It’s late afternoon on a Tuesday, a gray, murky, fiercely windy day, shortly before sunset. The aforementioned wind is howling, scouring the deep cold from the valley. I’m listening to a choral concert for Epiphany on BBC3. It’s been a day of cancellations, mostly due to illness of one sort or another; it seems to be that time of year.
Epiphany was last Saturday, and marks the arrival of the wise men and prefigures the exodus of the Holy Family to Egypt. There are reversals and misrule aplenty in this day. For one, three kings or wise men arrive at a manger and give gifts of great value to the newborn and his family, folk of low stature. Then, not long after the wise men dream that they should quietly return home, telling no one of the miraculous events they have witnessed, and wisely do so. The baby’s small family packs up and wisely heads for Egypt, a former place of slavery.
I found myself in several conversations today in which there was a shared desire for the return of wisdom and compassion to civil society and politics in the U.S.. There was spoken a desire to have politicians and neighbors sit together, across political and cultural divides, and seek ways forward. There was a desire to address the many pressing issues that have splintered us as a country, and to do so with compassion, integrity, wit, and generosity. This wish for something sane and humane seemed to cross political, cultural, and racial lines.
In the therapy hour the struggle to find a collective path appears as reflection on the ways civility and cooperation break down in psyche, with diverse aspects of self in profound and lasting conflict, resulting in ill feelings that make the work of being human very difficult. Or it comes up in remembrance of oppressive, controlling, greedy, Narcissistic parents, teachers, or bosses who, in an attempt to impose their vision of the good on others, squeezed the joy and creativity from the lives they touched.
Such memories are inevitably traumatic, yet they may point towards the possibility of profound healing. Most often, in order for healing to take place, parts of self, and diverse groups in the community, must see their agendas as less important than the collective health of the many. It is not a matter of giving up one’s true needs; rather, it is a process of acknowledging and addressing everyone’s true needs. Those who refuse to relinquish their insistence on getting their way, who bully or demean others, may be exiled.
At the moment a return to real conversation and shared, truly inclusive, vision seems far off. Yet, who knows what may arise from a fierce desire and a willingness to truly speak together?