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Lay It Bare

"We live in a fantasy world, a world of illusion. The great task in life is to find reality."

- Iris Murdock


There's a particularly bold robin who lives in the woods behind our house.


Robust grey plumage and a well rounded red chest make him seem as though he could be the 'poster-thrush' if you will, as Michigan's official and specific state bird. All this, if not for the fact that everyday from spring to fall, he careens repeatedly into the sliding glass door of our basement beneath the deck for at least two hours at a time, seeing the reflection of greenery as an inviting space in which to alight.


He is either damaged, disturbed or simply damn determined. In any case, his befuddlement has often times caused to me to sympathize with his plight, as well as wonder whether the bird himself is some kind of glitch in the Matrix.


Either he's suffering the effects of illusory living, or I am.


Does it ever occur to you that all striving and truth seeking we humans do and have done throughout all history as evidenced by the countless writing of philosophers, the works of bleeding heart starving artists, all have a root cause that runs far deeper than we can perceive? An unseen fierce conflict burgeoning within that comes to the fore and breaks the surface of eventually and inevitably. It is a war that has one of two outcomes: A submission to the Resistance that comes when truth seeking and creating meaning, or a breaking through that Resistance, to the ends of creating not just something, but creating to see ourselves anew.


It's been a minute since I posted here on this blog. In the past two months we've had a baby boy added to our family. He his healthy and is a blessing beyond reason. We could not be more grateful for all three of our offspring, run my wife and I ragged as they might.


Still, it is a truth beyond refuting that the beast of child rearing is a many faced creature: One bearing a comforting nuzzling snout that makes you feel as though all is right with the world, while another is a snarling maw of many sharp and flat teeth alternating in too many rows, straining to tear into you. Yet one more head that may rear bears the guise of a gentle kiss, lips steeped in a poison most foul. (Anyone who has ever been nose to nose with an infant who decides to projectile vomit would empathize)


It's beautiful and bloody. Serene and insidious. Love and loathing. There is quite simply nothing else in the world that can make you feel such a gamut of emotions, between lost sleep and routines made threadbare by the ravages and demands of one so helpless and two other broodlings so hapless.


I've found these past two years, well before our baby boy's appearance, have been ones marked by Resistance. Between a sudden dirth of energy that decided to take hold of me in my ripe old mid-thirties, undulating status quos all around, seismic shifts in the terrain I trod daily and a couple shape-shifting personas and big relational rifts, I began to feel as though there was indeed a conspiratorial machination over the schema of my life, meant to make me feel as helpless as the newborn babe who sleeps at our side these days.


After recently reading Steven Pressfield's 'The War Of Art', a deep dive into the inner world of our minds and souls and barriers to success, I can't picture the word Resistance in any other fashion but with a capital 'R', looking like the head of serpent rearing down for a hearty bite of it's next victim: You, me, and everyone who has ever endeavored or ever will set out to do some great work.


Pressfield talks about Resistance as a vile enemy, in fact he goes so far as to call it the most evil force on the planet. It spews lies that we don't have the time or the guts, that we're not good enough, and that we have no place being in the very position we are. It calls us imposter and poser and incompetent.


It is in a word, fear. The fear which holds us back from setting out or sitting down and even beginning a thing.


Not only this, but on this side of the celestial veil it will not leave us. As Pressfield puts it: "We can never eliminate Resistance. It will never go away. But we can outsmart it, and we can enlist allies that are as powerful as it is.”


When I read that, I wanted to know immediately who those allies were. Which of the archangels did I need to call on the heavenly phone I don't possess (at least a direct line) to come and chop the snide smug 'R' shaped head right off that wyrm of doubt and dread? Or if the 'whos' were more 'whats' instead, which implements or armaments must I seek out to unleash an unholy payload of fiery pain upon this foe who is long overdue for a smiting?


The allies as it turns out, come from the same source as Resistance itself.


Me.

You.

Our(selves).


Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung posed that the human psyche was made up of two parts, one lesser and one greater. The lesser being the Ego, and the greater being the Self.


Here's the rub: The Ego is, most of the time, all we feel. It is what we refer to when we say 'I', and is our very conscious intelligence. Everything we know or think we know about the world around us and the people in it. Going back to the beginning of this post, it's the illusion that covers the real reality.


Now, get ready to get psycho-babbly.


Jung makes the argument that the Self, the greater entity, includes Ego and also incorporates personal and collective 'unconscious'. That which we feel or sense on a soul deep level and resonates with our very marrow, but somehow cannot name or call out at will. These are dreams and intuition, promptings and impulse. Jung made the case that this 'Self' was our very soul sphere, and for my part it's hard to argue.


The soul being as unnameable and un-quantifiable as it is, it makes a strange sort of sense that it would encompass all we are and yet be found in the space beyond our perceived reality and conscious intelligence, instead dwelling in spaces our waking mind is most often, unaware of.


The Ego is what drives and produces Resistance, whereas the Self is what promotes the act of Creation, like mirror neurons in the brain striving to commune with and copy the Creator.


Ego tells us that death is real and imminent and looming. That God is a falsehood and wrong promise to those fearful of the futile nature of life. It doesn't want us to change or move into something more or better than we are. It commands Resistance to hold us in it's coils and hiss fetid venom laced breath in our faces should we ever struggle too much for it's liking.


The Self sees through the illusion though, beholding the truth that death is a lie, that the soul and the light therein endures and refracts into eternity like visible echoes of a some yet unwritten victory song.


The Self knows that God is all there is. It is firmly and unshakably bound to Him. It grants courage and strength enough to rend the poison slick fangs from the serpent's mouth to be used like curved scythes to cut to the quick Resistance's hide, and let bleed the beast of our burdens.


With the Self awakened inside, fear is stripped away and we at long last sit down to the good work of our lives as well as the work of simply being alive, fully. When we strip bare the bones of our Ego and take pity upon and hold compassion for the selfish prideful child within ourselves, then we might at long last drop the curtain that veils the reality we long to live in.


And so as I strive to do the work I'm called to do, as a father, a husband, a leader, and a writer, I bear this in mind.


I know Resistance is an enemy I will face each and every day, driven by the fear which my Ego cannot help but feel and generate, thereby fueling the very enemy I fight. But in the cold light of day or the deep depth of night, the Self given to us by our Creator which hails a mandate that we too go out and create is never brighter or more enlivening that when we take our Ego by the hand with love, or by the scruff with ire when need be, and lay it bare.


Lay it down, and let the work of life beyond the illusion reveal the miracle of creating the good and the new, alongside those dear to you who are good, and make you new.







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