Monday, February 14, 2011
The Pearl Principle of Toynbee and Jung – CREDO CXXXVI
This seems a moment in history to remind ourselves of one of the most significant ideas put forward in the last century! Arnold Toynbee, the famous British historian, put it this way (as I remember it):
It is not what happens to a civilization [country], but how it reacts to it that determines the outcome.
And to paraphrase Jung:
It is not what happens to us as individuals, but how we react to it that determines our spiritual growth.
This concept, collectively and individually, is probably one of the most important ideas that might sustain us as we live in these acutely challenging times! Egypt is a current case, in point.
There are many extreme individual examples of this: Helen Keller, born deaf and blind, or Nelson Mandela, the South African, who suffered decades in prison for trying to liberate his country from European colonization, who triumphed in the end and is now a revered heroic founder of this independent nation. These are just two well-known examples, but there are countless others all over the world.
I call it the Pearl Principle. It is the irritant in the oyster that produces the perfection, luster, and beauty of the pearl.
As so many, many people all over the world are suffering, one way or another, as countries under despotic rulers or victims of natural or manmade disasters, never was it more important to realize the enormous import of this philosophical, psychological, if not spiritual truth.
* * *
Speaking for myself, last evening I was wallowing in self-pity with a dear friend, bemoaning the physical and financial calamity of this brutal winter that has caused the virtual collapse of a whole room in my house, with leaks that cannot be stopped until April at the earliest! The prospect of moving the contents and files, packing everything in boxes, and this includes the meditation room upstairs that requires a whole new window – at 88 and unable to use my right hand, in constant pain, plus the current absence of my beloved secretary due to illness, etc. etc. – this prospect seems insurmountable, combined with the effort to finish collecting materials for the Archives of Smith College! Well, my friend added a well-deserved scolding, and I went to bed in pain and misery, only to wake up with the comforting insights of Toynbee and Jung! Bless them! Hooray for the Unconscious!
Thus, I hasten to share the wisdom of Arnold Toynbee and Carl Gustav Jung, in the hopes of potentially cheering just a few others of the millions of people who are suffering far greater pains than I am.
I must not forget my magic word Vivex! that forces me, without fail, to get up and go on, or my oft-quoted words of the Bishop of Woolwich, In we are and on we must.
Finally, I offer the consolation of looking up to the stars at night: the universe is running on time and this too shall pass. As the medieval French poet Francois Villon wrote, Ou sont les neiges d’antan? Where are the snows of yesteryear?
hopefully and lovingly,
Posted by IonaDove