in Jordan, a very delusional man was referred to me for services. The triage evaluation team was intimidated by this man and didn’t bother to assess him. He begins by telling me that he is the second coming of Mohammad. I ask him how he knows this and he tells me “Allah, speaks to me every day”. I ask him why he had come to where we were running health clinics. “I have sinned for I think about sex and masturbate, it has dirtied my soul.” Before I could even respond to this, he rambles on about how he is the second coming of “Jesus” and he must tell everyone about this or the world will come to an end. I listen to his ramblings for about 20 minutes and then when I could get a word in, I told him I had a message from God. I explained that I hear God’s voice and that he told me to tell him to go to a body of water and pray for forgiveness. I went on further to say that he must go into the water to wash away his sins. The person translating looked at me like “what the hell are you saying.” After hearing the translation, the man calmed down. He thanked me for telling him what to do and from that point on became rational and present in our conversation.
The lesson for me was the power of staying present, non-reactive, and take the risk of being in the shoes of the other. Though its more obvious that I am sharing this story to give thought on how we might respond differently to the delusions of our times, it also to raise question about how we engage as spiritual activists.
The other dialogue I’ve been having has been with young people deeply committed to environmentalism and protecting Mother Earth. As they know, in a time when trauma imagery/arguments no longer work to raise alarm/concern in the general public, there has to be another way to get through the numbness people are feeling. We’ve talked about how to appeal through connective story rather than trauma/drama. A simple example is to ask people of their favorite place in nature when they were a child. Then ask them if it still exists (most times not) and if it does, when the last time was they were there.
These are not simple issues we are facing collectively in these times. As I’ve written before, we are faced with the task that always faces human beings: to embody what is holy in this historic moment, which presents us with the task the world has never seen before. This is the proper context for speaking of healing in our time. We must come together to teach and learn how to find an end to violence to the earth and all who dwell upon her, poverty, racism, oppression, and war no matter what color of the rainbow we happen to be, and no matter where we are coming from. We are called to heal our collective history that keeps presenting itself til that need is met. There is this phrase most of us have heard, “walk in balance.” For me, it means to oppose those things that need our opposition (walk our talk). And to live life with gratitude (live our talk).
I want to end these thoughts with a song/video put together by Nimo Patel. I was honored recently to have a long talk with Nimo about how we might work collaboratively. He has formed an organization called empty hands music and he works to promote peace and healing through music. The song is called Grateful: A Love Song to the World.
FUTURE UPCOMING EVENTS
- Seeking the 36: Shamanism, Schizophrenia, Madness and World Workshop, May 30, 2015 in Madison, Wisconsin
Registration still open. Download PDF flyer (http://myroneshowsky.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/shamanism-madness.pdf) for details
- Annual Shamanic Gathering/Workshop for Adults, Children and Families in Wisconsin. To be held September 12, 2015. For details email: Jenny Hayes, firstname.lastname@example.org (mailto:email@example.com?subject=Annual%20Shamanic%20Gathering)
- Transgenerational Trauma/Ancestor Syndrome Healing Workshop in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. November 14-15,2015. To be on list for information, contact Dan Huber, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Summer Office Hours for Sessions with Myron Eshowsky
To accommodate my writing schedule, I’ll be only scheduling sessions with new clients in the afternoon and early evening from May 1-September 1 of this year. Easiest way to schedule appointments is email: email@example.com, phone is 608-469-1627.