Wednesday, February 28, 2007

In Search of the Opponent

Yesterday in a conversation with a friend he described his evolving understanding of life as a kind of chess game, meaning each move represents a choice that could turn out to be critical--or perhaps relatively unimportant and pawnish--to the safety of the king and queen. I began wondering about the opponent. If life is a chess game, who are we playing against?

I agree with Jung and with many other contemporaries who suggest that there are no opponents "out there." We have met the enemy and she is us. The only "opponent" in my world is the unexplored aspects of myself that live in the shadow. They are the elements I try to deny--the less-sterling qualities I'd rather not own. When I don't welcome them to show up, they pop up miraculously in other people. His arrogance is really my arrogance, run amok and unclaimed. Her opportunistic move is really my opportunitistic move, divorced from my consciousness and becoming an in-my-face autonomous experience to try to wake me up.

Perhaps if we can invite our opponent into the light for a cup of tea and a few cookies, maybe we could have some real conversation with her or him. We might find that they have real gifts to offer us (this was Jung's position--he believed there were great gifts in the shadow and that the "dark," "bad," or "evil" connotation was simply a result of our fear of the unexplored). If we get to know our own inner opponent, perhaps they won't show up external to us in people we'd rather avoid or situations we'd consciously choose not to create. It's worth a try. :)

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Themes of Peace

Here's an interesting poem from Writer's Almanac this morning: "At the Un-National Monument Along the Canadian Border" by William Stafford, from The Way It Is: New and Selected Poems. © Graywolf Press.

At the Un-National Monument Along the Canadian Border

This is the field where the battle did not happen,
where the unknown soldier did not die.
This is the field where grass joined hands,
where no monument stands,
and the only heroic thing is the sky.

Birds fly here without any sound,
unfolding their wings across the open.
No people killed-or were killed-on this ground
hallowed by neglect and an air so tame
that people celebrate it by forgetting its name.

This makes me wonder about whether we are able to give a name to the peaceful places in our lives; the times that were not characterized by conflict or struggle or even joy. In narrative work we can easily see the face and feel the presence of themes that act as a suppressing force in our lives--oppression, expectation, rejection, limitation--or even as a propelling force--ambition, expectation, freedom, acceptance, expansion. But what about the non-force, that-which-is? What do we call it when we notice it? Is it a clearing or a valley? Or the quiet ground of peace from which all else comes?