Timely Undoing: Metaphor Becoming Reality
Originally written for Inferential Focus by Jerry Wennstrom
© 2007, reprinted with permission
When the incoming metaphor trickling down through the spirit of our time whispers "Death," we can either accept the message of the strange Gods of our day or continue on, business as usual, and get blindsided by the misty metaphor turned hard reality. The funny thing about radical change and the death of a once glorious paradigm — it is usually only seen for the powerful event it is, in retrospect. The shift that occurs is usually so enormous and all-inclusive that we simply don't see it coming. Instead, we remain focused on the insignificant details of a diminishing past.
The worst kind of vulnerability is that which is self-created through excess, indulgence and denial. In the ease and boredom of excess, we have a tendency to conjure up trivial objections to phantom enemies, in order to make ourselves feel more alive. Appeased and in the stupor of a strange bliss, we do not see when the ground of our reality tilts towards oblivion. To deny, misread, or reinterpret the simple truth of a situation is to miss the opportunity for renewal at all levels.
I saw a wonderful film on the subject recently called "Land of Plenty" by Wim Wenders. The film is about a Vietnam Vet who drives around in a rickety old van with a remote-controlled camera mounted on the roof looking for terrorists. By living out his illusion in a most dramatic way, he manages to convince his gullible sidekick of the urgency of his task. His passionate involvement is so convincing at times, that I, too, occasionally wondered if he was actually onto something. Our anti-hero's wayward sidekick supports his search for a terrorist plot from the "command center" of what appears to be his rundown, messy apartment. Watching some of the more comical elements of the film, one is reminded of the antics of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.
A bit later in the film there appears an innocent young woman who, while looking for her only surviving relative, discovers that our antihero is her long-lost uncle. She tags along with him on the terrorist search and becomes something of a silent witness to the unfolding drama. She innocently befriends one of the "terrorists," and from her sweet and trusting perspective we begin to see that our evil suspect is actually a kind and gentle man.
We reach the climax of the film when our antihero, dressed in full battle regalia — night goggles and all, prepares to do battle with the terrorist cell he believes he has discovered. He breaks into their safe house only to find a bed-ridden old lady watching television. The poor woman thinks our strangely dressed antihero is the man from the moving company she has hired to come and pack up her belongings. It is at this point that the great terrorist plot is revealed to be what it actually is — absolute folly! Here our poor antihero collapses into despair and can do nothing more than go out and get completely drunk!
Renewal and not death or folly is the simple Truth of our existence. However, most of us have no problem focusing on the "positive" side of things, and often do so as an unconscious strategy for denial. To avert the difficulty most of us have facing the shadow of our creation it must be emphasized and truthfully defined as the prerequisite gateway to renewal. It is the duty of any vigilant truth-seeker to tow this line, both, for him or herself and for others. It is in our willingness to face the shadow -- to walk into that "thing" that looks on the surface like death; that allows the quantum leap to carry us over into the place of healing. Darkness fully traversed becomes nothing less than the bottom-up renewal of our complete reality.
There is in all of us some strange allurement drawing us towards the shadows. In spite of our "better judgment" most of us find some strange excitement in the chaos of extremes. Tabloids have created an entire industry around this natural, irresistible allurement. Many great artists have made a deliberate effort to explore the extremes by living in the lowlands of the cultural shadow of their day. Creative mind naturally intuits the possibility that inspiration, substance and redemption might be found in the shadows. What we ultimately find there is the light and heat that has been beckoning us forward all along.
We will however encounter dangers in the shadows as well, dangers we must be fully present with and meet head-on if we are to withstand the potential chaos the encounter might lead to. After all, in the shadows, with a flick of the wrist death may point its bony finger at you! It doesn't get any more exciting than that, now, does it? Well congratulations because, here we collectively stand — neck deep in the enormous shadow of the "American Dream!"
The question becomes, will we accept our situation, walk beautifully into the "death" and find renewal or will we abandon beauty altogether, in order to "survive?" When surrender is the spirit of the day and we violate that calling, surviving becomes synonymous with the faithless abandonment of principals. Only useless suffering comes from any attempt to survive the perfectly timed death of a paradigm. Fear creates in its own image, just as God does. Our current fear-based/fear-exploiting administration is a perfect example of the unscrupulous industry of survival creating useless suffering in our world. The more we in America attempt to keep our dying paradigm alive, the more damage we do to the innate dignity of our collective Being.
Abundance in the form we have known in this country cannot continue in the way it has. This particular form no longer serves our humanity or our culture as a whole. The summer season of our particular brand of abundance is, in fact, the paradigm in decline. By meeting the natural requirements of a new season and giving ourselves to the change at hand, we allow the holy paradox of death/renewal to become the reality of a living new abundance.
What lurks in the shadows behind the door?
It is only night
and because there is no moon,
the whole world seems a shadow.
What else could be like this moon,
mirrored in your eyes
To order Mud's (Steven Weitzman) book of poetry, Landscape of the Misty Eye
or email- EvaandSteven@cs.com
©2007 Pomegranate Seed Productions, used by permission.
At the age of 29, artist Jerry Wennstrom destroyed all of his work, gave away all of his possessions, and set about living a deliberately simple and profoundly spiritual life. He practiced celibacy for 15 years until choosing to marry his life partner, singer Marilyn Strong. He is the author of The Inspired Heart: An Artist's Journey of Transformation. He has published over 50 essays and interviews, and his life's work has been the subject of Holy Personal by Laura Chester. In 2001, Parabola produced a documentary film called In the Hands of Alchemy: The Art and Life of Jerry Wennstrom. Sentient Publications is distributing a new 3-feature DVD, which includes In the Hands of Alchemy, the new film Studio Dialogue, and The Life and Works of Jerry Wennstrom (1979).
Jerry Wennstrom is a regular contributor to Mythic Passages.
Read more of his articles published in this series.
To read more of Jerry Wennstrom
and view his paintings and sculpture please visit his website
Watch an exerpt of the video, Hands of Alchemy on YouTube
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