Wednesday, March 23, 2011

folk stories

when i was little girl i was told an old ukrainian folk story which keeps coming to mind these last few days. it was about an exasperated husband. his wife, who he loved muchly, was beautiful and fine in all respects, save one. she was an incurable gossip. not in the malicious sense of gossip in the modern world, but in the old world way of simply repeating as if for truth any word that came her way. she seemed to have no control over this weakness of character and it began to weigh on her husband and affect their quality of life. because of his superior wisdom, he knew it would be fruitless to reproach her directly or to forbid the behaviour. such tactics could only give her weakness more power. so he instead devised an elaborate plan to walk her through to a cure.

one day he hastened to her and spoke of wonders that she really must come at once to see. he walked her to the woods and in the clearing stood a tree covered in sparkling fish, the riverbanks were shored up by loaves of freshly baked bread, a road was paved with salted meat, things of this nature. improbable circumstances carefully staged to defy the rational and tempt the tongue that needs must wag. he took her to half a dozen such enchanted spots in the forest before extracting a promise from her that under no circumstances must she repeat to others what she'd seen. of course, though she tried her best, the momentum of her habit was stronger than her resolve to do her husband's bidding and within no time at all she had rationalized for herself why she should at least tell her most trusted friend of these miracle occurrences.

suffice it to say the story spread like wildfire through the village and quickly word returned to her husband that the secret was out. he then took great delight to show to all the villagers that there was were no fish on the trees, or bread on the banks, or paving stones of salami and reproached the villagers for believing his wife, known to be gullible enough to repeat anything she'd heard. shaming her in this manner he also broke the spell of her unconsciousness. and while she cried a few tears knowing she would never again be taken seriously or have recourse to the gossiping that she compulsively enjoyed, she was not so shrewish as to fail to recognize the sage love and harnessing her mate had gifted her with. and since no one would believe a word she thenceforth said, her habit could atrophy from the shock of a forced closure. the story ended with her husband sweetly teasing his chastised but now awake "little dumpling," and, putting his arms around her, smiling to himself with satisfaction, he took his victory and his transformed/reborn woman with scalded red cheeks and the beginnings of her own shy smile, home.

as einstein said, problems are rarely solved at the same level they play out on. the most intractable human conflicts often have to be seen and understood from a higher, more encompassing perspective. the sleepwalkers have to be lured into productive traps that bring the exact contours of their coma-drama to light. this would also be the spirit behind the maxim of giving someone just enough rope to hang themselves. the idea isn't to cause harm to the person or to behave callously, but to take a gamble, to gift them with the chance to see their own hand in their misfortunes. and the gamble has a charisma, for if it comes into a person's life at the wrong time, they'll only be able to twist from it a confirmation of the world's wounding unfairness, but if it comes at a time of ripeness, the opportunity for self-reckoning and more conscious moving forward is singular and blessed.

at root we all secretly want to be caught out and spared our blindness. we all want to stop projecting our invisible-to-us and therefore subradar actions onto others. no one really wants to persist in blaming outer agents for behaviour and interpretations that in truth solely exist in our own neurotic minds, that come into unfortunate manifestation by our own naive willfulness. and so these traps and stagings of hide-and-seek, benign neglect or tactical abandonments may take off a little flesh and strip us of a little dignity but in the confrontation with the unconscious, if wakefulness is the outcome, a little flesh and a token humiliation is a small price to pay.

when you love someone that you can see for plain is caught in a madness, you can't make it better by waving a magic wand, or telling them what their problem is. transformation is a more cagey and slippery fish. recalling the parable, to end hunger, you don't hand out fish for nothing, you teach their cultivation and harvesting. so to, you can't do the work of hunting down the most productive consciousness and or somatopsychospiritual healing for someone else. they have to do the muck work, they have to take the pains and em-bare-ass-ments, and pull themselves up onto the shore of firmer, clearer visioning. all that a lover of the earth can do is hold space for this and pray for the best outcome possible. and on very rare and beautiful occasions, the one who makes the wish is ably matched by one strong and finally ready enough to actually realize it, no matter how many stumbles and failures and setbacks they meet with along the way.

viva la vida. life is in the spit.

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