This quote from Anne Tyler has haunted me ever since I copied it into my Commonplace Book. It is so simple and so profound. My earliest encounter with this personally came at the height of my ignorance the summer, I believe, that I was nine. I was visiting my other grandfather, William Dana Orcutt, a distinguished author at the time, at his summer home on Cape Cod. He and his wife were staunch Republicans. Once, when he scolded me for something, I got mad and shouted, “I don’t care, I’m a Democrat!” But I had no idea what that meant. There was a lot of ridicule of Eleanor Roosevelt, so another little girl and I cut the peel of oranges and turned them inside out, and put them under our lips to show her yellow protruding teeth! Laughter all around at the Country Club. Ten years later I lived at the Hotel Holley in Washington Square and Eleanor herself lived in the next block when she was in New York. By then, I had become and still am a profound admirer of her and her quiet and impressive achievements for our country. I am thoroughly ashamed of my thoughtless arrogance.
The scope of this truth is to be found throughout history. Former foes become allies; scorned heroes and heroines like Gandhi and Joan of Arc, Galileo and Martin Luther [King] become admired, even sainted, and absolved and forgiven by Popes. Time and death frame our lives and somehow give them a different significance.
It seems, all it takes is time for the pendulum of collective opinion to swing back and hopefully end up finding its center, peace and acceptance. Women couldn’t vote, now they head countries. Ah so.
The Taoist symbol of yin/yang is so simple and eloquent. The white contains the small dot of black and the black, a small dot of white. What we overlook is that both are contained in an embracing circle of unity.
In the West, we have the pentagram, which with the central point up is the symbol of man, as Leonardo expressed it, but when reversed is the symbol for Satan. One can draw the upside down one in the center of the right side up one and on and on. The pentagram or 5-pointed star also fits in a circle. I could say a lot more about that and have in my The Web in hte Sea. Jung calls it the coincidentia oppositorum and this is the basis for his Mysterium Coniunctionis. What Anne Tyler calls attention to is the dimension of time.
Today it is fashionable to accuse politicians of flip-flopping, but if we are honest with ourselves, we can surely see that wisdom and growth depend on the unfurling of opposites in time. The double helix, the caduceus of Hermes, the ida and pingala of the chakras, all demonstrate the dilemma of levels. If A and B are opposites as they go up, they switcheroo! and then the B above the A are in conflict, as my childhood anecdote demonstrates! E-volving and e-volution come from the Latin ex-volvere, to unroll. The curious thing is that our physical vision involves the switcheroo principle: our eyes see upside down, the right eye connects to the left brain and vice-versa and, our vision ends right-side up! Think Mercury/Hermes’ caduceus!
Surely, Jung’s Transcendent Function unfurls in time and flip-flopping may be the result of inner growth of understanding. A Hindu guru pointed out to me what a wonder it is that as we incarnate we live in time sequentially so that we can grow in consciousness. Our Divine Guest connects us to infinity. This made me think of what a blessing rain is coming down in drops rather than one big SPLAT!
Incidentally, speaking of chakras, Swami Rama pointed out that psychologically speaking, Freud centered on the first two: survival and sex; Adler on the third, Manipura, the center of power; and Jung, on the heart chakra – the first above the abdominal wall – and hinted at the reality of the higher three.
Fundamentalism’s ignorance in all religions takes things literally, a form of idolatry, and its adherents get stuck in the first two chakras out of the fear of uncertainty and the inability to think symbolically. If we think of pulling the symbolic zipper up (!) with Hermes as the wee tab of the Transcendent Function, it shows the wisdom of the archetypal process of Hermes as the psychopomp,* leading the psyche to higher levels of consciousness. All of which takes time and enables us to change what comes after.
Time to switcheroo!
*psychopomp is Greek for leader of the soul, one of my favorite words!