This is only one slant, one among many possible. Not to be read as any kind of absolute. Just a meditation on a moment in time, a psyche in flux. Tomorrow, some other voice will speak. But for now…
A conundrum, a paradox… a way through?
Here’s how it goes. Taught the dangers of pride, remember to be humble. Becoming truly humble (and is there anything more distasteful than fake humility….) means truly seeing your own shortcomings, faults, flaws, failures, unworthiness. Then, getting focused on your own unworthiness sufficiently to be truly humble can tip over into feeling not only unworthy but actually worthless. Feeling worthless can lead to depression, a serious pressing down of anything other than feeling worthless. Depression is debilitating. You can lose energy and the will to live. Bleakness and emptiness can follow. In this condition, you can be asked by those who love you and so notice your condition, “What’s going on,” and you can say, “Oh, nothing, really,” cutting them off from real intimacy with you and driving yourself deeper into isolation and possibly into worse depression. But, good friends that they are, they aren’t having it, and they persist, “What’s really wrong?” So, you tell them, and notice how their hearing what you say burdens them now with your negativity, and you see how they worry about you and how they feel compelled to “fix it.” You don’t want to give them any more to worry about, since they themselves are already overburdened with their own worries. So, as Chuck Pyle says, “You feel guilty about feeling sad about (previously) feeling…angry about…”
You notice all this. Out of long experience, you notice. But you are stuck. So, you stay where you are, being with, on your own, your own negative emotions. Holding them, but not being swallowed up by them, completely. Somehow you hold on.
Until, some one moment or other, some part of you, long depressed by the other more negative parts of you, manages to bubble up through the mire of negativity, giving you a moment of noticing how amazing something is. How beautiful a leaf, in autumn color. How strange a dream while you are sleeping. How tender the toddler across the street, attempting to sweep the sidewalk with a broom three times her height, while her mother looks on, close by, bursting with pride and joy and laughter at the wobbly broom. How wonderful, how sweet, how amazing! How interesting that your very own daughter tells you on the phone that she has created a new practice for herself, writing down each day something beautiful she saw that day, and then something she had accomplished that day, and also some good memory she had had that day, a memory of a time when she was happy. Amazing.
Then, (amazingly), eventually, you notice, you yourself, you notice how amazing YOU are.
Yes, really. Amazing. Look at you. You are surviving. That’s amazing. You are surviving this depression. You are amazingly strong.
Ok. That’s true. But…
Yes, I know, all the bad stuff about you, but hey, what about all the good stuff about you? You are amazing. Like everything else, you are amazing too. Why, look at this, and this, and this about you.
Yes, but, that’s not as important as the bad stuff, the unworthiness.
Who says? They are both true. You are amazing and you are, indeed, awful. Both, and…
Ok. Ok. I can agree to that. After all, am I not a student of Jung, and Jesus, and Lao Tse?
Juggling that awareness of duality, of “Yes,” and “No,” (and there is that something-deeper-than-both that tells you it is wisdom to juggle and balance them), it suddenly occurs to you to call your friends and say, “I’m a bit better today,” which makes you think how relieved they’ll be to hear it.
Which leads you to the thought that, actually, you OWE IT TO THEM to remember how amazingly wonderful you are, so you won’t burden them with your deep awareness of how awful you are! You owe it to them to be aware of how special you are, you do! It’s a spiritual obligation to feel good about yourself!
How’s that for amazing?
And, as always, what you won’t do for yourself, surely you can do for them, so you begin to think, yes, to remember, how wonderful you are, how amazing you are, how blessed you are, what a blessing you are….and then? And then?
Will it all tip over again, into the same pridefulness that made your better self remind you to be humble in the first place?
So there you go. Your nature (maybe even human nature in general), it seems, like all else, is…well….shall we use a contemporary popular diagnosis….bipolar. Maybe we all are, even multi-polar. Many polar. Maybe we are all, by nature, polyphrenic, polymorphous, yes, even, polytheistic, truth be told!
Balance. Yes. But balance, as the Taoists thousands of years ago asserted, is not, cannot be, a fixed state of being. Balance is always tipsy, like riding a bike, or like breathing (Where’s an exact time, while breathing, when air is neither going in nor coming out?)
So, hello! As the cool dudes say (too lightly to be taken seriously, but, well, true enough) “Go with the flow.” But here’s the thing. Don’t drown in the flow! Don’t get stuck anywhere, in an eddy, in a whirlpool, in one attitude or one side. As the wise musician of the band U2 tells us, “Don’t get stuck in a moment.”
Getting stuck in depression can be like quicksand. One moment you are moving on solid ground, or even through mud. Then you are sucked down, slowly, until you are covered over, suffocating. Until something strong enough, something back on solid ground, throws you a rope to hold on to and pulls you out.
Or depression is like the mythical Sumerian goddess Innanna, stuck in the underworld, hanging on a stake, stripped of everything (the very image and epitome of serious depression). But Innanna was wise. Before she descended into Hades, she alerted those above that she was about to descend into the underworld, so that if she possibly did get stuck, someone else would “raise a hue and cry,” and things would be set in motion to bring about her release. Someone would, as it were, throw her a rope.
All about us are always those who will get us unstuck, friends, spirits, energies, angels, even medications—balancing factors, seen and unseen. Always on alert. Always ready and able to recreate balance. If we remember…if we only remember, to honor, to hold the opposites in sacred balance…
Depression is being stuck on side, being one-sided, not able to hold the opposite. Salvation, healing, wholeness involves holding both sides, both opposite directions, somehow, so that neither side is cancelled out. (Isn’t that the deeper meaning of the Christian symbol of the cross, Jesus divinity and his humanity, neither cancelling out the other? Death and life, each honored? Crucifixion and resurrection both remembered, by looking at the symbol that is the cross?)
That is, actually, I believe, the real message of the story of Jesus’ experience, as it is of Innanna’s. Their stories say that they were, each of them, on the one hand, in fact, divine, unlimited, yet each of them went into the arena of limitation, into the opposite state from their divine natures, into the underworld, into the anguish, into the arenas of suffering and even of death itself, and, and, they each came back. They came back changed, but made more whole. They each rose again. And the wisdom and power of their balancing passages into the opposites, the stories say, heal the world.
It is important to remember that we, as Jesus said, are called to do likewise. Not to die on our crosses literally (our physical death will come naturally in its own time), but we are called to die each day to our one-sidedness. We are called to repent of our failures, but we are also called to remember that we too partake of the richness of being “children of God.” We are reminded that, just as Jesus said “I and my father are one,” and just as he said that we too are inheritors of that truth (that God-divinity is our father-source and so we too partake of that same holiness and wholeness), in remembering that, and remembering Jesus’ crucifixion and journey to the underworld, we can safely remember both our unworthiness and our worthiness. We can celebrate our amazingly wonderful richness, while remaining aware of our own human faults. We can hold and honor the opposites, in balance. We can, and our culture can too. But by balancing, not canceling out the opposites. Not by being one-sided only. Not by insisting on one position only.
That’s the point. Balancing. Not canceling out the opposite. An ancient sacred symbol in many cultures, including the Christian, is the mandorla, the intersecting space where one circle overlaps another, that is the holy place.
So, remember, remember this moment of intersection, when the balance tipped, after a week of gloom, back into wonderful, even while you are still aware of the awful. It’s ok to be happy, even though there is every reason to be sad. It’s ok to love and give and share and rejoice, even while you grieve and repent and make amends and try harder and fail and succeed and stumble and run and fly and soar and sing and pray…
Oh, please, remember.